Tag Archive: Santa Clara University


“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime you find: You get what you need.” – Jagger, Richards

Sometimes life turns in directions you never anticipated.

Three years ago, the author of Almost DailyBrett couldn’t find Ellensburg, Washington on the map. This geographical gap in knowledge was not particularly troubling. Why would it be?DSC01202

Having said that, yours truly is writing this blog in a Central Washington University office with the customary diplomas, commissions and photos on the wall as if this result was always somehow in the cards … even though I did not know it for years.

Six years ago, my world consisted of the vaunted six-figures, incredible expenses and working myself to the bone. There was also plenty of time in never-ending traffic jams, three-hour marathon meetings and weekend sales conferences to day-dream about doing more in life including bestowing knowledge to the next generation and serving as a mentor.

There was money, but no time to enjoy the legal tender.

And then a spark came a break that led to a change and with it a second career.

One of my Edelman clients (e.g., TSMC director of brand management) was an adjunct instructor at Santa Clara University. He had a recurring problem. He was required to report to Taiwan, and he couldn’t teach his MBA-students. Would I run his classroom for nearly three hours on a Saturday morning?

Wait a minute; you want me to lecture for 165 minutes about financial communications to 15 Poindexters?

Believe it or not, that’s how it started.

There was also an additional kick in the proverbial derriere: the global economy took a multi-year siesta circa 2008-and-forward. Life was changing. There also seemed to be a concerted effort by society to “pasteurize” literally thousands of Baby Boomers at advanced levels of “maturity” (e.g., more than 50-years+ young).

It was time for something revolutionary for your blog author, including taking the GRE (what a blast) not once, but twice.

Drinking Beer With Fellow College Students … Once Again

Almost DailyBrett earlier discussed taking the plunge into a second career, including serving as a (non-striking) Graduate Teaching Fellow (GTF), attaining a master’s degree as a non-traditional student (read: older), becoming an adjunct instructor and finally landing a hard-to-acquire tenure-track assistant professor position in public relations and advertising.beerUO

How’s that for telling those who thought I was ready for pasture to (insert unpleasant phrase here)?

Is it simply a matter of having the will to change, a long resume and everything else will fall in place for those wishing a mid-life academic career?

Not in the slightest. Ponder the Top 10 “intervening variables” to use an academic term:

  • Academic Prejudice. Do universities hire the best-and-the-brightest? Nope, particularly those who received advanced degrees from your university. The reasoning: The profs who taught you as a little academic whipper-snapper will never envision you as a colleague. To have a chance of coming back and teaching at your university, it is best to receive an even higher degree (e.g., Ph.D) from a university far, far away in another universe.
  • Advanced degree or No-Advanced Degree? Almost DailyBrett recommends pursuing a fellowship, resulting in not only a no-cost master’s degree or higher, but also valuable daily teaching and mentoring experience and a stipend. Advanced degrees are “preferred” by virtually every college and university. There are ways around this rule (e.g., professors of practice), but once again these are low-percentage “exceptions” and no way close to standard.
  • Bureaucracy is eternal and laborious. The universal academic mascot for colleges and universities (not the athletic teams; some of which move at warp speed) would be the snail. If college administrators were left to invent the personal computer, the IBM compatible would be debuting this year as opposed to 1981. There are three speeds in academia: Slow, slower and not-at-all.
  • Comprehend the academic and professional worlds are diametrically opposed. Ivory towers say they want oodles of real-world experience, but at the same time they really don’t totally trust non-academic experience. At this point in your life, you will not have the commensurate record of academic publishing and conference presentations, and you never will. Face it and get over it: you will never be treated the same.
  • Digital Immigrants teaching Digital Natives. Engaging on a daily basis on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and blogging is not enough. These social media “first movers” are now 10-years old and older. You need to upgrade your digital skill sets to include Pinterest (2010), Instagram (2010) and Snapchat (2011) and their inevitable successors.
  • Grading is the worst. Pontificating and bloviating your hard-earned knowledge with your PowerPoint and clicker in a classroom or lecture hall setting is just one part of the job. Syllabi are becoming ever-longer legal contracts, trying to cover every possible uncertainty. Colleges are now even demanding “grading rubrics.” Trust me, there are no corporate bosses that have rubrics. You either do the job or someone else will soon be holding your position.
  • Grade grubbing is even worse.  Young Party Dude will most likely not complain about his C+ on his latest paper. There are oodles of others who will tell you how hard they worked (they need to actually study). What is the worst grade you can give anyone? An “F”? Try a “B+.”
  • Publish or Perish. Similar to the absolutes of death and taxes, there is also the issue of research and service requirements. Life is much more than teaching and grading. It is also hours of research to write a massive tome, submitted to an obscure and molasses-moving academic journal and/or presented at some Holiday-Inn conference. Just as marathoners hit the “wall” at 18 miles, many would-be academic Wunderkindern never make it past the publishing barrier.
  • Research über Alles. Teaching the undergrads is far down on the level-of-esteem list at most universities, particularly R-1 or Research Ones. Tenured professors must work on their Reeesuuuuurrrrcccchhhh. The lecturing and grading of the proletariat is best left to those at the bottom of the academic world totem pole.
  • Vow of Poverty. What are raises? Those taking the plunge into an academic second career need to ensure their nest-eggs are filled. Academia pays a fraction of what can be gained in the private sector, particularly when compared to Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Gotham or the Beltway.

The purpose of this exercise is to provide a real-world peek into the world of academia. It may be for you; it may not. Before you take the GRE, apply for admission and fellowships, make plans to uproot your life, you need to first have your eyes wide open.

The bottom line: Academia is a satisfying world, but it is far from perfect. Most grind their teeth about inflexibility and glacier-like change of the university world. Keep in mind, there are major issues in the corporate, non-profit and public sectors too.

Sometimes you have to get what you need.

Editor’s Note: To be more accurate, The Almost DailyBrett headline should read “From Assistant Press Secretary to Assistant Professor.” Alas, the alliteration is not the same.

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/TheStrategist/Articles/view/11473/1125/From_PR_Professional_to_PR_Professor_The_Long_and?spMailingID=12893176&spUserID=ODkxMDgzMDgwMTkS1&spJobID=743018301&spRep

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/taking-the-gre-again/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/are-striking-uo-graduate-teaching-fellows-certifiable/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/launching-a-second-career-2/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/research-uber-alles/

 

 

 

ones-zeros2

Almost DailyBrett Editor’s Note: In applying to graduate school three years ago, I was asked to write a “Statement of Purpose” and with it came memories of almost daily meetings with elementary, middle school, high school and college students as the press secretary for California Governor George Deukmejian.

Little did I know at the time that these teaching sessions would eventually lead to a new direction in my life.

As I contemplate making a major directional change in my career, I was reflecting back to one of the responsibilities that did not fit into the position description of a gubernatorial press secretary: meeting, greeting and answering questions from visiting university, community college, high-school, middle-school and elementary-school students.

During my three years as the Press Secretary to California Governor George Deukmejian, I was repeatedly asked to serve as the face of the administration and to encourage students to pursue public service or at least to have a profound interest in their society. Sometimes the questions were tough, many were unfair or off-base, but the students demonstrated that they wanted to learn and they wanted to challenge authority.

As I moved from the public sector into roles with two major industry trade associations, a publicly traded high technology company and to a leadership position in an international public relations firm, I was periodically asked to lecture classes on effective communications. Some of these schools included: UC Berkeley, Oregon State, San Francisco State and just recently Santa Clara University.

At Santa Clara, I lectured both MBA and undergraduate students about how to communicate to Wall Street and investors. I realized in making my presentation and seeing the enthusiasm that I generated that these students were clearly appreciating that the world of financial communications was shifting at a breakneck pace.

This rate of change is not just limited to the financial sphere as digital technology, the ubiquitous ones and zeroes, are making instantaneous communication and lightning-fast responses a never-changing fact of life. We now have the ability to self-publish and to share with the world our deepest thoughts. The Genie is out of the bottle and the bottle is nowhere to be found.

Social media or conversational marketing via digital key strokes is something that Johannes Guttenberg could not even fathom when he invented the printing press in Mainz, Germany. But one thing has been constant since then; technology has made communication faster, more efficient and global in nature.

Many cannot stop talking about and tweeting on Twitter, amassing their connections on LinkedIn.com, watching videos on YouTube or counting friends on Facebook. They are commenting on breaking global events via their blogs or reading what others are saying via cyberspace, bypassing the “traditional media,” particularly the dying pencil “press.”

The hot social media tools of today most likely will not be the hot social media tools by the time I complete the master’s degree program from the University of Oregon in 2012. These new techniques are being written today not on parchment paper, but rather in the form of software code.

Will students and society as a whole be prepared for these new techniques and their implications? What are the responsibilities of self-publishing in the wake of fewer and fewer conventional media outlets? Will the bloggers become the reporters of the 21st century, thus setting new standards for journalism?

Looking back, I have been extremely fortunate in my career. I cut my teeth on the tax revolt in 1978 that shook the foundation of governments throughout the country. I was sitting at the apex of California state government in 1989 when the Loma Prieta Earthquake literally shook the ground, and I was told “The Bay Bridge is in the water.”

I ventured across the ocean to the Land of the Rising Sun to help convince Japan to stop predatory pricing and open its doors to competition. I founded a corporate PR department against the backdrop of Internet mania and a corresponding crash as Americans lost faith in Wall Street and imposed a new way of doing business.

And I was privy to and helped advance a digital technology revolution that contrary to opinion of some pundits is really just getting started.

sacramento

After all of this, I still go back to the Governor’s bill signing room in Sacramento filled with students and their mentors with a particular gleam in their eyes and engaging questions flowing off their tongues. They wanted to learn. They wanted to explore. They wanted to challenge convention. I was more than happy to help them on their quest.

How can I continue this love affair with helping students? Certainly, I do not know it all and never will. Harry Truman didn’t like experts because “… if an expert learned something, he wouldn’t be an expert anymore.”

I am learning something new every day.

So why do I want to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication? The answer is that I can leverage my Master’s degree to teach students the art of strategic communications. The truth is not a fungible quality, it is essential. Having said that, we need to manage information and present it in an intelligent way in order to effectively compete in the marketplace of ideas.

Today’s students and tomorrow’s communicators are going to have to compete; there is no way around this fact. Will they succeed or not? The University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication training will greatly improve their chances. I want to coach and mentor these students so they can be tomorrow’s winners.

PR = SG&A?

Speaking before a group of Santa Clara University integrated marketing students recently http://www.scu.edu/, I presented them with an overly simplified but relatively accurate representation of a financial statement for a publicly traded company:

  • Total Revenues: $2.0 billion

–      COGS: $1.0 billion

  • Gross Margin: $1.0 billion

–      SG&A: $300 million

–      R&D: $400 million                  

  • Operating Income: $300 million

–      Income Tax: $50 million

  • Net Income: $250 million.

 

After providing them with a few nanoseconds, I asked the undergrads where does public relations or marketing or brand management fall within this financial statement. The unanimous answer following a bout of serious contemplation was SG&A or Selling General and Administrative. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_statement

I then inquired whether they were comfortable with that answer. What is SG&A? The answer is that selling, general and administrative is an “operating expense” on a financial statement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SG%26A

Do we really want PR, marketing, brand management, crisis communications etc. to be regarded merely as an “operating expense?” And if we interpret PR as an “operating expense” what will be the view of accountants and controllers in a Finance Department that are looking to control spending and improve the bottom line?

Do we really want to risk having your function zeroed out or greatly diminished in the face of mounting financial pressures? What does that mean in terms of job security?

How about a different way of thinking?

Doesn’t public relations contribute to revenues or the top line? Doesn’t brand management help expand gross margin? Doesn’t marketing play a key role in keeping a company in the black, rather than the red?

Before we go further in this discussion, please keep in mind that public relations/marketing/brand management/social media/crisis communications cannot defy gravity. If customers are retrenching in the face of an economic downturn, if inventory is building rather than declining, then an entire company will be impacted and most likely start reporting red bottom-line numbers.

And also be mindful that PR/Marketing/Branding will most likely always be classified by accounting types as SG&A. Nevertheless that doesn’t have to be our mindset. We need to convince internal decision makers that our responsibilities are not a mere operating expense.

Public relations practitioners can and should always demonstrate ROI or Return on Investment. Our jobs as communicators are not just to spread the good word to external audiences (e.g. customers, suppliers, partners, analysts, editors, bloggers…), but to internal audiences as well. And included in this definition of “internal audiences” are company executives, including the CFO and the company’s Finance Department. Think of it this way, these internal audiences make the hiring and firing decisions and more to the point whether we will receive a paycheck or not.

If the company is publicly traded, then it must report to the SEC and the world. Translated, the company must issue quarterly financial results, pre-announce all “material” differences from prior quarterly guidance, issue an annual report, hold a yearly meeting for shareholders, publicize all major M&A activity, and announce all major executive appointments and restructurings. A good public relations department will know how to effectively manage this information to get maximum mileage out of good news and mitigate the impact of bad news.

Aligning a corporate public relations department with the CFO, Investor Relations, Legal and Corporate Development in not only reporting to the SEC and investors, but becoming an integral part of their daily activities, is battle-tested job protection. We want a seat at the table.

What is the impression of existing customers and prospective customers to a company’s image and products? Obviously, the products have to work and the company needs to execute. Assuming that is the case, then how is the company building and enhancing its reputation? That sounds like an activity that is far more than just SG&A. Is marketing and brand management helping to drive revenues, expand gross margin and contribute to the bottom line? Yes indeed.

We need to document (not exhaustively) what we are doing on behalf of our clients. Whether we like it or not, contributing to our monthly reports should be a daily activity. It is far easier to remember what you did on Monday on that very same Monday, than a month later.  I have always been mystified by those who write their monthly reports two weeks into the new month. How can you accurately recount what you did six weeks earlier, 42 days or more ago?

The bottom line for public relations? Remember ROI, the top-line, gross margin, profitability and stay away from the dreaded SG&A mindsets. Besides who needs career-limiting thinking in this economy?

se·ren·i·ty

–noun

1.

the state or quality of being serene, calm, or tranquil; sereneness.

2.

(usually initial capital letter ) a title of honor, respect, or reverence, used in speaking of or to certain members of royalty (usually prec. by his, your, etc.).


Origin:
1400–50; late ME serenite < L serēnitās. See serene, -ity
—Related forms

o·ver·se·ren·i·ty, noun

—Synonyms
1. composure, calm, peacefulness, peace.

—Antonyms
1. agitation.

At the risk of providing dreaded and universally scorned too much information (TMI), I can say the shock that comes from being diagnosed with prostate cancer really puts life clearly into focus. For me, it set up a huge decision: surgery or radiation. I will spare you the details, other than to say I chose the former and found peace in the fact that I made a conclusive decision. I have never looked back. And best of all, I am living (preferably for quite some time) as a result of my decision.

The same is true with my recent decision to accept a generous and gratifying Graduate Teaching Fellowship offer from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication http://jcomm.uoregon.edu. This fall, I will begin my quest to receive a master’s degree in “Communication and Society” with an eye on the possibility of teaching the next generation of strategic communicators.

kmb2

There are incredible positives that come with this decision, and yet it was not an easy call. I have been laboring in the PR vineyards for nearly 30 years, in the public sector, with two trade associations (trees and chips…go figure), a publicly traded technology company and an international public relations firm. Continuing down this path either as an employee or serving as my own employer was definitely a consideration, but instead I made a decision to do something completely different.

The fact that I have made the decision has provided me with clarity. I know what I am doing. I know with certainty what is my new goal in life. And I answered this particular question: If I don’t take this step at 55-years-young, when the heck am I going to do it?

Heading north to Oregon, I know there is an excitement that comes from learning and teaching on a major college campus. I also know that I will be 2x the age of the average graduate student. Macht nichts!

One thing is certain: There are no guarantees. Will I be able to parlay an advanced degree and experience as a teacher’s assistant into a teaching position at the university level in two years? Only time will tell. I do know from experience that I enjoy teaching. I have been privileged to most recently serve as a substitute instructor of MBA candidates and undergraduate communications students at Santa Clara University http://www.scu.edu/, teaching both financial communications and integrated marketing.

Now I am devoting the vast majority of my attention to my $700,000+ business, namely upgrading, pricing, marketing and (hopefully) selling my Bay Area house. That is only half of the equation as I have to make a critical buy or rent decision in Eugene. The reason that I even raise this overall subject is that I know through experience that senior communicators can find serenity in this uncertain world through making a decision and living with that decision.

The job market is going to remain tough, but not impossible, for months to come. Greece, Spain, North Korea and who knows, maybe even Albania, will provide even greater impetus for those who want to oversell the market. But do any of these external considerations really make a difference when you know what you want to do and when you want to do it?

Isn’t there an Oregon company http://www.nike.com/nikeos/p/nike/language_select/ that extols: “Just Do It?” 

The recession of a lifetime followed by the gradual, mostly jobless recovery has been particularly brutal on follicly challenged senior PR professionals, some who even remember JFK’s assassination being announced on school loud speakers and the Beatles on the “Ed Sullivan” show.

Please don’t ask, “Ed, who?”

The crippling downturn that prompted corporate and agency chieftains to cut back on SG&A expenses in the face of declining top lines and deteriorating bottom lines, prompted many displaced high-priced communicators to put out their own shingle.

And yes, there is a certain glamour associated with being your own boss, setting your own hours and commuting from the master suite to your home office or the local upscale coffee parlor with a laptop under your arm. And with it has come a directly related cottage industry of IT professionals charging three-figures per hour to keep home laptops, monitors and docking stations humming along.

There is also the nagging reality associated with incorporating the business, indemnifying the business, finding the business, servicing the business, invoicing the business and nagging the business to pay you…followed by quarterly payments to the IRS.

LinkedIn.com http://www.linkedin.com is loaded with oodles of individual practitioners with impressive corporate sounding names and LLPs, but how many will actually survive? How will they compete against each other, internal communications departments, boutique PR agencies, let alone the big multi-nationals such as Weber Shandwick, Fleishman Hillard, Edelman, Burson-Marsteller and Hill & Knowlton?

The answer is that some will ultimately thrive in an improving economy, but most will struggle to simply pay ze mortgage. This brings up another question: Is there another way of turning adversity into opportunity?

Two weeks ago, I took the GRE…the dreaded Graduate Records Examination http://www.ets.org/gre/. Why would I put myself through weeks of masochistic prep work to endure 3.5 hours of essays, critical readings and verbal/math multiple-guess questions? The answer is there is another way of setting your own course than starting your own business.

Personally, I am contemplating mentoring the next generations of strategic communicators. At least four of my colleagues are now teaching at USC, Santa Clara, Arizona State and Michigan State respectively. Why can’t I do the same?

One of them chose academics in part because as the political editor of a major metropolitan daily he grew weary of “having to layoff my friends.”

My PR career has spanned 28 years, including service in the public sector, two trade associations, one publicly traded technology company and an international public relations agency. The purpose of this recital is not to boast but to ask a vital question: What am I accomplishing if I extend this track record to 30 years? Or 32 years? Or even 40 years?

I have been accepted to both the University of Oregon Graduate School and the Graduate School of the UO School of Journalism and Communication http://www.jcomm.uoregon.edu/. A huge decision faces me around May 1 and that involves picking up stakes and moving my lounge act from Northern California to Eugene, Oregon in time for the first classes on September 27. The goal is to receive a master’s degree in “Communication and Society” and eventually to serve as an associate professor/instructor in strategic communications.

Certainly, I have been repeatedly warned about the corresponding loss of income and academic politics; how they eat their own (e.g. you can’t teach at the school in which you received your master’s degree). After years of state government and corporate backroom wheeling and dealing, a little academic politics sounds like more of the same just in a different locale.

We have all heard the homage that “Those who can’t, teach.” To those who want to attach that moniker to me, I simply say, “Bring it on.” More importantly, can senior communicators apply our energies, knowledge and experience to helping the next generations of strategic communicators in this rapidly changing digital age? And how many more would like to join me in this (hopefully) noble quest?

We may look back years from now and realize that the economic downturn (being charitable here) was just the kick in the-you-know-where that many of us needed. It may prompt us to do what we want to do rather than what someone else wants us to do.

“Giving Back” Thru Mentoring?

Undoubtedly, one of the most hyped phrases in our language is the concept of “giving back.” This notion has been used so many times in so many places that it has become almost cliché.

Even after acknowledging this point we still need to ask: Does the present generation of senior communicators owe it to our profession and society to pass along our knowledge and insights to the next generation of communicators?

Writing checks is nice, but is it even more valuable to impart as mentors hands-on knowledge based upon our years of experience in strategic communications?

As I contemplate this question of “giving back,” I reflect back to one of the responsibilities that did not fit into the position description of a gubernatorial press secretary: Meeting and answering questions from visiting university, community college, high school, middle school and even elementary school students.

During my three years as the Press Secretary to California Governor George Deukmejian in Sacramento http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Deukmejian, I was repeatedly asked to serve as the face of the administration to delegations of visiting students. I would encourage these students to pursue public service or at least to harbor a profound interest in government and politics. Sometimes the questions were tough, many were unfair or completely off-base, but the students nonetheless demonstrated their desire to learn and even to challenge authority.

As I moved from the public sector into roles with two major industry trade associations, a publicly traded high technology company and to a senior position in an international public relations firm, I was periodically asked to lecture classes on effective communications. Some of these schools included: UC Berkeley, Oregon State, San Francisco State and just recently Santa Clara University.

At Santa Clara, I lectured both MBA and undergraduate students about how to communicate to Wall Street and investors. I realized in making these presentations and seeing the enthusiasm that they generated that these students were clearly appreciating that the world of financial communications was changing at a breakneck pace.

This rate of change is not just limited to the financial sphere as digital technology, the ubiquitous ones and zeroes, are making instantaneous communication and lightning-fast responses a never-changing fact of life. We now have the ability to self publish and to share with the world our deepest thoughts.

Social media or conversational marketing via digital key strokes is something that Johannes Guttenberg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg could not even fathom when he invented the printing press in Mainz, Germany. But one thing has been constant since then; technology has made communication faster, more efficient and global.

Many cannot stop talking about and tweeting on Twitter, amassing their connections on LinkedIn.com, watching videos on YouTube or counting friends on Facebook. They are commenting on breaking global events via their blogs or reading, listening and viewing what others are saying via cyberspace, bypassing the “traditional media,” particularly the dying pencil “press.”

The hot social media tools of today most likely will not be the hot social media tools of tomorrow. New techniques are being written today (e.g. Google’s “Buzz” http://www.google.com/buzz) not on parchment paper, but rather in the form of software code.

Will students and society as a whole be prepared for these new techniques and their implications? What are the responsibilities of self publishing in the wake of fewer and fewer conventional media outlets? Will bloggers become the reporters of the 21st century, thus setting new standards for journalism?

Most importantly, what can we do to help these students in facing these brand new challenges? We all have our unique stories and experiences. Is it our duty to serve as mentors and to pass this knowledge on to those who can use it for their respective careers?

Looking back, I have been extremely fortunate to have many different experiences in my career. But I still keeping going back in mind replaying the scene in the Governor’s bill signing room filled with students and their teachers with a particular gleam in their eyes and engaging questions flowing off their tongues.

They wanted to learn.

They wanted to explore.

They wanted to challenge convention.

I was more than happy to help them in their quests.

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