Good intentions.

Okay, so much for 30 days of writing. I’ve got at least seven drafts sitting over here of the writing prompts, but after reflecting on it for a couple of weeks, I think I’m going to find more creative writing prompts instead. Writing generic blog posts just isn’t my style. Part of my problem lately is my lack of creative expression over the last couple of years. Much of my writing has been either academic or professional/technical/informative since about 2011 which has left a gaping hole in my heart.

I think it’s time to get back in the habit of writing poetry and creative nonfiction more frequently. I’ve also resolved to get back to the maker side of things – found object art, paper wreaths and other crafts, painting, and maybe even something new! I *might* even get back into baking every now and again.

Late Start – Day One

My intention was to begin the 30-day writing challenge this past Monday, but obviously that didn’t happen. So, I’ll start today.

For Day One, the prompt is to write about five problems with social media. I’ve had to think about this one since I didn’t want to just regurgitate the problems we see and hear about everywhere already. Plus, I had to sift through my mental files floating around since grad school.

1. You’ve no doubt heard of this one – FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. Doesn’t it seem like awesome things are happening all over the place all the time? And you’re just sitting at home in your jammies watching Criminal Minds? Or is that just me?

Okay, I *like* watching Criminal Minds in my jammies. In fact, I rather enjoy the quiet of my home and the comfort of my couch. Don’t get me wrong, I get out and about every now and again. But, I get sort of sad (and mad at myself) when I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed, and I see people out and about having a great time. Maybe I got an invitation, maybe I didn’t. Regardless of invitation status, I’m sitting at home while they are together.

Maybe the selfies are just the highlights of their togetherness since they are probably on their phones, staring at their screens, the whole time anyway.

2. Fewer in-depth conversations leading to meaningful connections. Maybe some people will disagree with me here, but I don’t get too deep or profound when communicating via text, tweet, or chat. I’m not discussing politics, religion, crime, the meaning of life with anyone screen-to-screen. It’s all so superficial and lacking intimacy. I appreciate levity, but vapidity is painful. I don’t think sustainable, meaningful relationships thrive through light, nothing conversations.

3. Perhaps actually an addendum or exception to #2, one of the problems of social media is learning too much about someone. Maybe you are linked to family members, friends from high school, or your boss. They share articles or post memes that are 180 degrees from your own beliefs or they are slanted in a way that paints them as racist, misogynist, or just plain hateful. I have a couple of those – they have a right to an opinion that is different from mine but they constantly post judgmental and generally unpleasant things about people who believe differently. I really just don’t need to know this much about every single person I follow or have on my friends list.

For the record, I also don’t need to know every meal they eat, load of laundry they run, toenail they clip, or gas they pass. Some things should just remain a mystery.

4. So many voices. Double edged-sword, this one. I’m glad lots of people have the opportunity to be heard, but it gets noisy in social media land. Hard to keep up sometimes. Also hard to process so many emotions and information. I personally get a bit overwhelmed by all the emotions I’m supposed to feel all at once all the time.

The trouble, too, with the cacophony of voices is that many people get shouted down, ignored altogether, or left out of the conversation completely.

5. Reduced multi-sensory experiences leading to long-term memory commitment. Do you remember every tweet interaction, like, or share? I don’t. Twitter and Facebook have become a muddled collection of quickly shared but easily forgotten thoughts. And, again, maybe this ties into #1 – I’m afraid of missing out on the fun, disappointed when I do, but then I still choose to remain at home.

But I remember sweaty FamJams at the whitewater center and humid game nights on the deck. I remember the sparkly blue scarf I was wearing on my first date with my BF 14 years ago. I remember our windy, full moonlit Alcatraz tour, the gas and sand scented helicopter ride over the beach, the smell of hot glue guns at Christmas craft fairs with my mom, the taste of the Midori sour I drank on my 21st birthday, the rush of cold air in my face as I plummeted to earth after falling out of the back of an airplane.

I don’t think we’re all racking up those experiences and memories anymore, choosing instead to live through others’ adventures or NatGeo and Discovery photos on Pinterest.

What do you think? Agree or disagree with any of these? What are some problems with social media that you’ve identified?

Comprehensive Communication Project

I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,
but I’ve never been able to believe it.
I don’t believe a rose would be as nice if it was called
a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”

~L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

ID-10014721As a verbal branding specialist, I *love* brand naming, which you may remember from my introduction. I love the combined art and science of naming and trying to solve the puzzle of developing a name. As a consumer, I love to solve the puzzle of an already developed brand name because so much meaning can be packed into a matter of seven or so letters. I find pharmaceutical naming especially fascinating.

For this, the final learning outcome on my list, I am in the process of conducting my research and data analysis for my capstone, a 16-week process made up of a two-course sequence in our online accelerated program, rather than 32 weeks in a traditional on-the-ground program. A daunting but exciting challenge, to be sure.

After needlessly waffling over potential topics, the choice suddenly became clear.

Brand messaging is the opportunity for a brand to differentiate itself from competing brands and stand out in the minds of consumers. Effective messaging means capturing just the right language that embodies the purpose or personality of the brand and moving consumers to seek to acquire that product with that specific brand attached. Verbal designers develop names that tend to fall on a name type spectrum ranging from descriptive to abstract or arbitrary. For marketing and brand strategists in the pharmaceutical industry, constructing and developing an effective brand message starts with a neologism situated on this spectrum which is then appropriately reinforced by an effective visual strategy.

According to Igor International, a brand agency based in California, the best product names require the least advertising because they are advertisements in and of themselves. Igor writes:

Successful product and company names may appear to have been created by magic, but it is possible to develop names that are dynamic, effective and fully leverage a brand’s potential if you have the right process in place. A process that is clear, insightful, logical and focused will lead to a name and tagline that are powerful components of your brand strategy, and pave the way for buy-in throughout your organization.

For marketing and brand strategists in the pharmaceutical industry, constructing and developing an effective brand message starts with strong positioning: to decide the purpose of the brand name and support it with an effective visual strategy. Pharmaceutical companies fall under the title of culture industry because they not only create medications, they brand them, market them, and advertise them across platforms to the point where brand names are used in everyday conversations and references. Viagra is a prime example of this phenomenon; it has become part of our lexicon after being introduced as a medication.

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My thesis is a rhetorical content analysis of pharmaceutical brand names and television commercials. My intent is to study brand messaging communicated through a drug’s brand name and how that message is supported by the content choices made in direct-to-consumer pharma advertisements.

My intent with this contribution to the conversation around brand naming and direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising is to significantly add to my expertise in this area. While I have six years of naming experience, complementing that experience with strong research literacy only builds my credibility.

I am beyond excited to work on and work through this culmination of long hours and hard work, two years in the making.

It’s time for the next leg of my journey.

Photo by JCWise

Photo by JCWise

Global Awareness

The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.
– Ida B. Wells

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In Comm638, Strategic Communication for Global Audiences with Dr. el-Nawawy, we discussed at length the impact of media on global cultures.

Geertz (1973) defined culture as: “an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.” (cited in Ogan, 2007, p. 296)

Naturally, one must learn what these symbols represent. We first learn our culture through our language, families, environment, etc. With the development of mass media such as print, radio, and television, we are exposed to more aspects of our culture as well as other cultures, thus expanding our worldview and perhaps questioning our own version of culture.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Frankfurt Institute’s Adorno and Horkheimer developed the term “culture industries” to describe the pop culture products that are “tailored for consumption by masses, and which to a great extent determine the nature of that consumption, are manufactured more or less according to plan” (Adorno, 1975, cited in Ogan, 2007, p. 295). In their critical view, mass media then was a tool, providing ideological justification for the societies driven by capitalism where those pop culture products and industries originated. UNESCO (1999), however, viewed culture industries as a positive force because they are economic resources that allow creative expression to be “copied and boosted by industrial processes and worldwide distribution” (cited in Ogan, 2007, p. 295).

In general, I agree with Adorno and Horkheimer’s critical view that mass media breeds mass deception while acting as a hegemony machine. I’m inclined to agree that today’s global media conglomerates are in the business of working to pacify, distract, or create a passive audience. Even with all the choices given to us (hundreds of TV channels, radio stations, news sites, magazines), we are moved to watch the same news stations or read the same publications or Internet sites. We come to trust the information given to us, even though news is never objective and there are no single truths (Ogan, 2007, p. 309). At the same time, however, platforms like Twitter or weblogs have given a voice to the voiceless and recorded revolutions. In our digital age, the Internet offers opportunities to discover truths, to see people for who they are, to see how Photoshop or creative cropping creates the story the media want to to tell.

Image courtesy of thanunkorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of thanunkorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

During this course, ReNee Troy-Mebane and I worked on a paper and PowerPoint Presentation that profiled a transnational media corporation and the effects of its magazines on the global audience. Using the theory of transnational media management, we explored how Hearst Corporation’s international publication Cosmopolitan Magazine affects the international cultures in which they are marketed and if those international markets have any effect on Cosmo or Hearst. We wanted to know if the international versions of Cosmo were able to define their own standards for publication or if Hearst encourages the promotion of Western ideologies. ReNee and I found that Hearst attempts to balance localization and standardization to maximize success, but intentionally and strategically attempts to instill Westernized ideologies in foreign markets.

Hearst2Hearst1

When creating messages, as discussed in our third course, Constructing Messages and Audiences with Dr. McArthur, strategic communicators should be well aware that their audiences are not made up of people who are exact replicas of themselves; their audiences will always have a level of diversity whether it be age, gender, race, ethnicity, religious involvement, political leanings, economic status, or a combination of some or all of the above (and, of course, those not listed). This is especially true for transnational media corporations, as ReNee and I explored with our project. This ever-present diversity means that messages will always fall on many ears and have alternate meanings attached to them regardless of the initial intent. Their communications will never be truly neutral. Strategic communicators should be mindful of their messages’ construction and also remember that many ears means many voices.

Communication is always political and is always embedded within relationships of power. (Dutta, 2009, p.284).

Image courtesy of smarnad at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of smarnad at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But, any silence of voices does not mean they are absent. Giving voice to the voiceless sounds so noble, but we have to make sure we are not giving them our voices. We want to give them tools, methods, language, resources, to develop their own voices, but again, who’s to say those things are the right ones for them? For example, if Americans are swooping into Africa at any given moment, we are only bestowing them with our Western ideologies, those ingrained in our psyche for hundreds of years. Introducing Cosmo to new countries squeezes Western ideologies on international readers. Spivak (1999) explores this idea in her research on knowledge and imperialism (as cited in Dutta, 2009). Knowledge structures should “be examined in the backdrop of the imperialist desires that constitute them” (Dutta, 2009, p.283); that is to say, we must remain cognizant of our ideologies and privilege when it comes to globalization politics; we must practice continual reflexivity, remaining aware of the representations we use in politics (Dutta, 2009). We must avoid turning a representation into marketable “posterchild” for a cause. Because, even when we carve out space to listen to Others, we must be aware that “this other is continually erased from the discursive spaces of mainstream social systems” (Dutta, 2009, p.283).

 Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The field of strategic communication could be part of the movement to “advocate a shift from focusing on discourses of power to highlighting everyday experiences” (Rakow & Nastasia, 2009, p.267). While Rakow and Nastasia (2009) are speaking of the problematization of gender, I think it can be applied to strategic communication in a way that encourages critical awareness of marginalized groups which then can be “translated into people’s everyday work knowledge” (Smith, 2005, as cited in Rakow & Nastasia, 2009, p.266). Strategic communicators must acknowledge the voiceless in order to begin the process of giving them a voice, but it has to be part of everyday conversations in order to signal the paradigm shift.

Dutta’s (2009) essay on Spivak would tell us to interrogate everything. We must question everything and ask why until we understand or seek to change. This is something I will always do – keep asking questions while remembering that the world is made up of billions of different voices.


References

Appadurai, A. (2010). Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy. In D. K. Thussu (Ed.), International Communication: A Reader (pp. 383-392). New York: Routledge.

Dutta, M.J. (2009). On Spivak: Theorizing resistance — Applying Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in public relations. In Ø. Ihlen, B. van Ruler, & M. Fredriksson (Eds.), Public relations and social theory: Key figures and concepts (pp. 278-300). New York: Routledge.

Ogan, C. (2007). Communication and culture. In Y. Kamalipour (Ed.), Global Communication (pp. 293-318). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

Rakow, L.F. & Nastasia, D.I. (2009). On feminist theory of public relations: An example from Dorothy E. Smith. In Ø. Ihlen, B. van Ruler, & M. Fredriksson (Eds.), Public relations and social theory: Key figures and concepts (pp. 252-277). New York: Routledge.

Ethical Consideration

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.
– Aristotle

Comm616, Communicating Mindfully with Dr. Pupchek, was probably one of the most memorable and thought-provoking classes for me. While I have always considered myself compassionate, sensitive to others’ lives and experiences, and able to put myself in others’ shoes, this course made me painfully aware of my privilege, the goods I promote and protect, and what “common sense” really is. Though I struggled somewhat internally as I grew through the course and now sometimes the world seems big and heavy, becoming aware of this helped me better identify and respect other people’s positions. I’ve also continued my journey of questioning ideologies and always asking why.

Image courtesy of lobster20 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of lobster20 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Questioning ideologies carries over to organizational culture as well. Completing my final project in 616 resulted in a paper and video presentation about the blurred borders between our public and private spheres in our historical moment of advanced technology, heightened communication, and hyperconnectivity. While we negotiate these new, blurred borders, keeping our private lives separate from our professional lives has become a greater challenge. No longer do many of us “clock out” and go home; instead, we carry our smartphones with us, receiving work emails, phone calls, and text messages anywhere we may be. Depending on the job, these calls might infiltrate all hours of the day and night, making living a private, personal life difficult. A prolonged, repeated practice of all-access demand might perpetuate the practice for new employees, folding these reified expectations into the company’s community of memory and into the job description. Using the motion picture The Devil Wears Prada, I explored the invasion of work on the personal lives of employees which, from a communications ethics standpoint, could be a dangerous habit stemmed from a flawed community of memory.

Exploring these blurred boundaries became a common thread through several of our courses. In 610, I wrote a blog post about corporate colonization, Web 2.0, and not accepting “it is what it is” as an explanation for anything. In 624, I wrote a blog post on convergence and communicating in a digital world. In 655, I wrote a book review on Melissa Gregg’s book, Work’s Intimacy and completed a podcast for employers on helping employees maintain a balance rather than making demands on their private lives. The intimacy that we are entering into with our jobs is maligned with what Hannah Arendt (cited in Arnett, Harden Fritz, & Bell, 2009) warned against:

Communicative health begins with an honest recognition that public places require distance and that private life or vocabulary is not for sale or misuse in the workplace. (p. 88)

Now that Web 2.0 has allowed for blurred lines between the two domains, can we ever go back? Who’s responsible for “un-blurring” the lines: employees or organizations? Can we change organizational expectations or structures to better care for its employees’ personal time?BerlinWall_JCWise

While I may not always be able to make any official sweeping changes at my workplace when I recognize a need, I can continue to be a rhetorical interruption, to see the opportunities, and bring them to the attention of those who can make the changes.


Reference

Arnett, R.C., Harden Fritz, J.M., & Bell, L.M. (2009). Communication ethics literacy: Dialogue and difference. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc.

Digital & Media Literacy

Creativity is intelligence having fun.
-Attributed to Albert Einstein

Throughout the course of the program, I was introduced to several digital tools I had not previously used. Four in particular that I was unfamiliar with are Screencast-o-matic, which creates screencasts, Prezi, visually appealing presentation software, Audacity, recording software to produce podcasts, and Soundcloud, an online audio distribution platform. The screencast program was easy to use while Audacity took a good bit more time to master. Soundcloud was intuitive and satisfying, and Prezi was actually fun to use, especially since I’d used PowerPoint exclusively prior to starting graduate school. Granted, we did not use these tools extensively – I believe I shot just 6 screencasts and 4 podcasts (only 2 using Audacity) – but I’m glad to have been exposed to them. We also used WordPress (obviously), YouTube, and Twitter.  All platforms allowed me to bring black and white words to life in new and engaging ways.

Here are a couple of my favorite podcasts:

The first is directed toward employers and offers two ways to set an organization on a path to defining an organizational culture that promotes healthy work and home lives:

After interviewing several employees of an organization to learn about their experiences with organizational identification, I created this podcast to summarize my discoveries and evaluate the ways that organizations encourage employee identification:

Using several different platforms increases my awareness and understanding of the multitude of platforms available to me depending on my audience. Generally, I am a print writer, but applying my writing ability and adapting my content to specific digital platforms makes me a more well-rounded communicator. I am more capable of writing scripts for audio and video productions, I can concentrate my messages into Tweets, and I can compose my thoughts into blog posts. While it was hard work, my Double Spaced podcast made me want to start a weekly podcast based on my experiences in graduate school, with communications, and with my communications-based interests of brand naming and copywriting.

Here’s one of my favorite Prezi presentations, a vlog post exploring the theoretical concept of a community of memory using a clip from Pleasantville to illustrate (completed in Comm616):

 

At work, after having IT unblock Prezi software, I hope to craft more engaging presentations to sell the ideas I have and the work that I do. The industry I am in, aviation, is surprisingly resistant to change and to new technology, so I’m often stuck using traditional media and traditional tools. By demonstrating how effective and useful new platforms can be, I can hopefully inspire, motivate, and convince the company to join the technology revolution.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Overall, I liked that we used a variety of platforms throughout the program, but I do wish it had been more consistent. In some courses, we went the entire eight weeks not using our blogs. In my opinion, programs like Audacity and Prezi need frequent use to become adept so it always seemed like I was learning it all over again when it was time to produce a project.

Research Literacy

 Google is not a synonym for research.
-Dan Brown

One of the most fun projects I worked on during the program was also one of the earliest. In Comm601 with Dr. Pupchek, I wrote a paper and created a digital presentation on equipment for living in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes through a phenomenological lens. In many films using the age-old, familiar trope of ‘happily ever after,’ a female character finds fulfillment only if she has a happy husband. These types of movies create tension for women in the audience who are facing discord in their relationships. I proposed that the film Fried Green Tomatoes acts as a guidebook for women who are facing identity incongruence within relationships. Two parallel stories occur in the film: the first is that of Evelyn and Ninny, who exist in the present time, and the second is that of Ruth and Idgie in the past, as presented by Ninny in a series of flashback tales. Both pairs of women become very close friends in their respective timeline, in part because of Evelyn’s unfulfilling marriage and Ruth’s abusive marriage. Evelyn uses all three of the other female characters as inspiration for change. This film highlights the importance of a woman’s independence and the benefit of close female friendships.

This was actually the first paper in which I conducted a literature review to discover what had already been said about the topic and to position my research among that literature. I think that what I was missing in past papers was establishing just why the hell my paper should be considered important or valuable. What good is my research if someone else already did that same research? In addition to the lit review, it was also one of the first papers I’ve written in which I combined several theories, creating a more complete theoretical framework that led to a better understanding of my topic. Phenomenology, as introduced by Littlejohn and Foss (2011), is “the way in which human beings come to understand the world through direct experience” and “makes actual lived experience the basic data of reality” (p. 47). Further, “communication is the process by which we acknowledge and express our experience of the world” (p. 254). Within the phenomenological tradition, I applied Stanley Deetz’s (cited in Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 47) three principles of phenomenology and Rogers’ (cited in Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p.251-253) theories of communication in relationships, specifically his concepts of empathy, congruence, actualizing tendency, unconditional positive regard and helping relationships.

My goal with that research paper was to contribute to the conversation surrounding the power of women, both from within and with each other. Without taking a critical stance, I was able to show how great women support each other. As Fried Green Tomatoes suggests, a woman does not need to find her identity in a man, rather she should be happy with herself and seek supportive female friendships. Hard work comes in building self-confidence, so perhaps all women should give their inner Towanda a voice.

This level of research set a powerful foundation for the coursework that was to follow. Not only did I learn something from my own research, I began to understand more clearly, especially because of the literature review process, that just talking to be heard contributes little. Participating in a conversation that comes from a place of understanding, a conversation grounded in a rich history with an important future, is much more valuable. As I would later hear Dr. Weller say, “SO WHAT?”

TOWANDA!


Reference

Littlejohn, S.W. & Foss, K.A. (2011). Theories of Human Communication (Tenth ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

Writing Literacy

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.
Louis L’Amour

While I’ve always been a writer, adapting to scholarly writing was a challenge at the beginning of this journey, especially because 99% of our work is written. I tend to write more creatively using literary devices ranging from hyperbole to humor, but sometimes academic writing seems to be about who can say the least with the most words. I had to find a way to simultaneously simplify and complicate my writing. There were times when I thought I’d never be able to write one sentence, let alone a 20-page paper. I had frequent moments of panic and shed more than a few tears. Unexpectedly, all the writing projects along the way helped my curb my perfectionism. Early on, I found myself paralyzed with fear, not knowing where to start or what to say. Once I could embrace the concept of a shitty first draft, I could let go of “writer’s block” or trying to be perfect right from the start and let the process be part of my experience.

I also had to give myself a crash course in APA style since I was trained exclusively in MLA up to that point. While I still frequently reference the APA handbook and, my savior, the Purdue Owl in these last few months of class, I feel pretty confident in its use. 2014-07-20 14.14.57

Thankfully, however, it hasn’t been all APA all the time. As I discussed in the post covering digital and media literacy, I was able to practice writing for many different audiences and present those writings through various platforms. Because of the verbosity common among academic literature, being able to translate it into familiar terms is crucial for broadening your audience and sharing your message with those who might benefit from it. It’s not about dumbing it down, it’s about simplifying it in a way that leads to greater understanding.

One of my favorite non-academic projects were the podcasts because I enjoyed the challenge of condensing a lot of research and analysis into an informative, interesting, and sometimes pithy few minutes. Sure, it was daunting every time, but I came to enjoy it. I’m thinking about how I can make Double Spaced a long term effort. Another challenge that I enjoyed was creating a 30-second visual story for Comm658. While I had technical difficulties that resulted in a less than ideal video, doing the work to say something valuable in 30 seconds was invigorating. 2013-02-12 22.54.15

While it wasn’t necessarily a new lesson, the variety of writing projects was a good reminder that you have to adapt what you are saying to your audience. What works for one may not work for another. How you present your information in a 30-second commercial is far different from a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation at a conference. I encounter this regularly at my job as well. I oversee much of both our external and internal communications. I communicate with fellow employees differently from how I write the copy for our advertising and e-campaigns for our external audiences, even if it is sometimes the same message. Over time, I’ve also come to realize that, at least at my office, people don’t want to read blocks of text; they want to read something short, sweet, and easy to understand. I can’t write to my team in the same way that I write to my best friend.

In future communications endeavors, I plan to continue listing writing as a primary strength. Now I can better articulate my adaptability and range of experience.

Theoretical Literacy

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.
But in practice, there is.

-Yogi Berra

In thinking back on my experiences with communication theories and how they relate to my life and work, one of the earliest ah-ha moments I had was during our first course, Communication Fluency, with Dr. Pupchek who helped us realize that a theory is a lens through which to observe something. It isn’t necessarily the only way or always the best way, but it helps to focus your attention to allow for discoveries and revelations that may not otherwise become apparent. It may seem difficult or even somewhat odd to apply an academic theory in a practical, everyday way, but I’ve seen theories come alive in several ways in the last two years.

Overall, organizational leadership theories have been the most beneficial for me, which is not unexpected or surprising. Two of the theories I’ve most easily applied include Putnam’s Social Capital and Goffman’s Impression Management. In Comm613, Constructing Messages and Audiences with Dr. McArthur, I used Putnam to create strategic communication plan for internal communication improvements at my office, and we have already put many of my recommended strategies into use. Externally, I’ve used Goffman to guide me in crafting marketing and advertising materials. Impression management has supported my efforts to maintain a consistent voice as brand manager at work.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have also stumbled upon Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory in action at my office. We recently had an internal workplace survey to assess the areas in which we are succeeding and those areas that need some attention. The survey results were split into two sections: OrgHealth and MyJob. OrgHealth included issues related to what I see as Motivators: Direction, Execution, and Connection while MyJob covers issues related to Hygiene Factors: My Work, My Manager, and My Pay & Benefits. Regarding OrgHealth, the third party survey creators explain, “We see that employees, above everything else, want to work at companies with high levels of OrgHealth.” Regarding the My Job factors, they say, “These are important to provide but are not areas that make people feel passionate about the organization.” It looks like the third party surveying company is driven significantly by Herzberg, and I was fascinated to see this theory in action. I’m wondering if I can identify any sorts of trends on my own to provide additional insights to senior management while they are trying to find ways to improve. Based on our results, where there is room for meaningful improvement, it’s looking like many of the employees are experiencing either high hygiene and low motivation or low hygiene and high motivation. This might help me create a strategic communication plan from another angle.

During our second course, The Social Creation of Organizing with Dr. Weller, I worked on a textual analysis for which I analyzed a small sampling of emails from a sales director to her team. Using a theoretical framework that combined Likert’s System IV leadership and O’Donnell-Trujillo and Pacanowsky’s theory of organizational performance and culture, I discovered that this particular sales director was contributing to a negative environment for her sales team. As she didn’t take a supportive, participative role and failed to create a collaborative environment, her team was under-performing, therefore, creating a vicious cycle.

These projects established a foundation for future leadership studies, especially in Comm629, Leadership, Empowerment, and the Management of Meaning with Dr. White in which we learned about the relationship between leadership and communication. I see effective leadership as dependent on both the tasks at hand and the followers in the group, as Hersey and Blanchard describe in their construct of situational leadership. Great leaders diagnose and adapt to the readiness levels of their followers and employs a style necessary to success, and Hersey and Blanchard propose, “By engaging in appropriate leadership behavior… a leader can influence follower behavior” (Hackman & Johnson, 2013, p. 85). In looking back on that early project from 610, it is even clearer to me how significantly followers’ roles should be considered when a leader is leading. I can see now, too, that leaders are not necessarily born, but developed. Theoretical lenses can help a leader be successful; theories can guide leaders in new directions.  

Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Reference

Hackman, M. Z. & Johnson, C. E. (2013). Leadership: A communication perspective. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.