Last week, I was happy to host my 17th residency as director of the Master of Communications Management program, offered in partnership McMaster University and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. It was, as they all have been, a beautiful, warm, exciting and fascinating experience.
We developed the MCM as a school for leaders in the area of professional communications, marketing communications, and related fields.
We saw a need in the Canadian market for a new credential that combines the core courses of the MBA (accounting, finance, marketing, strategy, business ethics, etc.) with core strategic communications courses (organizational communications, market research methods, strategic communications management, digital communications).
To this core, we add amazing electives: negotiation and conflict resolution, data science and analytics, investor relations, strategic reputation management, strategic brand management, advertising law, government and political communications, crisis communications, and executive leadership, among many others.
We teach all of this important, stimulating material using a hybrid learning model, which allows each cohort of MCM students to work fulltime and study at the same time. That means that our students don’t have to put their careers on hold for two years while they achieve their master’s degree.
To further the MCM as a community and as a conversation among professionals, our program’s motto is “The MCM program seeks to develop a learning community based on collaboration, not competition.”
MCM is organized around a magical combination of cohort-based recruitment, in-person residencies, and structured online learning. We admit approximately 20 students every year, from a competitive pool of applicants. They come together from across Canada and the Americas: in the two cohorts currently doing the MCM, we have every Canadian province and territory represented, except Nunavut and the Yukon (but we are working on it!).
Our students are diverse, representing Canada’s beautiful mosaic of diversity, including First Peoples, people of colour, and people who are differently abled. As well, we have international students, mostly from Latin America and the United States who add further depth and texture to our MCM community.
Every cohort is different and comes together to form a community of leaders who live and study together during each residency, of which there are three per year: the first in mid-October, the second in mid-February and the third in mid-June.
MCM residency is a magical, intense, exhausting, exhilarating week where students take two courses taught by tenured McMaster and Syracuse professors as well as leading industry executives, entrepreneurs.
During the Fall and Winter semesters, MCM students take one core business administration course, paired with one strategic communications course — one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. That is our left-brain/right-brain approach! These courses are separated by a long lunch so that our students can catch up with work and life.
MCM is not only about studying and courses. It also about great social events at wonderful restaurants and clubs, excursions to the wine country, lunchtime yoga sessions (gentle ones), roller skating by the sparkling waters of Hamilton Bay, hiking on the trails going through the natural wonderland of McMaster Unversity’s beautiful campus, and many other activities that bond students, faculty, alumni and staff into a warm, welcoming and supportive community of professionals who are also friends! Many of our students refer to their “MCM family”!
On Saturday night, we cap the first day of residency with a Residency Gala Dinner to which we invite a leading light of the communications world to give a personal lecture to the MCM community. Our Residency Gala Speaker Series alumni are a who’s who of public relations, marketing, journalism, advertising, politics, fundraising, and startups. On Wednesday, we host our
On Wednesday, we host our MCM Technical Luncheon Lecture, which features a top expert from the market research, digital comms, analytics, self-improvement or advertising worlds who illuminates us with their thoughts on a cutting-edge phenomenon (eg. Google Analytics, media analysis, artificial intelligence, Facebook advertising, executive leadership skills and mindfulness). We also invite the business community to this lecture – in the past we have been joined by members of several professional associations: CPRS Hamiton, Public Affairs Association of Canada, IABC Golden Horsheshoe, Canadian Marketing Association, Innovation Factory, amongst many others.
Once residency is finished, our MCM courses move to their online phase. Here, students and faculty get together for webinar sessions that simulate the experience of an in-class seminar. The online period lasts between residencies, and ends on first day of the next residency, called “wrap-up day,” where students present, write exams or simply discuss key learnings from the semester that has just ended.
How do we teach in the MCM?
We follow the classic business education model by using the case-study method. This ensures the theories and facts that students explore in their MCM courses are applicable to real-world business scenarios in the private, public and not-for-profit worlds. We take the applicability of our MCM course materials very seriously. In fact, up to 80% of your assignments in the MCM can be applied to your place of work, if you wish to do so. Our students often call me up in the weeks following their first residency to tell me that their performance at work has already been transformed: they feel a new confidence, strength, and knowledge. And that, only after one residency. That is what I mean by MCM being the School for Leaders!
During their sixth term, MCM students work on their capstone project, which is a work of original research that explores a business challenge, often through a case study method. Students write a thorough lit review and gather data through original field research that they analyse to write a paper that they defend orally. The purpose of the MCM capstone project is to make each MCM alum a thought leader in a particular area. Many of our students’ capstone projects are published and almost all are presented to academic or professional audiences. Several of our students have launched successful startups based on their capstone project research! All of our students take great pride in the fact that the capstone makes them an expert in their chosen area of research.
I warmly invite you to learn more about MCM
I hope I have been able to give you a glimpse into the exciting world of the McMaster-Syracuse MCM program. In fact, I hope that you have understood that it is much more than just a program – it is a community of professional friends who support one another long after their last residency and the successful defense of their capstone projects.
Please do contact me if you think MCM might be for you! It would be my pleasure to discuss it with you further. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Canada Day marked my return from a year’s research leave. It has been a good year- I moved into a new home, got involved in the federal election, made a bunch of great new friends, and wrote most of a new book on social media in Canada. I also became pescetarian and mindfully started on the path to fitness.
I am looking forward to coming back to McMaster as director of the McMaster-Syracuse Master of Communications Management program for a three-year term, until 2019. I love teaching and being part of the university community. I love the rhythm and cadence of university life and the excitement that students feel at the prospect of learning and growing. I love research and discovery – both from the personal perspective of gaining a new understanding of the world, but also because research and the enlightenment it brings help to transform our communities for the better.
The MCM is a wonderful community of practitioners who learn from one another. I count our faculty among the learners as well, because when twenty very bright, leading communicators from across Canada get together in a room to discuss and debate the theories and practices of management, strategy, marketing, and communications, even the top experts become facilitators. What a joy for all involved.
If you have been thinking about an MBA, you should consider the MCM. We offer the course courses of the MBA in a format that works with your schedule and busy life. It really is an “MBA for creative people.”
The fact that the MCM is offered to you by McMaster University in partnership with the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, opens a whole world of experience for you in the United States!
If you’re interested in the MCM, do send me a note and we can chat about the program and your application to join the 2016-17 cohort, which starts in October.
We have extended our application deadline to August 15, 2016.
In yesterday’s post, I discussed how public relations became more strategic, as it evolved into a two-way symmetrical model, focused on building relationships between organizations and their publics. Today, I will discuss how social media has changed the landscape and evolved PR strategy from a two-way symmetrical model to a two-way dialogical model.
Social media has changed public relations by changing the way information flows.
The two-way symmetrical model was based on the gatekeeping model privileged by the structure of most mass communication organizations: well-paid and highly trained experts create content that is then sent through well-defined channels to subscribers. The gatekeepers are the editors, publishers, etc. who hold the final say on whether something is released into the channel. Strategic PR in the two-way symmetrical model involved understanding the dynamics of the mass communications channels (audiences, internal editorial structures, etc.) and forging relationships with the right experts to get the message out. Controlling and the shaping the message were key. At the heart of this is a linear communication model:
Content producer —> editor —> channel —> receiver
Feedback is limited to structured forums such as letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, etc.
Social media has shattered this model by introducing the concept of user-generated content. It also introduced instant feedback into the structure. That made the PR conversation more dialogical and interpersonal, rather than structured and linear. In a dialogical, interpersonal model feedback is constant, like in a conversation.
This means that the organizational relationships that a PR pro has to manage are being communicated in a way that more closely resembles how individuals communicate and build relationships – interactively and with multiple streams of continuous information at the same time (i.e. in interpersonal communication, you pay quite a bit of attention to language, non-verbal, context, etc.).
This means that to be strategic, PR pros now have to think of their organizations as individuals – people who are forging relationships with individual members of priority publics. Managing those relationships for the mutual benefit of the organization and the individuals with whom it has relationships is how PR adds value now. This means that it has organization-wide influence: marketing, internal communications, HR, financial and investor communications, etc.
For PR pros, this means understanding how business works and developing a set of professional languages, models and metrics that make and demonstrate the case for the strategic value of public relations to the core business development objectives. This is at the heart of what we teach in the McMaster-Syracuse MCM program.
PR’s strategic importance is in knowing how to make organizations personal and interpersonal, in an organized and consistent fashion.
First, allow me to congratulate my esteemed colleague his recent achievements. Terry was recently:
The first Canadian to ever be elected to the board of trustees of the Arthur W. Page Society — the leading global association of chief communications officers — and
Named a board member of the prestigious Institute for Public Relations.
Named one of the Top 50 Social Media Marketing Influencers on Twitter by Vocus Research, a global communications research company.
Terry has been an inspiration, mentor and friend to me over the last seven years that I have known him. He has opened the world of PR scholarship and practice to me, by trusting me with his baby – the McMaster-Syracuse MCM program and introducing me to his international network of public relations and communications management colleagues, both professional and academic.
I am proud to know him and owe him a lot. He’s a constant inspiration and support to me.
The MCM program offered in partnership between McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business and Dept of Communication Studies and Multimedia and the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
The MCM program combines four core MBA courses with four core strategic communications management courses.
Program Structure: The academic program provides the participant with core courses in key areas
MCM 715 Applied Ethics in Communications Management
MCM 721 Strategic Management
MCM 722 Financial Reporting and Management Accounting
MCM 723 Managerial Finance
MCM 724 Marketing Management
(2-3 courses; 6-9 credits)
Capstone Project or Thesis:
(3-credit project or 6-credit thesis)
MCM 731 Reputation and Brand Management
MCM 732 Communication Frontiers: Social Media
MCM 735 Negotiation: Theory and Practice
MCM 741 Crisis Communications
MCM 742 Social Media and Mobility: Strategy and Management
*This is a small sample of potential electives
Students have the choice to a professional capstone project (equivalent to one course) and three electives, or will write a scholarly thesis (equal to two courses) and take two electives.
The MCM faculty are an extraordinary group of business and communications professors from McMaster and Syracuse Universities. As well, we bring together top talent from the private sector to teach in the program – our practitioner instructors all work in the c-suite or are successful entrepreneurs.
The MCM program provides you the tools, the learning and the success-mentality to be become a manager, entrerpeneur or college/university instructor in the rapidly growing field of communications!
His main point is that to build a life of excellence at work and at home, you should ask yourself these questions:
What are my strengths?
How do I work?
Where do I belong?
What can I contribute?
The answers to these questions are neither simple nor intuitive for many. We are trained, especially as communications managers, to think in terms of our job description and our role as implementers.
Here are my interpretations of how Drucker’s questions could be applied to communications management:
Strengths. We define our strengths in terms of how we match the job we are supposed to do, rather than for our profound understanding of the organization’s story and how that story is related to brand, relationships, reputation and trust.
Work. We define our productivity in terms of how good we are at the tactical implementation of someone else’s ideas. Communications managers are often the only people in an organization who have a true “whole organization” perspective on how a management decision will resonate, internally to the organization and externally in the public. Think of BP, where legal was consulted instead of communications – it took over 60 days for BP to communicate with the public and that communication, delivered in the form of full-page ads in major newspapers, was written in legalese.
Belonging. We accept the idea that we belong in a service role, implementing and publicizing ideas we had no part in developing – ideas that were developed by the senior executive team. Communications managers, having the “whole organization” perspective, should be providing counsel on the strategic management decisions being made – simple errors that can have negative impact on trust can thus be averted. Think of the guest workers decision at Royal Bank in 2013.
Contributions. We judge our contributions in terms of efficacy instead of strategy. When communications managers set up metrics programs, it is important to remember that you should be measuring “measurable strategic objectives” and not “tactical outputs”. Metrics do tell the story of your work to colleagues and managers, but only if they are well-chosen. Many of the old metrics used by communications managers are oriented towards output, which is only a measure of tactical efficacy (eg. number of press releases, tweets, newspaper mentions, etc.), not strategic thinking.
Last thursday, the Winter Residency of the @McMasterMCM program – a resounding success.
We had a record number of 42 students registered across years 1 and 2 of the program. Our students came from all over Canada: every province except New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI. We also had students from Mexico and Oman! We had students from the many different fields of communications management: public relations, journalism, marketing, government relations and fundraising. This diversity means that we are able to gather a cohort full of communications leaders in one room – our conversations are broad ranging and deep; faculty and students as much from one another as we teach in class.
The MCM is also famous for our prestigious guest speaker series.
Each residency, we have a gala evening at the Hamilton Club on the Saturday night. Last week, our @McMasterMCM Winter Gala was a huge success, with Jonathan Harris, Managing Partner, InfoMart (Postmedia) as our keynote. He gave a provocative speech on the future of journalism which roused one of the most animated question periods that we have ever had at one of our gala events. Faculty and students engaged our guest speaker in a lively conversation about content marketing, digital branding and the future of news.
On Wednesday, we had our @McMasterMCM Technical Luncheon, featuring Katie Paine, President, Paine Publishing. She delivered a superb luncheon lecture, “Measurement in the Age of Context”, which led to a wonderful question period afterward. As you can see in the photo below, she even wore her Google Glass device during the whole presentation!
We also innovated during this residency, expanding on our partnership with CPRS Hamilton to offer a workshop by Katie Paine, entitled, “How to Build a Best in Class Measurement Program”. We had over 40 CPRS, IABC and non-affiliated professionals attend the three-hour workshop, which was a incredibly successful. Katie took the time to ask the members about their specific organizational measurement challenges and then provided advice from her books: “Measure What Matters” and “Measuring the Networked NonProfit”. The session was so useful that the participants didn’t want it to end, after three hours. This was the first such partnership meeting with CPRS, part of our ongoing efforts to open the MCM up to the community of practitioners!
All in all, an excellent residency was had by all. To get a taste of how much fun we had together, you can peruse our photos through our flickr stream below…
This week, I have the pleasure of hosting the McMaster-Syracuse MCM Winter Residency 2014.
Both the first year and the second year cohorts are here. Here’s what they will be taking:
First Year MCM (2nd Term of Program):
COMM MGMT 722 Managerial Finance
COMM MGMT 712 Public Relations and Communications Research
Second Year MCM (5th Term of Program):
COMM MGMT 721 Strategic Management
COMM MGMT 713 Communications Law for Public Relations Advertising
The focus of the program is “building professional success through research”. We mean that to achieve success as a professional communicator, communications manager or entrepreneur, it is necessary to understanding how to communicate, build relationships and manage community. While this has always been the the case, digital communications have made communications management and public relations even more fundamental: the fact that everyone has to manage their online digital image has reinforced the idea that it is important to manage relationship and reputation in every circumstance. Additionally, the fact that everything posted to digital can be measured and counted means that no one can dismiss the value or importance of communications counsel for organizational success.
A final thought comes from the world of corporate valuation. A recent article posted to reputationdividend.com [pdf] list the companies whose share price in 2012 was most impacted by reputation. Here are the top twelve, with the contribution of reputation to their valuation in parentheses:
Exxon Mobil (56.4%)
Royal Dutch Shell PLC (56.3%)
Philip Morris International (55.7%)
Procter & Gamble (55.4%)
Walt Disney (54.5%)
These numbers indicate that firms should be investing in communications managers and strategists at the highest level to manage and maintain those relationships that contribute so fundamentally to shareholder value and corporate valuation.
Our MCM program faculty understand what needs to inform the strategic reputation management that goes into building the reputation capital that leads to higher market valuations – we teach those skills, methods, theories and approaches in all of our classes.
When we say “thinking strategically” we often seem to mean thinking managerially.
We confuse strategy with good planning. However, planning really is a question of organizing your tactics in a logical and efficient way. Strategy goes beyond planning and setting measurable goals and objectives – it means being able to imagine how your organization or your brand fits into the arena in which you’re competing: its culture, economy, politics and social life.
A great, although somewhat over-discussed example of this is Apple. Steve Jobs could think strategically because he understood what made people feel better about themselves and their social lives. This knowledge of the culture enable him to envision what the cultural and social capital that products like the iPod and iPhone came loaded with – feelings of personal liberty, celebrity and style.
He knew that a sleek device marketed to consumers as providing “a soundtrack for your life” fit with the emerging although somewhat contradictory world of counter-cultural consumerism. And the product sold like crazy.
More than that, owning an Apple product meant that you bought into some very post-industrial ideas of personal creativity, does things your way, and instant coolness. Did the device actually confer any of these properties on the users? No, certainly not. What Apple devices did was give users the sense that you were now part of the club of those creative ascetics who change the world. Strategic genius. You can hear it in the clip I have included below.
Things are changing for Apple. We are watching the corporation become an ordinary technology player since Jobs’ untimely death. Not because Tim Cook and his team are incompetent, but rather because they are having trouble creating a followup to the Jobs’ strategy, mostly because they lack his imagination and his vision. When a company’s brand is so profoundly tied to one’s person’s creative imagination and cultural understanding, it is very difficult to keep up the coolness factor after that person passes.
Why is this? Because strategy is something that is very difficult to quantify. It is very hard to put into a formula. The managerial processes needed to execute the strategy can be formalized, but the strategy is a holistic thing – the master strategist doesn’t only logic through a problem. No, logic is just a piece of the strategy puzzle. The master strategist tastes a challenge, smells a challenge, dreams of a challenge. It visceral and intuitive.
A good counter example to Apple is Porsche, which has built out their brand by resurrecting and extending their brand history and origins: racing, style and pragmatic engineering. Porsche provides the examples and the vicarious experiences through social media, but allows users to reimagine their connection to Porsche in their individual imaginations – a more sustainable strategy.
In a word, strategy is a profoundly human thing, because it depends on the strategist building a representation in the minds of consumers. This makes it challenging to teach, difficult to explain and almost impossible to reproduce by someone other than the originator of the strategy.