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.
We all like to think we have a handle on what’s real — it’s natural.
However, with the pervasive nature of opinion media broadcasting 24/7 on television and now on the internet, it can sometimes be hard to get a handle on the situation. This is compounded by the echo chambers of our social media bubbles and our assortative friendships as well as assortative mating.
What this all means is that we are getting a lot of positive reinforcement from people who agree with us. So it all feels right — our opinions, our choices, our behaviours are all reinforced by friends and family and followers who tell us, very earnestly that you should “be yourself” because “you can’t be anyone else”.
It’s too bad that what this really means is: “Be like us, conform to our little bubble’s social, moral and ethical norms. We’re with you, let those who challenge you — the unenlightened or the profane — be silent.”
After all, you can unfriend those nagging voices who question your beliefs, challenge your morality and your ethics or criticize your choices. You can cut them out because they make you feel something psychologists call “cognitive dissonance” — the fact that we can’t hold two opposing propositions in our minds at once. It’s actually painful — if you believe someone is a good person and then you get evidence that they are a liar or a cheater, it is easier to dismiss the new facts because they make you feel uncomfortable.
Before social media, assortative mating and friendships, safe spaces in universities, etc. we were often confronted with opposing views and had to argue them out before arriving at a decision.
Now, the process has changed… when we feel an impulse to do something: take a political position, make a life choice, buy something, etc. we tend to go our affirming group to have our decision positively reinforced. If people disagree, then our affirming group labels them as outsiders and often as questionable morally or ethically. So we dismiss them.
Our new internet bubble and assortative mating/friendship trend have meant that many of us live in a state that used to be reserved for people who join cults or espouse strongly ideological politics. It isn’t good because there are few dissenting voices and more social pressure to conform.
All of this while we all sing the praises of diversity and difference. Too bad we rarely experience it.
Diversity and difference means actually countenancing an opposing view and then using reason to debate, discuss and then either dismiss it or change your own views.
But this implies that there is a discussion happening. I fear that our social media bubbles and assortative mating/friendships have made having that discussion inconvenient or even uncomfortable.
Time to open the debate and burst the bubbles.
Otherwise, alternative facts (from every perspective) will be a fixture in our lives, society and politics going forward.
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.
I have been a computer enthusiast since I was a young boy. My first computer was a Texas Instruments Ti99/4A on which I first learned the joys of video games and computer programming.
After that we had a Macintosh SE, with a whopping 10MB hard drive. It felt like a supercomputer! My first laptop was a Macintosh Powerbook 145, with a trackball. After that I switched to a Dell Latitude wintel laptop and then came back to Macintosh with a Macbook 13″ (black), a Mac Book Air and a desktop iMac with windows double boot. My current computers are a MacBook Pro 15″, a retina iMac and an older iPad (first retina edition from 2012). I have never had an iPhone, staying loyal to BlackBerries.
What computers have always been for me is a window to the world of information and communication technology. The internet is an infrastructure that was build on the technology that little kids like me played and learned with 30 years ago. Having an understanding of computers opens new vistas of understanding and experience for you, particularly as a professional communicator.
Knowledge of computers and the cyber culture they have enabled is key to facilitating relationships for clients. As a communicator, you should try and become as tech savvy as you can!
At the heart of public relations practice is the relationship. Whether they are internal or external, relationships are the currency that we deal in.
One metric that we don’t pay enough attention to is how networks of affinity build around a brand. A network analysis can help with this. The challenge is that network analysis does require some knowledge of statistics or at least an ability to use network analysis software.
You definitely want to use social networking software app that has a good GUI. Otherwise it is can be challenging to enter everything via the command line.
The other point to pay attention to regard the app is its ability to visualize data – preferably generating interactive visualizations. That allows you to play with the data visually when you are doing more qualitative interpretations of the graph. Here’s an example of a data visualization generated using Netminer:
“Netminer screenshot” by Netminer – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons (click on image to see original).
You should do some research to find out more about social network analysis. It is fascinating stuff and extremely useful for understanding relationships on the web and elsewhere. This wikipedia page has an excellent summary of social network analysis software.
The main points to bear in mind when you are doing this kind of work are the following:
These software programs tend to store information in a database structured as a graph, rather than as a table
The nodes on your social network graph represent the individuals in the network
The nodes can be “decorated” with features such as age, gender, SES (socio-economic status), etc.
You can “strengthen” the arcs between the nodes to indicate the number of times that individuals have exchanged information.
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.
Yesterday, I mentioned a piece published in the McMaster Daily News featuring my colleague @TerryFlynn’s ideas on the various scandals in journalism, particularly the Leslie Roberts one, which is directly linked to public relations.
In this great piece, Terry mentioned something that stuck with me:
“Let me first address the issue of the name of Khan’s company, Buzz PR. Neither Mr. Khan nor Mr. Roberts have recognized public relations or professional communications management experience or expertise. In fact, Mr. Khan’s stated profession is that of an auctioneer and occasional diamond seller. It appears that Mr. Khan’s primary skills were marketing, promotionalism or publicity — a very narrow slice of the spectrum of the field of media relations.”
In this quote, Terry gets to the heart of the matter concerning the strategic value of public relations – he mentions publicity and promotionalism. This brought to mind Jim Grunig’s four models of the PR practice:
For Grunig, the least strategic is the first one: press agentry and publicity, for it is pretty much focused on modifying the behaviours of people to suit the organization’s priorities.
This sort of exclusively persuasive action is not a relationship-building approach to PR, as I have been discussing over the last few posts. Rather, publicity instrumentalizes the public to achieve an end: sales, donations, votes, whatever.
The Two-Way Symmetrical model — while steeped in the gatekeeping tradition endemic to the mass communications model that many argue is now passing — fashioned a model for organizations to establish two-way conversations with stakeholders. Two-way conversations that build trust.
Ethically managing and bringing professionalism to process of building relationships is the domain of the public relations professional.
It could be argued that the two-way symmetrical model has evolved. I will look at that idea tomorrow.
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.
Yesterday I mentioned the concept of strategic PR and linked it to relationships. What did I mean?
At the core of any enterprise, particularly nascent ones like startups, are a set of relationships. The owners or managers of the business have to build relationships with funders, employees, various media, government, third party regulators, and many others, of course.
Most business people haven’t necessarily baked the management of these relationships into their initial business plan. Generally, they use their human intuition and charisma to to drive these relationships, which is really putting a lot of trust on intuition.
In every other aspect of a business plan, we try to push intuition out and replace it with projects and plans that are based on facts, proven models and professional experience. Why should the planning of relationships and their management be any different?
In fact, relationships are a key strategic business asset. PR professionals deal in relationships – it’s PR pros’ responsibility to learn enough about the other areas of business so that they can use the language and logic of business to make the strategic value of relationships clear to business people – beyond intuition and charisma.
Yesterday, I talked about how PR pros have to make the value case for their services to business people. Let’s unpack that idea a little more today.
To anyone who works in the public relations, the idea that you should focus on building relationship as a new or on-going business seems obvious. However, that isn’t the conception that many business people have of PR.
My anecdotal experiences have led me to believe that many business people still equate PR with media relations or even publicity. This means that business people are not necessarily thinking about PR as a strategic function that should be included in the initial planning process when starting a business, launching a campaign or managing business development.
The strategic practice of PR focuses on relationships. That’s its core strategic value now.