Lessons Learned

December 20th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

As the Fall Semester comes to a close, let’s take this opportunity to look back and reflect on some of the lessons we learned as members of this pilot class:

Public Relations IS important!

As PRSA chair-elect Joe Cohen stated when he spoke to our class on Monday, this class was established to teach MBA students the importance of Public Relations in business management.  As we’ve learned, in today’s world, where information travels faster than ever before thanks to technology and social media, business leaders can no longer afford to not take an active role in PR strategy.  With so many ways to personally connect with the public, it’s important to take charge and be a part of the public conversation, rather than outside of it.

Be Passionate!

Some of the best parts of the course were the self-directed presentation activities, such as the 20/20 sessions and the student-lead classes.  These were a great contrast to the usual assigned presentation projects and gave us a chance to talk about topics and issues that interested us.  As a result, we all found that when we share the things that we are passionate about, and would like our peers to learn more about, we naturally elevate our public speaking abilities.  As business leaders, it’s important that we have passion in what we do as a career.  If we have that, then speaking about our companies in public will be a cinch!

Always have a plan

As MBAs, we’re trained to think and plan before acting.  Business strategy dictates that we understand the environment we’re operating in before making operational decisions and Public Relations is no different.  Whether its confronting a crisis or launching a social media campaign, proper planning is crucial to make sure that you are sending out a strong, unified message, as well ensure that you have a plan in place for any possible reactions from the public.

On behalf of the members of this pilot class, we’d like to again thank the PRSA for creating this program, as well as Dr. White for being our instructor.  It was definitely a great experience and one we hope that the Smith School will continue to take the lead in for years to come.

Marvin Yueh is a 2013 MBA candidate focusing on Entrepreneurship and Marketing. He is currently the Marketing & Events Assistant at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship as well as the President of the Smith Entrepreneur’s Club.

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PR plan on a shoestring budget

December 17th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

As the PR class (BUMK 758R) draws to a close, our final group project was to come up with a PR plan for an organization. We worked with Kollaboration DC to help them devise a PR plan to grow their outreach and popularity.

Kollaboration DC’s signature event is an annual event and movement produced by young Asian and Pacific Islander professionals and students, volunteering their time and skills to celebrate the vast talents of their community and hopefully bring them into the mainstream*. Kollaboration DC is a 100% volunteer organization whose operating budget comes from its event’s ticket sales. For the past three years they have sold just enough tickets to break even.

Our challenge was to come up with a PR plan with almost no budget. We met with the executive director to understand more about his vision where he wants to take the organization. Here is what we discovered about Kollaboration DC:

  1. Caters to diverse Asian community in the DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) area
  2. Members are between ages of 18 and 40 years
  3. Vision to increase its membership
  4. 100% ticket sales of its signature Kollaboration DC event next fall

Armed with the above information our group got together and came up with two-point plan:

  1. Increase awareness using social media
  2. Develop content to keep the members engaged

We also propose the use of QR codes and monthly newsletters to keep the members updated and engaged about the upcoming events. We are very excited about our PR plan and can’t wait to see the results.

Abhinav Gupta is a 2013 MBA candidate focusing on Strategic Management. Prior to Smith School, he has worked as a management consultant in Singapore. He is currently a Leadership Fellow with Office of Career Services at Smith School of Business and Vice President of International Student Affairs of MBA Association. In his spare time Abhinav loves to cook and fly kites.


20/20 – Presenting on a timer

December 16th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

In a MBA class, if you are not listening to a lecture or not discussing case chances are you are presenting. Presentations are integral part of the MBA life and beyond. Each person has an individual presentation style. While some prefer more pictures in their presentation while others prefer more words but we all agree avoid information overload – the so called death by presentation.

20/20, also known as PechaKucha, is an interesting presentation format. In this format, every student in the PR class (BUMK 758R) was given a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds (20 slides, 20 seconds each) to present on any topic of his/her choice.

Sounds interesting? Yes it is, only if you are sitting in the audience. This assignment was particularly challenging due to its format.  Spending 20 seconds on each slide and linking each slide to build a story can get tricking. Like everyone, I also struggled initially to come up with theme for the presentation. This is how I approached on preparing my 20/20 slide deck:

  1. Pick a topic I know everything about
  2. Pictures speak thousand words
  3. Keep it simple
  4. Build a story on slide at a time
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice – you can’t wing it

If you are wondering the topic of my presentation, I chose my travels of past 15 years to 8 countries and how it has helped me in my personal and professional life. Surprisingly, once I chose the topic the challenge was not in creating the slides but in sifting through over 100 GB of photos to pick the right ones.

I enjoyed working on this assignment and this presentation format has given me insights on how to make better and compelling presentations.

Abhinav Gupta is a 2013 MBA candidate focusing on Strategic Management. Prior to Smith School, he has worked as a management consultant in Singapore. He is currently a Leadership Fellow with Office of Career Services at Smith School of Business and Vice President of International Student Affairs of MBA Association. In his spare time Abhinav loves to cook and fly kites.

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Internal communication – key to build strong organizations

December 16th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

PR/Communication has become an important and integral part of an organization’s messaging to the outside world. Do it right, your company will earn praise (examples), on the other hand, do it wrong your company will attract a lot of bad press and in some cases legal action (example). As these examples suggest, companies have taken external communication very seriously and have spent millions of dollars to get the right message out.

What about internal communication? Do companies need to focus only on external communication? Our class presentation on internal communication found it otherwise. Irrespective of the size of an organization, we found internal communication is as important as external communication. It is essential for companies to build a brand from within first.

From my past work experience, I found internal communication is very important especially in case of mergers/acquisitions. I have worked for two companies in the past that went through ownership change. The way these two companies handled internal communication about the ownership change decided the course for company’s future.

For example, the senior leadership of the first company (we will call company X) scheduled town hall like meetings with employees at each of two campuses in the country. The intention was to communicate this information first hand and alleviate any concerns employees may have. The leadership team took time to answer individual questions and explained why this was a better move. Result: Employees were satisfied and focused on work rather than unnecessary gossip or worry.

This was not the case in the second company (we will call company Y) I worked for. The two partners were in disagreement in selling the stake of the company. Their disagreement led to confusion about the future of the company. With each passing day employees were worried about their future and the partners didn’t try to address that worry. Result: Within two months two-thirds of the employees (including one partner) left the company.

In conclusion, we see that internal communication at times is even more important than external communication for an organization and its survival. Every company – big or small – needs to invest time and resources to build a solid foundation from within via internal communication.

Abhinav Gupta is a 2013 MBA candidate focusing on Strategic Management. Prior to Smith School, he has worked as a management consultant in Singapore. He is currently a Leadership Fellow with Office of Career Services at Smith School of Business and Vice President of International Student Affairs of MBA Association. In his spare time Abhinav loves to cook and fly kites.


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PR Planning for Small Orgs on a Shoe-String Budget

December 14th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

This past week, I participated on a team of business students that helped a small organization with a promotional strategy. The goal of this group was to gain exposure through social media in order to grow attendance at its annual event. They had a wonderful product with an ardent following. They had exceptionally smart people running the show. But what they didn’t have was time. Like many of us with mountains of tasks to finish, one of the hardest obstacles to overcome is knowing where to start. Being keen to strategize wherever possible—and make flowcharts—we intrepid future MBAs burned the midnight oil for a road-map for organizational success where budgets don’t exist. Behold. . .

All kidding aside, we think there’s a great deal of value in understanding this framework. Outreach is important but it’s not what an organization should be built on. Likewise, unlike the way we think of foundations, in the case of small groups looking to grow, building a foundation would only be too expensive for an unproven quantity. No, only by beginning from the top of the org structure pyramid can you find the right foundation to build later on. In this way, the internal and external communications can find an organic fit for building what is needed now, and allowing for streamlining when there’s enough of an organization for it to matter.

Daniel Howard is a 2013 MBA candidate focusing on Strategic Management. He currently interns for M&A Leadership Council in the area of internal strategic integration, and he TAs at the Smith School of Business for courses in strategy, leadership and change management.



Since We’re Blogging, How Would Hemingway do it?

December 14th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Aside from whether he would (he was a bit of a throwback, even in his own time), he may have had the perfect style for it. Punchy, short and hard-hitting lines with assumptions and individualized imagery stacked the pages of the Hemingway canon. Well, the science of blogging for search engine optimization may have its value but man, what if we could blog in a way that would make the Old Man proud? What would this entail? Like most truly important things, you couldn’t possibly cover the essence of Hemingway’s style in a 250 word blog post (what does that say about what blogs are selling?) but let’s give it try anyway. . .

From a ragan.com article entitled Hemingway’s 5 Secrets to Good Blogging (yeah, it’s not an original idea, so what) “Don’t use adverbs at all. You can’t run slowly; if you do, you’re jogging. You can’t laugh loudly, but you can bellylaugh or guffaw or snort. . .” Man, Dickens and Proust would have been horrible at this game.

Also, remember the iceberg: Hemingway believed in omitting everything you could get away with. The idea being, there’s much more beneath the surface. Let the reader paint a picture from an assumption or a feeling, not a list of descriptions that appear too weak as mere words. Ultimately remember, this ain’t your website, and a blog is not where you spell out the disclaimers. Tap your reader’s limbic brain, where they feel and intuit in order to form an opinion that creates value for what you’re selling. If you want endlessly hashed-out reason, go to law school.

Daniel Howard is a 2013 MBA candidate focusing on Strategic Management.


Delivering by Audience

December 14th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Public speaking can be one of life’s more flinching endeavors. As an MBA student I’ve learned there are a few different leagues of this sport. In a presentation I gave recently, I pointed out that no one wants to be an analyst forever, and if you want to ascend to the top of the scrum, you better know how to sell. This brings us to our PR class and how we’re all learning to be better communicators via an onslaught of presentations in different forms. More than one of us has said they were nervous before their 20/20 exercise, frustrated during media training and exhausted after our conducted class lectures. These three presentations are really three completely different tasks that require being smooth in front of people. Media training is about the pure delivery; teaching a course is about pacing and breathing and having a decent story arc. But the 20/20, the high stakes pitch, the on-stage monologue version of business—that’s the real trick. One of the games I play for a longer presentation is to design slides to be a question because who isn’t better at fielding questions rather than a delivering a speech? But the 20/20 lesson, like my business plan, pitch competition and many of our job interviews, requires one of two things most people won’t commit to: Either become a true expert on the topic being delivered or memorize every line. If it’s important enough, eventually you’ll come to the conclusion that if actors can memorize lines, I can too.

Daniel Howard is a 2013 MBA candidate focusing on Strategic Management.


Don’t Neglect Internal Branding

December 8th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

“Until everyone from your CEO to your receptionist can accurately and consistently articulate your brand’s promise, how do you expect your customers to?”

 David Aaker, brand management guru.

Internal Branding is a very important aspect of Internal Communication. The idea behind it is very simple: a company has to sell its employees the same ideas that it sells to its customers. Otherwise, when your internal and external brand messages are misaligned, the customers might get confused, and the reputation of your company will suffer.

Having strong internal branding is especially important when:

  • a company is undergoing changes (e.g. merger, a change in leadership, or layoffs)
  • a new advertising or rebranding campaign is introduced
  • employees are not connecting with vision / low morale

Here are some tips for effective internal brand establishment:

  1. Align your external brand and the internal brand messages in order to avoid confused customers.
  2. Involve employees in creating internal values. When they are involved, they are more likely to connect with them emotionally.
  3. Engage all areas of the business in internal brand communication. Make sure that it is not just an empty marketing campaign.
  4. Recognize behavior that supports your internal brand by rewarding champions with something simple as a movie voucher or an extra day of annual leave.
  5. Continue to communicate your internal brand and keep track of the main trends. It is not a one-time event; it has to be constantly reinforced.

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Positioning Smith’s Brand

December 7th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Media training was a highlight for this semester’s Public Relations for Business Leaders course.  It was an awesome opportunity for students to learn how to get in front of a camera, deliver a clear & concise message, and respond to tough questions.

However one interesting and perhaps unexpected takeaway stemmed from this practice: a concise positioning for Smith’s brand.

The main exercise of the day was for each individual student to sit in front of a green screen and respond to questions from an interviewer in the television studio.  The topic:  “Why pursue an MBA?”…and more specifically, “Why Smith?”

Here’s what was most interesting.  Almost every single student shared the same response: “The best part about Smith is its community.”

What were some common themes in defining the Smith community?  Collaborative, diverse, close-knit, humble, persistent, intelligent, engaging.

It can almost be guaranteed that the responses wouldn’t have been so focused when students first arrived.  There were many great reasons why folks came here—perhaps the quality of the professors, the proximity to the nation’s capital, or access to the companies that recruit at this school.

However, after spending over a year in the Smith MBA program—community is the common theme.  And while the community may be difficult to define, it is obvious that community is a huge part of what defines Smith.


Russ Wilkin is a second year MBA focusing on Brand Management. With a previous background in software project management, he is now moving on to the consumer goods industry.


Internal Communication Group Teaching Presentation

December 7th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

This group teaching presentation involves teaching the rest of the class a course-related topic using creative approaches, in addition to designing a class activity and quiz. I had the pleasure of working with my esteemed colleagues that brought a wealth of expertise to this project. It was one of the very few times that I was assigned to a team instead of forming my own, which I thought was a great idea. One of the things that I always wanted to do more of was to work with different people in the program, venture out of your comfort zone (meaning your best friends and best bets), you will be pleasantly surprised.

So who looks after the internal communication function in an organization? It has long been the battle between PR and HR. HR folks know the employees very well and have insight into how internal communication relates to overall company strategies and goals. On the other hand, PR people have a keen sense of newsworthiness and know which channels are most effective, they are skilled in taking key messages and dressing them into exciting communication that are often well received.

Aside from the presentation that was meant to be informative, we had a journalist on our team and he wrote up nine outlandish stories (3 of which are based on facts or news) for our class activity that mimicked the NPR show ‘Wait wait, don’t tell me’. The biggest take-away from this project is that I realize how much effort and time professors need to put into a lecture before they come to class. Standing in front of a classroom of students and regurgitating the knowledge you have in interesting and meaningful words is hard, at one hour fifty minutes, most definitely.