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Thoughts from the Classroom: Strategic Communication Management


Today, organizational and business goals are more complex than ever and necessitate a delicate balance of proactive and reactive strategic communication plans. The “Strategic Communication Management” course at Columbia University SPS MS in Strategic Communication teaches graduate students how to create research driven communication plans that align with business goals and resonate with leaders across the organization. I kicked off the semester last week with a deep dive into goal setting and research.


“What is strategic communications, exactly?” A CFO of a large internet company asked me this question in an interview years ago, and I was befuddled. Wasn’t it self-evident? Does it really need clarification? 


As it turns out, yes -– it does. Since that interview, there have been many times in my professional and academic career when I’ve had to make a strong business case to demonstrate how strategic communication is central to organizational culture, drives business goals and impacts trust and brand reputation. 


A strategic approach is a coordinated effort of all disciplines -- public relations, internal communication and external communication, corporate affairs and marketing -- driven by research and steered by a concrete goal and anticipated outcome. 



“Strategic Communication Management,” a core class in Columbia University’s M.S. Strategic Communication program, teaches students how to create communication plans that align with business goals and resonate with leaders across the organization. An 8-step RACE planning matrix that includes Research, Action planning, Communication and Evaluation provides structure. The result is a strategic approach driven by research and comprised of a coordinated effort across disciplines: public relations, internal communication and external communication, corporate affairs and marketing.


We will learn how communication strategy helps set and accomplish goals while collaborating across departments and taking into account unprecedented and rapidly shifting macro and micro societal, cultural and business factors.


In our first class, we began our work in research. This phase of strategic planning focuses on background, situation analysis and problem/opportunity. Today, organizational and business goals are certainly more complex than in years past and necessitate a delicate balance of proactive and reactive plans. They range from basic economic survival, to retaining employees, pivoting business models, managing trust and perception, change communication and issue management and the impact of a plethora of societal and trust concerns and the resulting cancel culture. Though every communications initiative should begin by answering the question, “what is our goal?” the research step provides needed context and insight into the expected outcome. 


Stay tuned for more about this important topic...



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© 2020 Cheryl Dixon 

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