Ketchum hires between 300 and 400 people a year globally. We have a huge vested interest in how well-prepared these people are to serve our clients. Consequently, I'm often asked by university professors what kind of courses we wish they were teaching their students.
As you know, our discipline has changed so much in the last five years. Communications and writing skills are still very important, but that's only one part of the skills and insights needed. Here are 15 courses I wish our interns and newly hired colleagues took at universities. You will quickly see a bias: today, our discipline requires a broader set of communications skills combined with in-depth knowledge of relationships, social science, creativity, business, ethics, and analytics.
I'd also want all of these courses to include a social platform as a place for students to discuss, post, collaborate, and engage with other students and perhaps those in our industry. I'll welcome your thoughts.
Business Relationships 101: Eight key types - consumer, b-to-b, supply chain, employee, investor, community and NGO, government and media; key characteristics - trust, satisfaction, loyalty, mutuality; history of public relations as a business function.
Cross-Platform Writing 102: News and brand or corporate advocacy communications for convergent media; basics of writing and editing, how to pitch a story.
Magnet Content 103: Video, audio, interactive, paid vs. organic, authenticity, creative risk-taking, measuring virality, and engagement.
Effective Planning 104: Work streams across multiple disciplines for event planning and campaign planning. (For account planning, see Insight 402).
Context and Channels 201: Engaging audiences through the full PESO spectrum of media (paid, earned, shared, and owned), search engines, mainstream mass media trends, online media (blogs, video sharing, social platforms, Twitter), the human channel.
Creative Storytelling 202: Elements of all stories, hallmarks of great stories, a brand as a story; visual storytelling.
Listening 203: Listening to write a story, to hear diverse points of view, gather criticism, improve service, products and performance; the growing importance of social listening and feedback loops.
Business Imperatives 204: Financial performance and marketing, plus triple bottom line: employees and community in addition to financial priorities.
Online Community Management 301: Monitoring and response across platforms and PESO channels; role of community manager, achieving and maintaining relevance, response protocols.
Actions Before Words 302: A brand is what a brand does; being a responsible brand and corporation; advising on actions and policy, transparency, sustainability, and governance.
Ethics and Legal Implications 303: Ethical principles related to communications and business behavior, role of general counsel, common types of business litigation.
Global Interdependence 401: The shifting power equation – for example to emerging economies, individuals, and communities -- how issues travel instantly, technology's role in “flattening” the earth, a mindset that works multiculturally.
Networks 402: Social networks, internal and external business networks, network theory, and practical application.
Insight 403: Understanding motivations, interests, demographics, psychographics, and media choices of target audiences; account planning; research techniques to develop insights; converting insights into creative ideas.
Metrics and Analytics 404: Techniques for measurement of media coverage, attitude and awareness, behavior, but also from CRM, interactive, and direct response.
Rob Flaherty is senior partner, president, and CEO of Ketchum.