Friday, July 20, 2007

Searching for faculty in PR and Marketing

One of the advantages of being a full-time faculty member of the Medill School at Northwestern University is the intelligent mix of faculty. While it would seem to make sense that a professional school (strong career education orientation) would hire both full-time and part-time senior practitioners in the relevant fields. Naturally a research level I university would also hire individuals holding a doctoral degree emphasizing advanced research in related areas of academic study. The marketing and public relations department (Integrated Marketing Communications - IMC) has balanced this approach for a number of years to earn the respect of colleagues at other schools and the support of the NU administration. Our journalism colleagues have not succeeded in balancing the model and have found themselves in some jeopardy with the University and with their colleagues in the accreditation process. This month, the NU administration lead by President Henry Bienen and Provost Larry Dumas with Associate Provost John Margolis approved the hiring of two additional research trained and educated professors for IMC. We will offer more undergraduate education for the extraordinarily qualified NU undergraduates. One of the posts will be for a researcher and teacher in marketing and marketing communications with special knowledge of the consumer. The other post will be for a junior colleague (usually recent recipient of a doctorate) in journalism-mass communications, communications or business management. They should be able to work with senior faculty on some traditional areas of stakeholder relations, PR metrics and newer areas such as communities. As the details are written, I will post the requirements here for your review and discussion. We expect to interview for the positions at the AEJMC and AMA August 2007 meetings and through the Fall of 2007.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What about IMC?

As Northwestern University's Medill School sorts out the future of Journalism and its business related academic and professional partners of advertising, public relations and direct database marketing we are considering expanding more business fields of study into the undergraduate program. Over 30 years ago such a program existed but the last age of excitement in Journalism (Watergate) probably helped to move the undergraduates out of "harm's way" with only a concentrated program of journalism.

In discussions about the new offerings of courses to undergraduates I note: Our undergraduate program does not show the most recent work of the IMC faculty to offer classes to J students with a certificate or "minor" for non-J students. I hope that we can secure a pre-accreditation review of our ideas so that we might push the limit more on the range of new courses offered in the IMC category to J students - especially related to the highly related field of PR. If the new courses can be listed it will help the new and current J students to see the opportunities for careers using communications. We also need data on the career paths of J undergraduate and graduate students from 1-5 years out and 6-10 and 11 and beyond.

The IMC program shows nine so-called "branding" courses (there is no sector, professional field or organization for branding) and only 5 courses in the "analytical" realm. The concept of "analytical" was not meant to differentiate qualitative from quantitative disciplines or courses. However, the sorting of them seems to suggest "hard" from "soft". In fact, the Marketing PR class listed under branding requires the use of at least two beta tested softwares to perform analysis of millions of words in messaging about a firm or organization. It is certainly analytical in its recommendations to clients such as Coca Cola, Aidmatrix and others.

We continue to have discussions about the direction of the program regarding the so-called specialties of advertising, public relations and direct marketing. Each of these academic bodies of knowledge are far, far more substantial than IMC as a field but we continue to deny that the market recognizes them as field of work. The memberships in the two leading organizations in public relations exceed 40,000, direct marketing 20,000 and advertising should be comparable. While we declare these professions "dead" the demand for junior, mid and senior level professionals still call for men and women with this knowledge and experience. We are confusing rather than serving the market of firms who hire our graduates. IMC as a self-standing field is still a "nice to have" not a "need to know" in the 21st century marketplace. This is not to say that IMC is not a leading edge example of best practices, but it is "not asked for by name". Pieces of IMC are asked for but that is another story.

We will confuse the undergraduates and their parents (and grandparents) over "what are you studying"? with IMC and we confuse the graduate market with majors in branding and analytics without any supporting work in the jobs in PR, Adv. and DDE they are hired to fill.

We need more conversation on this topic. More to come.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

What is community?

The courses in my field are always changing. The crisis class I teach can use the news as a source of information and inspiration each quarter. A new class that I have been asked to organize "Community" is more of a challenge. I met briefly with Mary Lou Song (earliest employee and founding member of eBay. She has consulted on the topic of community. We plan to talk some more to help the IMC students understand the richness of the reach to various stakeholders that the newer technology provides. A long reading list starting with Surowiecki's The Wisdom on Crowds, Rheingold Smart Mobs, Tapscott and Williams on Wikinomics, Le Bon The Crowd (for perspective) and a range of books on blogging (Naked Conversations, Blog Marketing,) Ahonen and Moore on Communities Dominate Brands and a wide range of books on the digital divide seem to be related. This must be sorted out, but some history (mobs), some policy challenges (divide), some technology (InfoLab at NU), some entertainment (Fans, Bloggers and Gamers, by Jenkins) and some business need to be combined. Experiments in You Tube, blogging, podcasts, Second Life may be useful. More to come.