Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Extraordinary Quotes on the Importance of Communications in the Work World

The following are insights from experts on the need for communications in the education and training of young professionals.

From a graduate business professor teaching MBAs in marketing:

Strategically, I believe you still have the old dilemma that you addressed early in your career at Medill. Can P.R. ever be true to itself if it is part of marketing? This debate was resolved twenty years ago—P.R. is part of marketing. My view and nearly every time there is a major P.R. issue or marketing driving dissemination of information there have been problems for P.R. Marketing ultimately is responsible to the company. No matter how much we talk about customer voice being represented by marketing, in the final analysis the company is paying marketing and it “HEARS THE VOICE” it wants to hear.

However, P.R. although paid by a client has the greater mission of correctly disseminating information as it is known.

“Let me offer up Walker’s Law: The greater the amount of communication, the less valuable bad communications and the more valuable good communications. Here’s how I got there. Today, many of us communicate essentially from the moment we wake up until we turn out the lights at night, sixteen hours or more. (If you include passive one-way communication, like radio and TV, that number goes even higher.) This is far more than our grandparents or their grandparents communicated. With sixteen hours of communications a day, only the good stuff cuts through the clutter and gets noticed.

The quickest way to the top in any organization is to be able to express your thoughts concisely and compellingly. Especially for those just starting out, it provides a way to set yourself apart and show your potential in a very tangible and noticeable way. I continually remind those on my team: “If this e-mail (or memo or presentation or elevator conversation) was the only thing a top executive had to judge you by, are you OK with that?” Often it is what they will be judged on. As a result I advise every professional, but particularly those starting out, to put communication at the top of the list of things to work on. Communication matters.” (from a very senior executive in our business).

From a very successful alumna in the automotive aftermarket leading industry:

Knowing how to tie a company's "story" to the numbers is the job of a corporate communicator and I just don't think enough students get the big picture. Along those same lines, one thing that seems to be missing is the ability to develop a strategic corporate communications plan that supports business objectives. I would hope this fundamental skill is incorporated into the current communications classes as well as an understanding of how various communications functions are integrated. This is how you sell programs internally, gain credibility and budgets!

You didn't mention a class in media relations. There needs to be a basic class that educates students on how the media works, what makes a good story, message development and how to conduct successful interviews.

Students need to understand the power of the media, how to best use opportunities and what it means to counsel senior executives.

Writing - writing - writing!! Speechwriting yes but in a corporate
communications role, you need to be the best writer in the company - board of director communications, speeches, press releases, talking points, customer communications, presentations, video scripts, marketing/advertising copy. The ability to put complex technical information or financial data in layman terms is critical. I think research skills and the ability to digest material and analyze different situations is also a tremendous asset to a young person entering communications.

From a senior executive in one of the top agencies in the world who has hired our students for many years:

Communications, no matter how defined, is more important than ever to an institution’s success. Information is 24/7; borderless; and abundant. It’s being sourced and disseminated effectively, not just by traditional media outlets and institutions themselves, but by special interest groups of all descriptions and individuals of all levels of expertise and opinions, and in a wide variety of channels. Makes the role of those who create, strategize and execute all forms of communications absolutely critical.

The skills required for the communications professional are broad. Intelligence; common sense; and the ability to write and speak to provide relevant information and to express a point of view are basic requirements any more. Now you must demonstrate curiosity, strategic thinking, listening skills, ability to collaborate, a global perspective, a commitment to innovation. Be able to utilize all the new technologies to seek information as well as distribute it. Be aware of what’s going on in the world to provide counsel on issues currently impacting your employer and to assist in anticipating those that will. Understand every audience that can or will influence the success of your employer so you can interact with each in a meaningful, relevant way. And, lead—or, at least, facilitate—the other disciplines required to leverage opportunities or solve problems that achieve important goals.
More than ever, a passion for the responsibility and the contribution you make distinguishes the communicator in the new workplace environment.

From a senior lecturer who knows our students and hires them.
There are very few schools besides Medill with the richness and depth of coursework that prepare graduate level students in communication. When looking for someone to join my organization, I seek professionals with a strategic approach to communication. That starts with an understanding of the audience and how that audience behaves. Then, I look for someone who approaches the opportunity of affecting behavior (by either reinforcing positive perceptions or mitigating negative perceptions) with communication goals, strategies and tactics that are measurable. Too often, the candidate for a job has only been trained in executing tactics, but fails to consider the audience's beliefs and behavior and certainly misses completely the need for integrating the efforts with messages that are consistent and resonate across all of the audiences. An integrated approach is vital for success in this highly integrated communication world.
Because Medill's IMC's program combines direct marketing and advertising concepts with its communication courses, the students have a broader understanding of brand and customer than other schools' programs. And, those students who go into marketing/advertising/database management have a different appreciation and skill set because of the communication classes and classmates at IMC. Because communication skills broadly defined (presentation skills, writing skills, audience appreciation) are critical for successful leaders in all business functions, the IMC student is more well rounded than most who go into marketing/advertising/database management. This gives them an advantage not just in getting a job but also throughout their careers.

From a senior leader in the not-for-profit sector who is relying on students in the PMP program for support this summer:

Young communications professionals will increase their impact and success as they hone their ability to provide clarity to the quantitative. First, communications professionals need to have the fortitude to grasp factual and technical underpinnings of the barrage of data available. Then, they need to apply their skills in assessing and helping clarify strategic intent of their senior executives and clients. From there, these young professionals can ply their craft of developing rich, fact-supported content and channels for its delivery that will achieve maximum impact and have the intellectual rigor to withstand the constant evaluation and feedback inherent in today’s media. With consistent demonstration of these skills, young communications professionals will take their seat as strategic directors of their firm’s and their clients’ success.

In professional society young people are listened to about two things: data and technology. Success for young communications professionals rests not only on their ability to master these resources. Technical and quantitative acumen opens the door. Having the wisdom to discern the strategic intent and values of your clients, and articulating data or technology-driven messaging that reflects these values, is what will let you into the room.

From a senior small consulting firm in communications who has worked with our students on media training and “judged them” for projects:

Smart companies and smart professionals use communications as a strategic weapon to drive business results. What type of communications efforts will be required to convince senior leadership to embrace a new initiative? To motivate employees to use a new software application, or following a massive restructuring? To demonstrate compliance to regulators? To reassure investors? To educate customers about a new product? Study after study shows that face to face communications whether in person or long distance via videoconference remains the most powerful method even in our technology saturated world.

The most brilliantly written message, the most painstakingly crafted PowerPoint, the most groundbreaking R&D idea ever, a pitch perfect response to a company crisis, a banner quarter for shareholders isn’t worth much if it can’t be communicated effectively. Today, more than ever, competitive advantage and possibly a company’s survival depend on communication skills. Great strategy and tactics by themselves aren’t enough. Knowing how to communicate, particularly under pressure has a direct effect on the bottom line. Strategic, clear and powerful communications can help drive business results. The two key components of effective communications are strategic counsel and training. A presentation to management, an interview with a journalist, a webcast with customers, a speech to lenders. Communications is a race which never ends. Just as customer service is never ‘over,’ managing cash flow is never ‘complete,’ safety is never ‘done.’ So too with effective business communication. It is on-going and unending. It is the most used skill used in the workplace, yet the most underestimated for what it takes to become proficient. The strategic, tactical and emotional skills require continual development and refinement.

From one of the most respected research professors in the field of communications at a private school who has sent us some of his undergraduates.
Any business plan—management or marketing—must have an element of communication underlying it. Communication theory provides the strategic understanding of how messages—the realm of communication, mass or otherwise—are created, transmitted, and received. Understanding the psychology of communication, from attitude formation to attitude change and reinforcement, as well as overcoming resistance to change is something that underlies all communication transactions. From an understanding of the sociology of communication the manager or marketer can better tailor messages to specific sub-audiences. An understanding of the rhetorical bases of message creation—from Aristotle to Marx and Gadamer to Homans to Sapir and Whorf—is important in understanding the process of creating and maintaining an argument across cultures and interactions.

In general, the lack of an understanding of communication leads to misplaced and misconstrued messages. Given today’s increased speed of message transmission (and mistransmission), it is imperative that students entering the workplace can produce persuasive appeals aimed at the fragmented audiences or markets the Internet has created through such social network applications as Facebook or MySpace. Such understanding should include the power of written and oral and nonverbal and mass mediated communication.

From one of our global colleagues teaching IMC in Asia:

A course we (and our graduates) have found to be very crucial for success in the business world is Business Communication, which is divided into two sub modules (Business Writing and Business Presentations). Each module is taught as a separate subject in two different semesters, with business writing being taken up first followed by business presentations in the following semester. Unfortunately, we have noted over the years a decline in the mastery of the English language, making it more and more difficult for students to express their ideas logically and clearly in both written and spoken (verbal and non verbal) modes of communication. This is why the writing course is taught first, which includes some modules on a review of grammar, and commonly misused phrases and expressions in business English. Business presentations emphasizes clear, succinct and logical thinking and expression of ideas, coupled with effective use of technology and proper delivery.

The following is a list of courses in the communications field (more theoretical) taught at Northwestern and Syracuse (two leading schools). Courses like the following illustrate that communication theory can be applied: “This course examines theories and research dealing with communication in formal organizations and institutions. Various models of organizational communication are introduced, as well as historical and current research in the field. Students learn to analyze and integrate theory and research and apply what they learn to current organizations”

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