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June 2009


MBC Director’s Memo – 6.09

I’m currently reviewing cases to incorporate into a capstone course for business communicators. In seeking suggestions from Opus College of Business faculty, many reply that they don’t use many cases with “communications” as a central element or key component of the firm’s business model. However, it can be argued that almost every business case in use has critical elements that either involve communications as a significant factor, or will require communications strategy to deliver comprehensive resolution.
Communications associations that conduct accreditation of members (Public Relations Society of America, International Association of Business Communicators, etc.) have long ascribed to the “stakeholder” model which requires consideration of not only maximizing shareholders equity in a firm, but how the organization impacts a number of other identifiable groups. Beyond the owners of stock, stakeholders also include: employees; vendors; customers; government entities; and the community at large, among others.
Because every organizational issue involves people, communications will always be part of the solution, even if not at the core of the problem. When considering a business case, a seasoned communications professional can quickly identify issues of stakeholder concern that either could have been minimized or eliminated with a good communications strategy. Instead, they may see a need for proactive management of stakeholder communication regarding the issue. In either case to ultimate goal remains assuring that shareholder equity can be maximized in the wake of issues exposed in the case.
In order to ascend to the level of key advisor in recommending solutions to the implications of serious business issues, a communicator must command a holistic understanding of business. Even if not involved in the decision making directly, the communicator must have similar understanding of the business context to strategically recommend channels of communication and appropriate “voice” for delivering company messages.
So, in the interest of “seasoning” Master of Business Communications students, we look at business cases first as an MBA might – identifying the business issues – then through the lens of communications to examine how all impacted stakeholders should be reached. This becomes especially challenging because the interests of stakeholders almost always include at least one group in direct opposition to others. Again, our discussion of a case rarely finds a perfect resolution for all parties, but does provide a platform to critically analyze the many options open to the businesses in each case.