Strategic Planning for Strategic Communication Education

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Alumni Contribute Ideas, Resources at Strategic Communication Summit

Columbia, Mo. (Oct. 24, 2006) — For one day, five decades-worth of advertising and public relations professionals gathered at the Missouri School of Journalism with a common mission. Some of them grew up before television – others have not lived without the Internet. Generation gaps, however, gave way to common experience. They are proud Missouri School of Journalism alumni; they are innovators in the emerging field of strategic communication; and they are dedicated partners in making Missouri’s strategic communication education the best in the world.

Participants listen to a presentation in Tucker Forum.
Strategic Communication Summit participants listen to a presentation in Tucker Forum at the Missouri School of Journalism. Alumni, faculty and students spent the day planning for the future of strategic communication education. Photo by Zach Honig.

The recent Strategic Communication Summit held in Gannett Hall’s Tucker Forum may have been only one day, but it represents an ongoing dialogue among the alumni, faculty and students of the School that will shape the future of strategic communication education.

“Such partnerships fuel our progress and success,” said Margaret Duffy, chair of strategic communication. “We are constantly asking what we need to do to improve strategic communication study on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Our alumni are interested, invested and engaged in ensuring the excellence of tomorrow’s leaders.”

Meeting – And Exceeding – Expectations

This most recent addition to the dialogue featured ten successful professionals from all avenues of the strategic communication world. Their resumes display outstanding leadership and insight, including founding the first Soviet-American advertising agency; co-founding internal communications at one of the country’s premier PR firms; transforming a local ad agency to a global digital marketing leader; directing emerging media for a major electronics retailer; founding successful creative and media consulting companies; and working on major accounts for renowned media and advertising agencies.

Steve Kopcha
Steve Kopcha, associate professor, shares information about the writing courses that he teaches and how these skills are used in Mojo Ad, the premier student-staffed professional-services advertising agency in the country. Photo by Zach Honig.

These alumni sat down with strategic communication faculty and students for a day of presentations, informal discussions and brainstorming about how the School can best prepare its students to succeed in the profession.

Plenty of evidence exists that the School is already producing successful students, said Duffy. Students’ grade point averages are well above 3.0, and most have a double major or minor. Diversity is alive with approximately 30 countries represented in the student body, and 25 percent of students choose to have a study abroad experience. Hands-on experience abounds with Mojo Ad, the premier student-staffed professional-services advertising agency in the country. Most importantly, internship coordinators and employers consistently provide superlative praise for Missouri students and graduates.

Few people know this better than Kim Garretson, BJ ’73, a consultant based in Minneapolis, Minn. Garretson worked with Mojo Ad students on a Best Buy campaign when he served as the company’s director of emerging media.

“The Mojo Ad students were so good that Best Buy brought in two winning students to make presentations at our Minneapolis headquarters, including a one-on-one with the CEO,” Garretson told the group. “Best Buy hired one of the J-School students and would have hired both had they had the money.”

Such testaments are proof that the School is heading in the right direction. But what quickly became apparent to all participants was that the day’s goal was not to discuss maintaining a successful program; rather, it was to take that success and turn it into an excess of ideas for the future. Duffy set that tone by asking the group, “What can we do to be even better?”

The Young and “Tech-y”

Liz Harper, Jon Halvorson and Kim Garretson
Liz Harper, BJ ’04, and Jon Halvorson, BJ ’04, listen as Kim Garretson, BJ ’73, former director of emerging media for Best Buy, praises Mojo Ad students who worked on a Best Buy campaign. Garretson said the strategic communication students working for Mojo Ad produced professional-quality work. Photo by Zach Honig.

One major theme from the day’s discussions centered on the importance of the youth market and the persistence of technology. After a Mojo Ad presentation by students and their faculty advisers, Larry Powell and Steve Kopcha, the alumni group offered thoughts on making Mojo Ad a competitive agency in the professional world, therefore enhancing students’ experiences.

“Because agencies can’t employ young people, they research them,” said Mary Beth Price, BJ ’71, an independent media consultant based in Cincinnati, Ohio. “My children live and breathe the new technology, and we cannot walk in their shoes. The key to Mojo Ad is the niche in the emerging media.”

Susan Casper, a consultant for Casper Creative Consulting in Houston, Texas, looked to the future of the burgeoning student initiative.

“This is a great grass roots beginning, but now the question is how to market Mojo Ad five years down the road,” Casper said. “You must determine where the profit areas will be and head there. A good business plan is key.”

Understanding the impact of new technologies on communication is integral to understanding all consumers, not just the youth market, the group concluded. Alumni wanted to know how the School keeps up with changing technology, which led to a key question by Jon Halvorson, BJ ’04, new media specialist for OMD, Chicago: “How is convergence integrated into the core curriculum?”

Esther Thorson
Esther Thorson, associate dean for graduate studies and research, tells visiting advertising and public relations alumni about the increased importance of research in today’s fragmented strategic communication world. Photo by Zach Honig.

Associate Professor Mike McKean explained the new convergence journalism curriculum at the school, which teaches communication across multiple media platforms, including print, broadcast and online. In addition to technique training, the group discussed the critical role of research training in understanding the challenges posed by the new media landscape and fragmented audiences. Liz Harper, BJ ’04, account executive at Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Boulder, Colo., said emphasis on strategic thinking will put Missouri graduates above the rest.

“Most entry level new hires are not doing a lot of strategic thinking, but if you ask them they will,” Harper said. “More importantly, they will jump in and learn. It’s the marriage of skills and strategy that’s important.”

Big-Picture Preparations

Beyond discussing the physical and critical thinking skills Missouri students need, the group raised issues young graduates will face in their first jobs.

“Do we teach our students how the client makes money?” asked Mary Beth Price.

“Do we teach what an agency budget looks like?” asked Gary Burandt, BJ ’66, executive director of International Communications Agency Network, Inc. based in Rollinsville, Colo.

Bill Price, BJ ’63, chairman and chief executive officer of Empower MediaMarketing in Cincinnati, Ohio, agreed that many entry-level employees must know that business impacts communication strategy.

“Many people in agencies do not totally understand how to make money, so I have my CFO teach ongoing classes about the fundamentals,” Price said. “They would be floored if someone walked in with that kind of knowledge.”

Art Casper, BJ ’54, founder of Casper Creative Consulting, said well-rounded knowledge in all areas, from business to research to creative, is important in a business pitch.

Associate Dean Esther Thorson and Strategic Communication Chair Margaret Duffy
Alumni react to a presentation by Associate Dean Esther Thorson and Strategic Communication Chair Margaret Duffy. Participants emphasized the need for students to understand changing technologies and how they impact consumer attitudes. Photo by Zach Honig.

“Anyone going into account management should take from all other areas. Sometimes not everyone from my firm was up to speed in all areas before the new business pitch,” Casper said.

Another aspect of well-rounded knowledge is the ethics of business and communication, said Don Etling, BJ ’71, senior vice president and senior partner at Fleishman-Hillard in St. Louis.

“How are you integrating ethics into the curriculum so that students are equipped to handle tough situations in their work lives?” asked Etling. He said ethics should not be confined to one course because there is such a misconception about ethics in the public relations business.

Keys to Success

At every opportunity, the summit participants emphasized that new advertising and public relations graduates need to be flexible, innovative, adaptive to technology and especially tuned in to the changes of the global marketplace.

“It’s important for students to be part of a global team, to learn to work across time zones and to work with cultural differences,” said Jon Cook, BJ ’93, managing partner and chief client and integration officer for VML in Kansas City, Mo.

Many students gain such global knowledge from the alumni and other professionals who visit the School and even teach courses. While a student, Liz Harper had the opportunity to take several one-hour topics courses taught by professionals.

“It was incredible,” she said. “We should have a brainstorming session to identify the best courses that could be offered.”

By the end of the day, the Summit participants had produced an abundance of innovative ideas and a long wish list of resources needed to initiate those ideas. Alumni left the session knowing that their expertise and connections can make a difference in Missouri’s strategic communication program, while faculty and students left with a renewed excitement about the future.

“We have a vision, developed in consultation with alumni, faculty, students and scholars, for a curriculum and programs that are committed to continuous improvement,” Duffy said. “To make this happen we need help from our alumni and friends of the School in offering their ideas, their time and their financial support.”

Another Strategic Communication Summit will be held in 2007 at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Summit Participants

Gary Burandt, BJ ’66
International Communications Agency Network, Inc.
Rollinsville, Colo.

Art Casper, BJ ’54
Casper Creative Consulting
Houston, Texas

Susan Casper
Casper Creative Consulting
Houston, Texas

Jon Cook, BJ ’93
Managing Partner, VML
Kansas City, Mo.

Donald G. Etling, BJ ’71
Fleishman-Hillard
St. Louis, Mo.

Kim Garretson, BJ ’73
Consultant
Minneapolis, Minn.

Jon Halvorson, BJ ’04
New Media Specialist, OMD
Chicago, Ill.

Liz Harper, BJ ’04
Crispin Porter + Bogusky
Boulder, Colo.

Bill Price, BJ ’63
Empower MediaMarketing
Cincinnati, Ohio

Mary Beth Price, BJ ’71
Media Consultant
Cincinnati, Ohio

Oct 24, 2006

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