Tag Archive: Issues Management

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).


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?





PowerPoint Chutzpah?

You prepared a winning resume taking a prospective employer quickly down memory lane, quantifying your results and illustrating your achievements. Check.

You wrote a killer cover letter outlining your specific value add to whoever would be so fortunate to have you on the team. Check.

You have carefully surfed the website of the target company, agency, NGO etc. and cross-referenced with related Google and Wikipedia searches. Check.

You assembled a portfolio of your work, showcasing your message development, presentation and social media skills. Check.

You prepared at least four thoughtful questions that demonstrate your knowledge about the employer’s business and communications strategy and interest in the job. Check.

Wonderful. Hasn’t everyone else done pretty much the same in this consummate seller’s (employer’s) market?

What else can you do that separates you from the pack? How about a technique that takes a little old-fashioned Chutzpah, maybe a tad presumptuous, but definitely exudes confidence?

Why not bring along a PowerPoint “Action Plan” presentation to the interview, specifically tailored for that particular prospective employer?

Political pundits get almost giddy assessing the first 100 days of a new administration in Washington, D.C. What about your first 100 days on the job? What would you do? What are your ideas? How will you be part of the team? How will assist in an organization’s evolution (stay away from “revolution”)? What tools, both conventional and digital, will you employ to build thought leadership?

As communicators we are adept at choreographing communications plans with objectives, goals, target audiences, strategic messages, deliverables and time tables. By crafting a PowerPoint presentation for an employer you are showing them how you would advance their cause and tell their story to influential internal and external audiences.

In this case, you are providing them with your impressions of their strengths and weaknesses and how you intend to move the dial, enhancing their advantages and mitigating their disadvantages.

Before utilizing the PowerPoint, politely ask the interviewer(s) if she, he, they have any objections to you taking them through a short-presentation (six pages minimum, 10 pages maximum). If there are only one or two people conducting the interview, then hard copies are appropriate. If more than three or four, you might want to drive the presentation off your laptop.

One note of warning: The PowerPoint must begin with assertions that are likely to meet with agreement by the interviewer. We are not talking about stating the obvious. It may come in the form of quantitative polling data, media reports or recent financial or market analyst comments about the progress of a company, agency, organization in accomplishing its business strategy or issues management goals.

Your presentation can potentially backfire, if the interviewers disagree with your initial assessments prompting them to wonder what else is wrong with your conclusions. Don’t put any blood in the water for the angry sharks to go into a feeding frenzy. It is imperative that you get off to a good start.

Complete your presentation with a set of goals and measurable accomplishments and respond to questions. You can reinforce your presentation by sending a soft copy for their records along with your thank you note. By taking this approach, you can virtually guarantee that none of your interviews will be a mere courtesy.

An editor’s note is important at this time. While I have not been successful to date in reaching the Promised Land in this very tough hiring climate, I know from hard experience that it really boils down to a numbers game. There are literally thousands upon thousands of great communicators around the world. We have so much to offer and not enough places to fully practice our skills.

To be successful in this post-recessionary environment, we need to break out of the pack. More to the point, when we secure these vital in-person interviews we need to separate ourselves from our peers. Why not crystallize our thoughts, systematically outline our plan and demonstrate through our work and preparation how much we want the job and what we will do once we secure our new six-figure responsibility.

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