Tag Archive: Inverted Pyramid


Let’s ask the question another way: Should left-brain quantitative types be teaching communications to right-brain qualitative types or at least overseeing their academic progress?

Recently, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) asked corporate executives if the Whartons, Haas’, Tucks, Kelloggs and oodles of other prestigious business schools should be teaching public relations to MBA candidates. The answer was overwhelming and loud and clear…”Yes!” wharton

Today, Almost DailyBrett is posing a different question:

Should the entire undergraduate and graduate sequences for the instruction of public relations and advertising (a logical extension) be taught by business schools?

This suggestion has been brought to my repeated attention by people who know both sides of the reporter/flack divide.

The thinking, which is credible, is that PR and advertising build, support and extend corporate brands. In most cases, brand is associated with a privately held or publicly traded company/corporation, directly flowing from a business strategy. Doesn’t it make sense for future PR and advertising professionals to be taught by MBAs and others holding advanced business degrees?

Strategic Business/Financial Communications

In creating an upper division college course as my master’s degree project, I was immediately struck by the opening of University of North Carolina Professor Chris Roush’s book, Show me the money: Writing business and economics stories for mass communication.

Roush recounted the story of the reporter interviewing the CEO of Humana Corporation. The CEO made several references to the regulatory SEC. The reporter asked: “Excuse me, but what does the Southeastern Conference have to do with your business?

How many students, majoring in public relations and advertising, do not know the difference between the Securities Exchange Commission and the Southeastern Conference?

showmethemoney How many more cannot explain the difference between revenues and net income?

Is gross margin increasing/decreasing or expanding/contracting?

And what constitutes accretive as opposed to dilutive when it comes to EPS?

Asking for a show of hands, there are always more than a few honest souls who openly admit they are majoring in public relations or advertising because they are not on friendly terms with numbers.

As a green public relations director back in the 1990s/2000s Silicon Valley, the author of Almost DailyBrett was asked to produce quarterly earnings releases (10-Q), the CEO letter for the annual report (10-K) and oodles of unplanned disclosures, including material  top-line or bottom-line misses, mergers and acquisitions and restructurings (8-K).

Help!

Why was I not taught how to read an income statement, a balance sheet, a cash-flow statement or how to track a stock back in college? The reason was simple: I went to journalism school.

The Five W’s, One H, The Inverted Pyramid and Who the Hell Cares?

Having acknowledged the lack of quantitative skills for the vast majority of journalism graduates, and this number definitely includes those majoring in public relations and advertising, there is still a compelling need for these students to learn journalism.

Some may differ because those who employ earned media (public relations) and paid media (advertising) are not objective. They have a point of view. PR and advertising pros want the public to do something that directly benefits their client or clients. True, enough.

Regardless, these practitioners still have an obligation to get the story right. They need to understand if a story is newsworthy or not for the intended audience(s). They need to pose the story in the inverted pyramid-style with the all-important what, when, where, who, why, how and who cares questions being answered in a concise and compelling manner.

invertedpyramid Are business schools equipped to teach journalism to PR and advertising majors? Do they want to teach journalism? Would they just outsource this responsibility to the journalism schools? They would still have ultimate oversight for these PR and advertising students.

Before these questions are all answered, let’s address another assumption, and a wrong contention as well. We are assuming that all public relations and advertising majors will be working for the greater glory and good of privately held (e.g., Dell, Subway) and publicly traded companies (e.g., Google, Amazon).

What about those who want to work in the public sector, politics, non-profits or NGOs? Yes, there are still bottom lines for all of these entities because they all have to stay in business. (Okay, the $18 trillion in cumulative debt federal government is an exception, but let’s avoid that subject for now).

Can business schools effectively teach issues management? Can they teach community relations? Can they really convey corporate social responsibility as opposed to fiduciary responsibility? Or will all of these subjects be taught by journalism schools? Do they want to teach these subjects and more? If not, why move public relations and advertising students to business schools?

The End of Journalism Schools?

If public relations and advertising students are transferred to business schools, what happens to journalism/communications schools?

First, the demographic makeup of business schools becomes more XX-chromosomes by means of the influx or public relations and advertising students, and the percentage of XY-chromosome journalism student bodies increases. Whether these results are demographically important or not, Almost DailyBrett will leave that analysis to those with higher pay grades.

Second, one must ask whether the tasks for already hard-pressed journalism school development (e.g., fundraising) professionals will become next to impossible if they lose students and graduates from two highly compensated professions?

Third, university and college politics are thorny enough without posing this transfer public relations/advertising students from J-schools to Biz schools. Is this a fight that anyone really wants to undertake? Would one jump into a venomous snake pit, if it was not necessary?

Maybe the answer lies with a hybrid approach? Keep public relations and advertising students under the J-school/Communications-school tent, but require them to take essential strategic business classes, particularly those that focus on brand management, reading income statements and balance sheets.

In return, business students should learn effective writing, grammar and persuasion skills offered by J-schools. The result may be more students, hailing from business and journalism schools, who are qualitatively and quantitatively equipped to serve as corporate public relations and investor relations technicians, managers, directors or vice presidents.

Heck, they will at least know the difference between the top-line and the bottom-line.

One can always dream. Right?

http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/mba-admissions-strictly-business/2011/12/16/why-b-schools-need-to-teach-pr

http://www.socialbusinessnews.com/should-public-relations-be-taught-in-business-school/

http://www.businessweek.com/business-schools/public-relations-coming-to-a-bschool-near-you-12072011.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/are-public-relations-pros-journalists/

“The cab driver boasted that his daughter had just graduated. But then he admitted that her journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin had cost $140,000. Since journalism is an ill-paid job that requires no formal qualification, this sounds like a waste of money.” – The Economist, Universities challenged, August 31, 2013

cabdriver

Those are fightin’ words.

Doesn’t The Economist benefit from well-trained and clever journalists?

Should we just shut down all journalism and mass communication schools nationwide, if not worldwide?

Would the last J-school student be kind enough to turn out the lights?

This revealing provocative lead in which the Economist writer shared her/his intimate conversation with a Chicago area cabbie (so much wisdom is imparted in cabs) actually concerned the state of affairs of higher education. Namely, the upcoming federal Department of Education (DOE) ratings system in which colleges and universities conceivably will be judged for federal hand-outs based upon cost, graduation rate and how much students earn in their careers.

And you thought the Bowl Championship Series (BSC) metrics were Byzantine? Thank Darwin we only have to endure this system for one more year. The DOE standards/regulations could be with us into the indefinite future…which could be, forever.

Now that we have clarified the basic premise of the article, let’s go back to the notion that journalism is “ill paid,” that it requires “no formal qualification” and the implication that university journalism schools are a “waste of money.”

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Considering that I have two journalism-related degrees (one undergraduate and the other post-graduate) and I spent more than three-decades as a reporter (a few years) and as a public relations practitioner (a lot of years) and lately as a college instructor (a few more), I have a problem or two with the gross oversimplification exhibited by The Economist.

There is no doubt that college is damn expensive and not getting cheaper anytime soon. And yes, traditional Gutenbergesque journalism is in trouble. The business model doesn’t work anymore. Having acknowledged the obvious, these conclusions miss a major point: The global desire and yearning for instantaneous-and-accurate information on a 24/7/365 basis has never been greater.

The ability to tell the story, and to tell it well whether it be a reporter/editor, a public relations practitioner or advertising professional is in constant demand and cannot be effectively outsourced or offshored en masse.

The methods for telling, reporting and disseminating the story are changing. The world has moved from analog to digital. The demand for information outstrips the supply, and this trend is accelerating. This is an upward-to-the-right market.

And how will future journalism, public relations, advertising, social media and multi-media professionals learn these information development and dissemination skills? How about these supposedly “waste-of-money” journalism schools?

lecturehall

1.)  Writing effectively will always be in demand, particularly by those who can quickly come to the point, provide insightful analysis, and write professionally and skillfully, employing AP Style.

2.)   Understanding the concept of the inverted pyramid in which the crux of the story is in the lead and all the supporting information flows from there.

3.)   Determining whether a story is newsworthy (or not) for target audiences. Learning how to ask the What? When? Where? Who, Why? And How?, ascertain these answers and transmit a complete-and-clear picture succinctly to news transmitters, whether they are conventional or digital.

4.)   Grasping and using “Big Data” in the form of compelling infographics to quickly and efficiently present useful information to critical audiences.

5.)   Appreciating that social media is not monolithic. There is a distinction between “connections” and “friends” online. Yes, you can digitally self-publish in 140-characters or less. Blogging is alive and well. Social media can be radioactive as digital miscues are eternal.

6.)   Comprehending the societal and technological shift from two-way asymmetrical communication theory (one to the masses) to digitally enabled two-way symmetrical communication theory conversations (message receiver responds publicly to the message sender).

7.)   Gaining the skill sets to generate professional digital photos, audio and video and use state-of-the-art software (e.g., Final Cut Pro) for compelling multimedia pieces.

8.)   Garnering the knowledge of financial communications including relevant SEC disclosure rules and being able to distinguish between fiduciary responsibility and corporate social responsibility.

9.)   Overcoming glossophobia and becoming more confident in delivering presentations, particularly those that are conversational in style and using supporting graphics.

10.)  Securing the confidence to perform instinctively in a crisis communications setting, quickly develop relevant messages and ultimately protect an organization’s reputation and brand.

crisis1

There is little doubt that journalism, public relations, advertising, social media and multi-media educators, graduates and students can add to the Almost DailyBrett list of J-School attributes cited above, including cultural distinctions inherent in international communications.

What’s more important is that when one considers and weighs the skill sets that are being taught and learned, particularly in a rapidly changing technology landscape, the value of a solid journalism education is maybe as valuable as it has ever been.

Society’s insatiable demand for news and information has never been greater.

The Genie is simply not going back into the bottle.

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21584393-barack-obama-wants-degrees-be-better-value-money-universities-challenged

 

 

When I first heard about this “fatal flaw,” I thought the rule was unusually harsh.

The dictate of USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism way back in the mid-1970s was simply this: If you misspelled a name on any document or any length of any level of importance, the result was swift-and-final: a “Falcon” on the paper.

uscannenberg

As a result, one double-checked…sorry, one triple-checked every name on every page of every document and then asked a fellow student to do the same. Nothing, and I mean, absolutely nothing was left to chance. That was then. That may not be the case now…but it should be.

Two years later, the wisdom of this rule was validated by the look of horror on the face of the society editor of one of my first employer’s, the Glendale News Press in Southern California. She was having her ear burned off by the furious, foaming-at-the-mouth, mother-of-the-bride. Her precious, crying daughter’s name was misspelled in the cut line of the family wedding photo that ran in the home town paper. Hell knows no fury like a pissed off mother-of-the-bride. Guess receiving an “F” on an academic paper, even the final, is not so bad in comparison.

bridemother

Fast forward to the present day and as Almost DailyBrett readers know, I am a Graduate Teacher Fellow at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. As such I am working with students and in some cases, mentoring, helping them in their pursuit of their degree and hopefully a career-path job right after that.

Wonder who is going to hire the student that spelled the name of the leader of the free world in a headline: “Barrack Obama?” He wondered why he was receiving a “C” on his paper. I then showed him the headline. Please don’t suggest that I am getting soft in my mature age.

We certainly live in a digital world. And that means that communicators regardless of the discipline – advertising, public relations, broadcast, social media, print – need to be proficient in technology skills. These marketable skills include Apple’s Final Cut Pro for audio and video editing; Adobe Bridge and Photo Shop for photographic work; Microsoft PowerPoint and Prezi for presentations; Excel for spread sheets and many more now and in the future.

Having said that, there is still a need for old-fashioned analog skills including basic writing and editing. Spelling, grammar and following the good ole Associated Stylebook all still matter. They all speak to professionalism.

Are Journalism schools literally throwing out the baby with the bathwater by overly concentrating on the digital and giving short shrift to analog skills? Whatever happened to Newswriting 101? There is still a need for this course; in fact there is a compelling need. I see it every day editing papers, pointing out the same errors over-and-over again to a multitude of students.

The blank stares from far-too-many students when they are asked to recite the cherished five W’s and one H of Journalism tells the story. They need to use the “Inverted Pyramid” to tell the reader in a paragraph or two, the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the story. This skill is going to survive any change to Moore’s Law. This is the basic hard news lead that serves news hounds around the world and always will.

Journalism may be changing, particularly with the advent of Web 2.0 and conversational marketing. The insatiable demand for news is growing as literally millions in developing nations are moving into the middle class. They want news and information like all the rest. There is no doubt that bites, bytes, bells and whistles will play an increasingly prominent role in delivering the news reports of the future. They still need to be professionally written whether they appear on stone tablets or digitally in cyberspace.

And that means that spelling still matters, grammar still matters, editing still matters and style still matters. Let’s get back to the future…before it is too lait…err…late.

http://annenberg.usc.edu/

http://journalism.uoregon.edu/

http://www.apple.com/finalcutpro/top-features/

http://www.photoshop.com/tutorials/1985

http://prezi.com/

http://www.apstylebook.com/

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