I woke up this morning thinking of my favorite poem, “To Lucasta, Going to the Wars”, by Richard Lovelace (1618-1658). Written in 1649, this poem moves me on many levels.
But in business? You bet. For some reason, “Lucasta” got reworded in my brain to address the need for business management knowledge and skills for communication/PR students and working professionals. Here’s how it turned out:
Tell me not, Students, that I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of Mass Comm/PR to business management I fly.
True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first sales reports from the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A business plan, a spreadsheet, and percent of yield.
Yet this inconstancy in me is such
As thou too shalt adore;
I could not love Communication/PR so much,
Loved I not business more.
The point is whatever we do with communication/PR, except government service applications, will be in and for business. Even 501(c)3 nonprofits are businesses, but cause related and not profit driven. Therefore, I have always advocated that communication/PR students and working practitioners must learn all they can about business management.
After all, membership profiles from surveys by both IABC and PRSA show that about 40 percent of practitioners work in corporations of all types and about 27 percent work in PR firms, ad agencies, marketing communication firms, or as solo practitioners. Many of their clients are for profit businesses.
So, what do we do now? In communication/PR, we are fond of saying, “walk the talk”. Before I offer my advice, I want you to know that I roll (think about it) the talk before advising anyone on what to do. As an undergrad, I took every course I could in the Business department and minored in Marketing with my Communication major. In my 40s, I earned my MBA before launching Les Potter Incorporated, my consulting firm. I am convinced that my success as a consultant with a great mix of domestic and international clients was due in large part to my business knowledge and skills. I continue to study business management along with communication/PR. That said, I recommend the following steps to help you succeed as a communication/PR professional:
- Like I did, take as many business courses as you can in college, including economics, finance, business management, accounting, and marketing. Better yet, get a business minor.
- If your university offers one, get a Marketing Certificate as a communication/PR major. Towson offers one, and it is quite useful and popular.
- Consider getting an MBA. There are many convenient and affordable MBA programs for working professionals. If you are a recent grad just starting your career, consider waiting for several years before you take this step for two reasons: One, having some practical business experience will help you tremendously; and two, many employers have tuition reimbursement programs that will offset the cost.
- I know you have been told this before, but read business publications like the Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, Financial Times, etc. Keep up with what is happening in business. Know what the stock market is doing. Right now, it is setting records almost daily. I love it.
- Build your personal library of good books on all the major areas of business management. As a beginning, one great book to purchase is The Truth About Money, 3rd Edition,by Ric Edelman. Ric’s firm, Edelman Financial Services, manages my portfolio, and his book is a must read for anyone who wishes to learn more about financial planning. In so doing, you will learn a great deal about business management, too. Many finance terms are simply and clearly explained. If you ever desire financial security, then start with this book.