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Newsroom, OCB Commentary, social media

2012 Challenge: Email on a “Human Scale”

This post originally appeared in The Scroll, a blog for the University of St. Thomas community.  It was written by Dr. Carol Bruess, a professor in the Communication & Journalism department.


My smart colleague Dr. Wendy Wyatt passed along an opinion piece published earlier this fall in the Star Tribune. She knew I would like and applaud it. And indeed, the content was such that I can’t quite shake it from my digital-age brain. In fact, every ding of new email, log-in prompt and face lit up by a smart phone around campus brings my attention back to Chris Anderson’s commentary, “You’ve got mail! (Which means you’ve got demands).”

I mostly share his opinions, and they have come to claim a place in the front of my tech-stretched mind. With the new year nearly upon us, it seems timely to ask if Anderson might have put his finger on not only a profound problem but also a rather brilliant solution – one that can help all of us with an email inbox make sure next year is better than last. Could we be happier and healthier if we become better e-mailers? Sounds easier than losing 15 pounds!E-mail

Anderson’s day begins, like mine and likely yours, with a glance at his inbox: “A sample might include a message from the colleague of a friend about his startup venture. Another is about a staff issue. A third is a discussion, copied to six people, about an upcoming charitable event.”

He goes on, and this is where I started getting giddy and wanted to know more. I can’t stop thinking, “Oh my goodness. He’s pinpointed the problem to which I need a solution … as does, it seems, almost every adult, friend, student, colleague, administrator, staff, parent and pal I know.” He writes:

“These e-mails have nothing in common — except that none of their issues had been on my agenda that morning. I don’t even know one of the senders. But although it took only a few minutes to read these notes, I suddenly feel pressure to develop coherent thoughts on complex questions regarding someone else’s business, office politics and world peace. It’s barely 8 a.m., and I’m already drowning in e-mail. My day’s priorities have been commandeered. And more missives keep pouring in, including tweets, Google Plus notifications, Facebook status updates and instant messages. A fire hose of information all day long.” Continue Reading

EveningMBA, leadership, Local business, Media, Newsroom, OCB Alumni, social media

Local firm evolves from “Mad Men” roots to cutting-edge PR

Earlier this week, the Star Tribune profiled top public relations firm Padilla Speer Beardsley, led by Lynn Casey, a UST Evening MBA alumna and this year’s Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal Women in Business Career Achievement honoree.Padilla Speer Beardsley

The Star Tribune article featured interviews with several of the firm’s first employees in the 1960s, and it’s clear there was a bit of a “Mad Men” vibe during that decade.  While the multi-million dollar firm is now led by a woman, there were only three female employees in 1969–an office manager, a receptionist, and a “gopher.”  Public relations consisted mainly of press releases and publicity stunts to draw attention to businesses.

More than 40 years later, Padilla Speer Beardsley has expanded into advertising and operates a successful New York office in addition to its Minneapolis headquarters.   Client services range from crisis management to managing intellectual property challenges, and social media plays a major role alongside more traditional public relations channels.

So the next time you’re watching an episode of “Mad Men” and wonder what might have become of Don Draper and his colleagues in the 21st century, look no further than the riverfront headquarters of Minneapolis’ top public relations firm.

FTMBA, Local business, Newsroom, Student Life

Brave New Workshop helps MBAs get in touch with their feelings

This blog post was contributed by Sara Christenson, a first-year Full-time UST MBA student.

As MBA students we are used to making the declaration “I think….” But the Brave New Workshop Creative Outreach team challenged us to make different declarations at the the session they led for us on April 14.

bnwlogotype_square1Brave New Workshop, the country’s oldest continuously operating comedy improv troupe, is based in Minneapolis.  In addition to regularly scheduled performances at their Uptown theater, Brave New Workshop also offers a Creative Outreach division that provides customized training and entertainment events for corporations, universities, and other organizations.  The goal of these events is to help teams work on their creative confidence.

When was the last time an MBA student declared her feelings?  That’s a great question!  I wasn’t sure.  It made us all think about the way that we communicate.  If we really tell people how we feel, will they react differently?  Will we have more positive communication because people actually understand who we are and what we want to accomplish?  The Brave New Workshop facilitators encouraged us to stand up and declare our answers to these statements:

“I want….”

“I need….”

“I feel….”

“I am….”

The students, staff, and faculty who attended had fun yelling out how great clams are and sharing claps, but we all walked away thinking about the way we communicate and the ways we could be better at it.  Everyone at the event wants and needs the Brave New Workshop team to come back next year, and we’re currently working to schedule another event for the incoming students in the fall!

The UST chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs (NAWMBA) sponsored the Brave New Workshop event.

EveningMBA, Faculty, FTMBA, leadership, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Here’s the Memo on Effective Business Writing

business_writing_picture[1]The Wall Street Journal recently featured an interesting article about the communication skills of M.B.A. students, or more accurately, the lack of effective business communication skills.  Many M.B.A. programs are increasing emphasis on these skills in response to the feedback of employers.

Laura French is the writing coach for the Full-time UST MBA program communication labs, part of the curriculum since its inception in 2004.  She agreed that the writing that earns high grades in an academic setting can be very different from what’s required for effective business communication. Continue Reading

Career Services, leadership, Media, Newsroom

Where are you on the “Social Media Career and Engagement Curve”?

imagesMany of our posts on the Opus Magnum blog pertain to the ever-increasing usage of social media in our personal and professional lives.  As Facebook, Twitter, and blogs become part of our daily activities, many business-people are concerned about how to manage their social media content to strengthen their social connections while maintaining a professional image. 

Nathan Kring, Harvard MBA graduate and co-founder of social media strategy and consulting firm Catchfire Media, recently analyzed best practices in social media usage for business professionals.  In his article “Using Social Media Personally and Professionally: Where Do You Fit?”, Kring offers examples of people in various stages of their careers and provides recommendations for the most effective use of social media vehicles for each. 

The bottom line?  It’s almost impossible to find an industry that does not use social media, and professionals need to become savvy about using social media tools to support their career development.  Kring provides a compelling example of how even high-level military officers are making use of social media.

Since we usually highlight UST graduates and local business stories on this blog, you might be wondering why I’m writing about a Harvard MBA who runs a company based in Des Moines.  Well, Nathan Kring is a high school classmate of mine whom I reconnected with on Facebook–and I became aware of his company’s blog through a post on his Facebook page.  The power of social media networking, indeed.

leadership, Newsroom, OCB Alumni

MBA: The first step to a career in…politics?

Democrat RepublicanWhile the nation’s elected officials come from a wide variety of professional and educational backgrounds, law degrees are the most common type of advanced degree held by American politicians.  Our current president holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and many former presidents were lawyers as well.  According to a recent Financial Times article, however, politicians with MBAs are becoming increasingly common.

MBA programs originally focused primarily on functional skills such as finance, marketing, and operations management.  While these subjects remain critical components of the core MBA curriculum at most institutions, “soft skills” are of equal or even greater importance in the modern business world.  Skills such as leadership, effective communication skills, people management, and change management have come to the forefront of the MBA curriculum at many universities in the past 20 years.  Companies increasingly are looking for MBA graduates who can not only calculate and interpret data, but who can lead teams, collaborate across functional areas, and think creatively. Continue Reading

Newsroom, UST MBC

Is a “contemporary translation” smart?

bible-translationBeware temptation, oh ye who brandish a keyboard and an ego…

The following is an excerpt from the responsive scripture at a worship service I attended recently:

He continued this subject with His disciples… ‘Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch?  If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all?  Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers.  They don’t fuss with their appearance – but have you ever seen color and design quite like it?  The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.  If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?’

Having trouble placing the verse?  You might be more familiar with this passage from Luke 12 in its King James Version: “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

A subsequent verse has been changed to “Get yourself a bank that can’t go bankrupt… a bank you can bank on.”

These interpretations of biblical verses come from The Message – a “contemporary translation” created by Eugene H. Peterson. Continue Reading

Newsroom, UST MBC

The “world win” and other language abominations

ax-to-grind-smSo, I have an axe to grind and am not going to “aks” whether you care.

Even in academia, people prove daily how little of the English language they have actually learned through reading.  Daily reminders appear in both written and spoken abominations of common phrases or spelling, such as:

            The undergraduate student who noted in a paper that he aspired to become a “realist ate agent.”  To take him at his word, he practices some philosophical form of cannibalism beyond my understanding. Continue Reading

Career Services, Ethics, EveningMBA, FTMBA, leadership, Newsroom, UST MBC

Strategic %$&#@! Swearing

expletive_1[1]Bob Sutton, Stanford University professor and author of The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t was recently interviewed on HBR’s Ideacast on “The Subtleties of Strategic Swearing.”

He argued that using an occasional curse word can convey a “level of contempt unparalleled by non-taboo words”…there’s no way to convey some expletives with polite speech. Even President Obama has employed this technique, recently notes HBR.

…during an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show [regarding the BP Oil Spill], Obama declared that one of his goals during meetings on the crisis has been to determine “whose ass to kick.” Continue Reading

Newsroom, UST MBC

Agir dans l’intérêt du public la compréhension -or- Act in the interest of audience understanding

downtown-montreal[1]Earlier this month I was in Montreal for a conference, where my total immersion French language and culture course from undergraduate school proved to be far too dusty to be of much use.  However, on entering one of the restaurants I frequented and greeting the host with “bon jour,” he immediately began rattling on at breakneck pace in French.  I knew full well that he and the rest of the staff would happily converse in English, but it took a few moments before I was able to beg him to “répéter en Anglais.”

The host made an assumption about me, based on my marginal attempt to assimilate.  As professional communicators we sometimes – in boardrooms, classrooms or written materials – make similar mistakes.  Many audience members may attempt to play it cool – nodding along, even though they may have been lost at “bon jour.”  In the case I described, the choice was to either own my insufficiency as a speaker of French or go hungry – which meant asserting myself to make that clear. Continue Reading