Specializing in social marketing and business communications training

9 Ways to Benefit from Social Media

IMG_20150502_141223074[1]Most of us who are entrenched in social media are driven by the goal of growing our credibility, visibility and revenues. Yes, we’ve met wonderful new people and friends along the way. Had a few yucks online and maybe a few drinks in person.

However, the goal is business development.

When you think back on what you’ve learned since embarking on this technological journey, it’s quite amazing. Sometimes, I have to just pinch myself. Would you agree?

Here are the 9 Cs of social media that have had a significant impact on my professional and personal development.

  1. Clarity. 140 characters. Six second videos. Infographics. Data visualization. Memes. All of these require clarity in our communication.
  2. Community and curation. Was there life before #hashtags, groups, chats and hangouts? Now, we enjoy sites, apps and platforms such as Kik, ooVoo, Flipboard, 99U, the Skimm, Vice and more. By nature, human beings long to be accepted and be part of a group. There are plenty to choose from in the world of social media.
  3. Compelling. The most successful people in social media are the individuals and brand managers who realize they have something valuable and compelling to share. Their willingness to pass along relevant and timely information that piques the interest of others is magical. It leads to a curiosity that motivates people to want to learn more about you and your business. When your messages and content resonate with others, they’ll be compelled to reach out to you.
  4. Cultivate. Have you learned the lesson of patience? Social media is a fine teacher of patience. It takes time to cultivate relationships, friendships and business. If you’re looking for instant gratification, you’re in the wrong place. We can all benefit from slowing down a bit.
  5. Competency. You’ll be able to grow your business, community and yourself when you stick with your core skills and expertise. Social media demands transparency. You can’t fake competency; long-term anyway. Social media affords all of us the opportunity to commit to a life of learning and the development of new competencies.
  6. Communication. The cornerstone of success is communication. Haven’t your communication skills significantly improved since you began this online journey? Aren’t you savvier about your Tweets, posts and messages than when you first published your profiles and set up your accounts? You’ve likely dabbled in video and are getting more acclimated to different forms of communication. Never say never.
  7. Crisp. Our world and attention move at such warp speeds that we have to use crisp words, language, metaphors and images to connect and influence people. Twitter and texting have taught me to be much more selective about every single word and sentence I use, sans abbreviations and emoji’s.
  8. Charisma. You won’t build business if you’re a social media wallflower. Our new form of networking, blogging and chatting requires personality and allure. Boring doesn’t build business. Introverts are learning how to navigate in this environment, and when they do, they are enjoying it on their own terms.
  9. Comment. Yes, people want to know your opinion! How cool is that? The prerequisite to a meaningful comment (not “great post!”) dictates that I take the time to read someone else’s prose, think about it, consider my own opinion and insights, and try and add to the dialogue. When we comment on posts, we improve our outreach, writing and critical thinking skills. Above all, we invite differing opinions and may just open ourselves to new perspectives and ideas.

What would you add to this list of social media benefits? What have you learned?

 

Why We Need Chief Digital Officers

2 reframe picturesWhat do Gannett, New York City and Columbia University have in common?

Each were early adopters when they created the role of Chief Digital Officer. The CDOs bring together strategic business practices, technology, skilled leadership and internal and external communications. Most Chief Digital Officers can be found inside of media companies, sitting just a seat or two away from the CEO.

A recent post on emarketer.com says CDOs are most common in these five sectors:

  • Advertising
  • Media
  • Publishing
  • Nonprofit
  • Retail

In 2010, there were lively conversations that CDOs were those who didn’t get the coveted title of President. Others maintained organizations that supported the CDO position were advocating for silos, the curse in marketing and communications.

Today, demand for CDOs is outpacing supply.

A report from The CDO Club released last month finds the estimated number of CDOs worldwide would double between 2014 and 2015, to 2,000. That’s an 800 percent growth from 2012, when there were some 200 CDOs.

The CDO Club, a community of executive digital leaders comprised of 1,000 members, has just named Starbucks CDO Adam Brotman as its 2015 U.S. Chief Digital Officer of the Year.

A complex blend of talent and leadership

Chief Digital Officers are not self-described social media gurus or community managers. CDOs have competencies in the convergence of technology, business, boards and organizational development.

“Business strategies now must be seamlessly interwoven with ever-expanding digital strategies that address not only the web but also mobile, social, local and whatever innovation there may be around the corner,” write Rhys Grossman and Jana Rich of Russell Reynolds Associates, a global executive search firm. In their article titled, The Rise of the Chief Digital Officer, Grossman and Rich state: “To help meet these challenges, companies are increasingly looking for a Chief Digital Officer who can oversee the full range of digital strategies and drive change across the organization.”

To lead a business through a technological transformation is no easy task. CDOs are innovators despite internal skeptics who whisper and rant about the pitfalls of social media.

According to emarketer.com, a 2015 study from Accenture asked executives worldwide about their progress in leveraging digital governance and decision-making. The results: Eighty percent of those surveyed say they had a CDO or comparable role to oversee the use of digital technologies.

CDOs must have the following five competencies: 

  1. They must be comfortable as a possible successor to the CEO. CDOs have to lead a global culture and drive an online presence. He or she must have experience in business operations, management and recruiting and retaining top talent. A CDO is a visionary, especially in our technology-based world.
  2. They must act as agents of changeand grasp the underlying psychology of consensus-building and conflict resolution.
  3. They must have Board experience and solid communication skills. This is imperative, as the CDO is the conduit between stakeholders and senior executive leadership.
  4. They must know how to set—and implement—sound business strategies. An assembled team of seasoned project managers to implement strategies must be a priority.
  5. They must possess deep knowledge of technology, e-commerce, consumer behavior, and social media. This is especially important for media organizations, as the industry’s entire business model continues to transform.

Where is this person?

You may be wondering: Does such a person exist? Where do organizations find one individual who encompasses this blend of intellect and talent?

And if you work in PR, marketing or communications, you may be curious if you have what it takes to be a Chief Digital Officer.

Grossman and Rich maintain that people considering CDO positions “may be reluctant to join established organizations, viewing them as old fashioned.” The co-authors note that many CDO candidates come from cutting-edge, entrepreneurial organizations.

Here’s another noteworthy point from Grossman and Rich. “Companies… have to move very quickly when they find and meet talent that has potential. The current state of supply and demand almost guarantees that other opportunities will be available to talented candidates.”

The bottom line about the evolving role of CDOs brings us to the real bottom line in business. Chief Digital Officers are leading new revenue streams through digital channels that can leave many people and employees feeling uneasy.

If the CDO is unable to succeed in brand management, e-commerce, transactions and customer engagement efforts, his or her organization can soon face financial disaster.

 

 

Fundamentals Lead to Success

With plenty of talk about the astonishing end to Super Bowl XLIX—and the Seattle Seahawks coaches—it’s important to remember another big sports story that made headlines recently.

Coach K book coverDuke University’s esteemed basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (aka “Coach K”) celebrated his 1,000th career win when the Blue Devils beat St. John’s University at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The 67-year-old is the first NCAA Division I men’s coach to reach the milestone, another highlight of his 35 coaching seasons at Duke.

How has Coach K amassed such an outstanding record with the Blue Devils (927-249)?

Players from years ago still talk about the many leadership, discipline and sportsmanship lessons that they have learned from Krzyzewski.

In his best-selling book Beyond Basketball, Coach K winds his way through the alphabet and explains his key words for success.

You don’t have to be a basketball fan to appreciate the chapter on Fundamentals:

“I sometimes find myself trying to devise complicated schemes, trying to be more creative. Because I have been coaching for so many years, I sometimes forget that a team, even a veteran team, needs a solid foundation. Business mogul Steve Wynn is right, I need to remind myself that I can be the best in the business by merely doing the basics, better.”

He goes on to say:

“To help turn fundamentals into habits requires intensive, intelligent and repetitive action. If any one of these elements is missing, something will be missing from the foundation of your team. This is why, in every practice, even late in the season, I always have my team continue to work on fundamental drills. It is vital that the athletes actually drill these basics. I constantly remind myself of the most basic formula of teaching: you hear, you forget; you see, you remember; you do, you understand. And when you truly understand, that is when the basics become habitual.”

Which fundamentals have you moved away from? Which fundamentals have to be revisited?

Do you need to get back to basics? F is for fundamentals.

(Image via)

How Leaders Communicate Their Vision

YOU editedIf you’ve ever had your pupils dilated during an eye exam, you know the frustration of the distorted vision that lingers for hours.

People in all walks of life and occupations deal with blurred distorted vision every day.

  • There are eye doctors who have no vision. No, they don’t need drops to dilate their pupils. They are bright, educated professionals with tunnel vision and closed minds.
  •  There are graceful and poised dancers and actors who can make all the right moves on stage. Yet they can’t seem to get out of their own way.
  •  Ever spend leisure time with teachers who know everything?
  •  Have you talked to truck drivers who have no sense of direction in life?

 

Leaders must have clear vision, the right moves, the willingness to learn, and the discipline of direction to be successful.

The ‘Ralph Kramden’ big idea moment

There is actually nothing mystical about vision, states a post on Bates-Communications.com, an executive leadership consulting firm.

“A vision is a picture of what an organization could and should be. A hallmark of great leaders is that their vision includes big ideas. Big ideas get people excited. Nobody wants to do something small. Leaders want to feel motivated about coming to work, because what they do matters. Some examples of big ideas that most of us are familiar with are Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and President John F. Kennedy’s vision for the space program, ‘We choose to go to the moon . . . not because it is easy, but because it is hard.’”

The post goes on to say that great business leaders also know how to paint a vivid picture of the future. They make it look easy. However, most of them have worked hard to develop and articulate their powerful thoughts.

Steeped in value and structure

Matthew Richter is a global management performance consultant who says leadership requires a vision that isn’t just a picture in someone’s head. It has to be a complete understanding for the big picture of where the leader wants to be.

“Leadership guru Stan Slap says that the vision should be a better place than where we are today. It should be a clearly communicable picture of the future, steeped in value, and philosophy, as well as structure,” writes Richter. “A clear vision provides direction and establishes purpose. For example, a training department may have a clear vision for curriculum development. They know what it will look like three years from now. When a problem arises, their vision facilitates them toward a solution. When their vision is challenged by outside forces, they have the structural strength to defend it.” Richter points out that not everyone has to agree on the vision, as it belongs to the leader.

The followers work with the leader to find the best way to get to it, he says.

“Great visionary thinking utilizes a symbiotic relationship between the leader and the follower, fostering collaboration, innovation, and camaraderie,” notes Richter.

Speaking of vision

Leaders also know when to speak about their companies and articulate their visions.

Stanislav Shekshnia is anaffiliate professor of entrepreneurship and family enterprise at INSEAD. He has interviewed many Fortune 500 leaders, and concludes:

“Not only did we feel the sheer passion of these individuals, but saw that their personal ambition is merged into the goals of their organizations. They appeared to be on a self-defined mission, rather than on a job.”

What do you envision?  Is it clear?

 

Saving Face at the NFL: What’s the Cost?

Cluttered windowI’d like to thank the NFL for bringing the horrific issue of domestic violence to the forefront of our social conversations and values. Maybe lives will be saved.

I’d also like to vomit on the NFL for downplaying (actually ignoring) this horrific issue of domestic violence. Maybe the NFL’s face can be saved.

But at what expense? 

Thankfully, there is outrage from the public who has taken to social media and other communication channels to ensure their voices rise above Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

Meredith Vieira, thank you for having the courage to stand tall and proud against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s deafening silence in the cases of Rice and Peterson.

I realize neither Rice nor Peterson have been convicted. Please don’t whine about ‘innocent until proven guilty’ because you can refer to Rice’s video and press conference with his wife, the woman he knocked unconscious in a casino elevator in New Jersey before they were married.

And Peterson, the towering, powerful NFL player who thinks it’s OK to hit his four-year-old and call it discipline.

Has anyone checked this person (I wouldn’t call him a man at this point) for a concussion?

Peterson, who is also accused of hitting another one of his young children, says this form of discipline is what he knows. After all, his father used physical beatings, and he (Adrian) is just fine.

Really???

Was Peterson’s father a professional football player with a similar physical prowess and power? No, he wasn’t. Clearly, Adrian Peterson is confusing the use of the word ‘discipline.’

For Peterson to make it to the NFL, didn’t he need discipline and mental fortitude to compete and succeed?  If he could apply his mental prowess to the game, why couldn’t he apply it to his child, and choose a different form of ‘discipline’ without beating the boy?

Did Adrian Peterson not realize that he is taller and bigger than his son, which makes him the grown-up?

And where has Commissioner Goodell been hiding these days?

Goodell is hiding from women who are using their voices to express outrage over his acceptance of this repugnant behavior.

In New Jersey and California, women who serve in state government are calling for the Commissioner’s resignation.

“When someone sucker punches an innocent woman or takes a switch to his son, something is terribly wrong,” all 10 Assembly Republican women from New Jersey said in a statement. “The league either delays disciplinary action or issues a slap on the wrist of the offender. The victims are vulnerable to the power of these men. Commissioner Goodell is unsuccessfully trying to appease the fans and advertisers that the league takes these actions seriously.”

And there it is.

Why is Goodell as quiet as a church mouse?

Because football is big business first and money is speaking louder than the victims of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

 

20 Surprising Ways to Recharge Your Career

Power lines at beach editedSlowing down for the lazy, hazy days of summer?

While others are complaining that business is tapering off and everyone is on vacation, use this time to recharge your battery and kick-start your success.

Here are 20 things you can do to prepare for a triumphant rest of the year. These small tasks can make your life less stressful and easier to manage day-to-day. You may even develop a new habit.

1. Clean up your database.

2. Sort through your Favorites and Bookmarks. Categorize them and delete the ones that are no longer relevant.

3. Go paperless when possible. Shred or toss old papers you don’t need.

4. Read the magazines you’ve been saving for the past three months.

5. Get rid of the magazines you’ve been saving for the past three months.

6. Contact someone you admire and invite them to coffee or lunch.

7. Volunteer with a local nonprofit that can benefit from your business expertise.

8. Update your social media profiles and headshot.

9. Register for a webinar or course you’ve been meaning to sign up for but haven’t had the time.

10. Read the biography of leaders such as Gandhi, Ronald Reagan, or Florence Nightingale.

11. Schedule time to think.

12. Identify a few online chats that can help you grow professionally or personally. Mark your calendar and start participating.

13. Pay attention to self-talk soundtrack that plays in your head. Replace the negative with positive, more compassionate language.

14. Back up your blog, website and computer—every day!

15. Write a thank-you note to a former boss or mentor, expressing gratitude for what they have taught you.

16. Unsubscribe from all the e-mails, newsletters, and other junk you receive but never read.

17. Research awards or contests in your industry that you may be eligible for and note the deadlines in your calendar.

18. Write down five things you are afraid of doing. Do one of them. Repeat.

19. Subscribe to the blogs of five leaders in your field—or your competition.

20. Make a list of 10 reasons you went into your profession and why you are still passionate about it.

Come September, you’ll be glad you worked on this checklist. Surf’s up!

The Easy-Breezy Struggles of a Former 22-Year-Old

WTC PATH Banner NYC 2013(Editor’s Note: Dan Roth of LinkedIn recently asked me to contribute to his #IfIWere22 series. Influencers share their own career journey with new college graduates. The following is my reflection of what I learned at 22).

I’m 51 years-old, and damn it if 22 doesn’t feel like yesterday.

And some days, 22 feels like a lifetime ago.

In 1985, I had just graduated from Quinnipiac College (now Quinnipiac University), in Hamden, CT. Armed with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communication, I was hell-bent on launching my radio news career. I had great contacts and mentors, and a bit of professional on-air experience. The harsh reality was that broadcasting was an extremely difficult field to break into, and to stay in.

Having lived away at school for four years, you can understand my reluctance to return to my parent’s house in Edison, New Jersey. But reality beckoned me back to my old bedroom, a rent-controlled unit (free) which included food, laundry facilities, and general run of the house. My responsibility was to make monthly payments on my 1981 Chevy Camaro and two student loans. One of the few rules was to come home at night.

Central New Jersey was a great place to grow up because it’s sandwiched between New York and Philadelphia. The challenge for an aspiring broadcaster is that it’s one of the most competitive media markets in the country.

At 22, I had landed part-time weekend gigs at two different radio stations.Out of a necessity for money and a job, I went to work at an international shipping company based at the World Trade Center in New York. To this day, I don’t remember applying for the job and I certainly had no interest in being there. In my spare time, I prayed for a full-time news position that paid poverty wages and required working nights and weekends.

When my friends were planning vacations to the Caribbean, I joked that I was going to the islands, too. Coney, Staten, and Long.

Every day for three months, I would put on my work clothes, drive to the train station in nearby Metuchen, and take a train and a subway into ‘the City.’ I wore my clunky Sony Walkman headphones; Scandal’s “The Warrior” was the big summer song.

I worked on the 11th floor of Tower 2. At lunchtime, I would venture outside and eat by the fountains, people-watching and enjoying the absolute beauty of the iconic buildings. I often wondered what I was doing there. It was so tempting to just take the escalator downstairs and ride the PATH train back to Jersey. Would anyone miss me?

On the weekends, I recorded my newscasts. I made cassette copies, which were needed to apply for on-air jobs. An air check often carried more clout than a résumé.

The odd thing about my schedule was that I didn’t realize I was working seven days a week.

One Friday, a co-worker in New York asked if I had plans for the weekend. She was dumbfounded when I told her I worked in radio, and she was even more shocked that I worked every day of the week.

It didn’t seem to faze me. It’s what I had to do to succeed in my field. And get out of my weekday job. It took exactly three months.

After 10 years of working in radio news, I went on to serve as Deputy Director of NJ Governor Christie Whitman’s Office of Radio and Television, started a software marketing company with a former colleague, and worked as PR director for a statewide nonprofit. In 2000, I launched my PR, news and social media training company. In between, I got married, had two children and moved to San Antonio, TX.

#IfIWere22, I wish I had known:

  1. To take some business classes, even after graduation.
  2. There is a huge difference between surrendering and giving up.
  3. How to love myself unconditionally, just as G-d has created me. I am enough.
  4. To take pictures at the World Trade Center to remind me how stunning and glorious those Towers once were.
  5. The importance of a quiet mind and a peaceful soul.
  6. How to better manage my finances.
  7. To take my typing class seriously.
  8. There are no accidents or coincidences. The world is unfolding exactly the way it should be.
  9. Hobbies unrelated to work are essential.
  10. Everything I swore I would never do…I did.
  11. There are no ordinary moments.

Am I where I thought I would be? Yes, because I have spent my career doing what I love: Working in news and communication.

Looking back, I had that “entrepreneurial spirit” but I don’t recall ever thinking I would own a business. Until 14 years ago. And I never imagined I would be in sales and would travel around the country speaking and training. Please refer to No. 10 above.

My advice to 22-year-olds:

  1. There are no shortcuts; put your head down and work.
  2. Be persistent, patient, and resilient.
  3. Believe in yourself and honor your values. You are so much better than you think you are.
  4. Develop a positive mindset and be a lifelong learner. Professional and personal development are integral to success.
  5. Work on your communication skills, as the experiences you have in every job and relationship will depend on your verbal and nonverbal communication.
  6. Help people solve their problems and the universe will bring you abundances beyond your wildest imagination.
  7. Avoid being a crap magnet.
  8. Ask good questions. When you ask quality questions, you get quality information.
  9. Schedule time to think.
  10. Keep promises, especially the ones you make to yourself.
  11. Express gratitude every day.

I hope the 22 nuggets above will help you along your journey.

 

5 Ways to Recharge Your PR Strategy

Notes cover(Editor’s Note: The following guest post has been provided by Alicia Lawrence)

Every communication strategy needs a good assessment once in a while.

With the Internet always changing, it’s good to re-evaluate how your tactics have performed and if there are any new ways to achieve your objectives.

Conduct an Audit

My recommendation is that you conduct an audit by taking a look at the previous year. Examine all of your company’s PR efforts and the results and growth you’ve achieved. You’ll also want to look at your competitors to get a good idea of any industry changes and how you now stack up to your competition.

Here are a few questions to answer in your audit:

How well did your tactics achieve your current objectives and contribute to the company’s overall goals?

  • Are there any new competitors in your vertical? What tactics/strategies are they using?
  • Search Google and Bing for any negative reviews along with what’s being said about your company.
  • Are you reaching key publics with your messages?
  • Are your messages clear, concise and moving your audience to action?
  • What patterns do you see looking over this past year’s data?

 

If possible, conduct a focus group or one-on-one interview with customers to see how they received your messages. Lastly, analyze your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) to help guide the revitalization of your public relations strategy.

Organize Your Assets 

Take an inventory of all the communication, content, and media contacts you have on file. Eliminate duplicates and update all the information so your media list and reusable information are current.

Make a master list for both contacts and promotional materials in Excel or Google Docs so you can quickly reference and reuse all your materials. While assembling your list, jot down different blog posts or promotional pieces that can be repurposed. By organizing your assets, you’ll make room for fresh ideas.

Restore Your Key Messages

Throughout the year, key messages sometimes become outdated or pushed aside as you try new creative ideas. An audit halfway through the year is a great time to get refocused and restore those key messages to become relevant once again.

Look over your previous key messages you included in your campaigns and evaluate whether they need to change to better achieve the company’s goals. Send out a survey to employees or your email list asking questions that will tell you whether your key messages were perceived correctly or whether they had the influence you were hoping.

 Wash Up Your Online Reputation

During your audit, you should have taken a good look at your online reputation. During this evaluation, create an action plan to clean up your reputation online and encourage your fans to write reviews on your site, Google+, and other review forums.

For example, Renewal By Andersen does a great job keeping up with their reviews and have an excellent way of displaying them on their website.

Alicia Picture 1Alicia Picture 2

 

 




 

Dust Off Your Blog and Social Profiles

Let’s not forget that a company’s blog and social profiles are important promotional tools. Create an editorial calendar for the next quarter, or if you can the whole year, to help you stay on track in posting.

Make sure your content management system (such as WordPress), plugins, and theme are updated and all the links work. Revisit and correct the information in your social profiles. Take a look at your social analytics to get a better grasp on what kind of posts your readers enjoy and how to improve your digital strategy this year.

Your blog and social channels play a significant role in restoring your relationship with key audiences. The point of energizing your PR strategy is to reconnect with those customers, reach out to new ones, and keep them happy, informed and buying your products.

 Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for WebpageFX and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Yahoo! Small Business, and Spin Sucks.

Gallup: Only 11% of Business Leaders Believe Grads Are Prepared for Work

Admissions office SNHUThey lack basic communication skills and business competencies. So how are millennials earning college degrees and preparing for the workforce?  

A recent Gallup poll reveals 11 percent of employers feel grads are ready for work. Educators, meanwhile, are giving themselves high marks for preparing students for the labor force.  

At a recent IBM Conference, T-Summit 2014: Cultivating Tomorrow’s Talent Today, educators and business leaders addressed the disparities.

Paul LeBlanc, President, Southern New Hampshire University, was one of the conference speakers. I interviewed him about the changes in business and education.

Q: How do employer expectations differ from the past two decades?

A: Twenty and 30 years ago there were different patterns of employment. Someone graduated from college and got a job that they stayed at for some time. For the first three years, that new employee would be moved around in different roles, mentored, and trained. They would become fully immersed by building internal networks, learning the discourse, understanding company culture, and becoming familiar with processes. This would keep them at the top of their game.

Today, companies want students who can do this immediately. Business is pushing down into universities a set of expectations that in some way weren’t there before.

Q:  Tell me about the higher education model that was the centerpiece of the conference.

A: We always thought of higher education in terms of a ‘T-model.’ The horizontal bar of the ‘T’ is the broad-based Bachelor’s Degree. The long vertical is a student’s major that reflects a deep knowledge of one subject, such as accounting, and it may include some sociology and fine arts.

We’re now hearing from employers that the horizontal bar in the ‘T’ is more complex. Businesses are looking for graduates who can think in terms of systems and work in cross-functional teams.

In a college setting, for example, a student who majors in marketing will do small group projects with other marketing majors. With the new cross-functional model, the interdisciplinary approach is needed so marketing students will integrate with accounting and engineering majors. That’s what the reality of work looks like today, but universities don’t usually replicate that.  Instead, students work in silos.

Q: What kinds of changes should colleges be making to better prepare students for work?

A: Historically students didn’t worry about the job market so much. They don’t have that luxury any more. We want students to have a plan and to be purposeful as they think about their four-year journey.

We are now revisiting career services. They simply can’t help students polish résumés and do mock interviews right before graduation. That was fine 30 years ago, and it’s still an important piece, but it’s a tiny piece. The reconceptualization of career centers encompasses several things, such as having these discussions at freshman orientation. At Southern New Hampshire University, alumni now make themselves available for mentoring and internships to give students a better sense of what the real workplace looks like. We’re moving away from asking alumni for financial help and looking to them for more business-related contributions.”

Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, says the notion of shared responsibility—not finger pointing—is important.

4 Ways Colleges Can Better Prepare Grads for Business Communication

The yellow brick road. Kind of.Educators, business leaders, and government representatives recently converged on San Jose, California for a conference on cultivating talent and the emerging workforce.

Much of the time was spent on social media, communication, and learning outcomes. Everyone seems to agree there is a gap between what colleges are teaching and what employers need from recent graduates.   

One of the universities leading the charge for academic innovation is Southern New Hampshire University. I interviewed Paul LeBlanc, the president at SNHU, who also presented at the conference.

Beginning the conversation: Historically, students didn’t worry too much about the job market. Today, they don’t have that luxury. We want students to really have a plan and to be purposeful as these conversations should begin at freshman orientation.

Social media presents a multi-faceted and amazing opportunity for networking. We have been linking student portals and going with more web-based portfolios for our students. More and more of our disciplines are adopting E-portfolios that students bring with them to interviews. Included are conventional résumés and electronic materials. Employers, to varying degrees, will look at them, but even the sense they could look at the materials if they wanted to, is powerful. 

Improving online and interpersonal communication: Students must have the ability to walk into a room or an interview, use eye contact and offer a firm handshake. Millennials also have to understand that conversation is a two-way back and forth, and two word responses don’t suffice.This new generation lives so much of life in the virtual space, they are less adept at the kinds of interpersonal skills that employers and mature adults look for. Some of this is developmental, immaturity, or lack of self-confidence. In reality, much of that communication continues to outpace our societal ability to make sense of it.

Social media channels are incredibly powerful, and one area we’re addressing is how students convey empathy and understanding online. There’s still that clumsy etiquette.  Schools can hire outside trainers but we are supposed to be doing this. It’s our responsibility.

Expanding roles of colleges: Colleges are moving into the world of non-disciplinary skills; the things that employers value a lot. Employers had taken responsibility for these things 20 years ago, but today, organizations want the colleges to do this. We are looking at how students develop leadership skills, how they develop the ability to work with people who are different than they are, how they can work in cross-functional teams, and how they think in terms of systems. These lessons don’t live in courses, they are bigger than that and we have to figure out how to make it happen.

Making the changes:  First, SNHU is taking an integrated approach to our career services, alumni outreach, and classroom instructors. We’ve hired new people in career services and are moving the department far beyond résumé services and mock interviews. Second, instead of simply asking alumni to donate money, we are partnering with them to provide internships and mentoring for students who need insight into the real business world. Finally, SNHU is pulling faculty into this holistic approach. We’re getting them more involved with internships and job pipelines, with teaching outcomes that are measureable.

It’s nice to see academia stepping up to face the changes that are needed in business and communication. Let’s hope others follow suit.