Master of Communication Management Online | Crisis Communication Webinar

View all blog posts under Videos

Our current COVID-19 pandemic has presented a series of challenging situations  that pose an on-going threat to organization’s reputation. It is more essential than ever to have skilled and trained communication professionals in the field of crises communication. Hear from Brad Shipley, PhD, MA, USC Annenberg Clinical Associate Professor of Communication as he offers resources on how best to plan, manage and respond in times of crisis, minimizing risk and maximizing impact to help best support your organization’s reputation and stakeholder relationships.

We will also reserve time to review and address any questions you may have.


  • Director of Distance Learning Neil Teixeira will serve as moderator for the session
  • Clinical Associate Professor of Communication Brad Shipley, PhD, MA

Register today to learn more about the online Master of Communication Management online program.


Hello, and welcome to the online Master of Communication Management Program, Crisis Communication webinar, presented by the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, from the University of Southern California. My name is Phil Solaria, and I am an Enrollment Advisor for the online Master of Communication Management program. I’d like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us.

Before we begin, I would like to review what you can expect during the presentation. In order to cut down on background noise, everyone is on listen-only mode. If you’re experiencing any technical difficulties, please be sure to refresh your browser. If you have any questions for any of our speakers, please type them in the Q&A box in the lower right hand corner of your screen and hit send. Feel free to enter any questions as you think of them and we’ll be sure to answer as many questions as time allows, at the end of the presentation. Also, a copy of this presentation and recording will be available soon.

Here’s our agenda. Here’s a quick look at what we will be covering. We will have a brief overview on the program and then cover the main topic of tonight’s webinar. Next steps for admissions. Lastly, we’ll end the presentation with a brief Q&A session. Now, I will be introducing Dr. Brad Shipley, Associate Professor for the MCM. Hello, Brad. Thank you for joining us today.

My pleasure. I am Dr. Brad Shipley. I teach primarily in the Strategic and Organizational Communication focus area. In fact, when they describe those courses, I think I can confidently say that I’ve taught every single one of those courses in either the online modality or on-campus. Can’t wait to meet each of you and in a few minutes, I’ll have a chance to talk about one of my courses. For now, I’d like to introduce Neil Teixeira. He’s the Director of Online Learning.

Thank you so much, Brad. Hello, everyone. Thank you so much Dr. Shipley. Thank you once again, everyone that’s taking time out of their busy schedules to attend our webinar today. Looking forward to sharing some helpful information about USC, the Annenberg School, and many of the outstanding elements of the online Master of Communication Management, including how you can start application for our upcoming spring and summer semesters today. As Dr. Shipley mentioned, my name is Neil Teixeira. I’m the Director of Online Learning at the USC Annenberg School. I’ve worked in this field for about 20 years now, working with our School of Communication Journalism, also our School of Engineering at USC. I’m also an alumnus of the USC Annenberg Master of Communication Management program, although not the online one, the on-campus program. My enrollment and my graduation predates by a few years, the online program. But it’s been an honor to have been a part of creating the online version of the program as an alumnus, and I’m very happy to introduce it to you all tonight.

Let’s start off by talking a little bit about USC Annenberg School. USC was founded in 1880, back when LA was a small but growing Western outpost. Since then, the University of Southern California has grown to become one of the world’s leading private research universities. USC has regularly enrolled more international students than any other American institution of higher learning, and holds research-based education that can be applied to professional practice as a cornerstone of the institution.

In keeping with this, USC has long been a pioneer in distance education, offering master’s level classes to professional engineers via satellite video as early as 1972. USC Annenberg School was proud to continue that pioneering tradition by offering our fully online, Master of Communication Management degree to communication professionals all over the world. USC Annenberg School was founded in 1971 through the generosity and leadership of Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg.

You may know him better as the creator of TV Guide, 17 Magazine, and through his family’s model legacy of supporting public television and the arts. Today, USC Annenberg is renowned for its innovative approach to communication, teaching and research, and serves as an international hub for scholars and professionals in communication, public relations, journalism, public diplomacy, media, and education.

The online Master of Communication Management enables the USC Annenberg School to deliver the same high quality educational experience in a rigorous, engaging and collaborative way. By the way, that picture of the slide is our recent graduating class of online MCM students attending our annual graduation barbecue prior to commencement. We also host an annual reception tailgate for homecoming, although with coronavirus, we have had to delay and postpone some of events.

But make sure to know that this program is not entirely online. We do have social events and we want you to attend them once we are able to go ahead and resume offering them on-campus. Before we discuss the program in more detail, I would like to briefly share USC accreditation and ranking information which reflect the university and the School’s commitment to excellence in higher education.

USC and the online Master of Communication Management program, have both been reviewed and accredited by WASC. USC is currently ranked in the top 25 among national universities by US News and World Report. Additionally, the Wall Street Journal’s comprehensive 2020 college rankings, placed USC in the 18th spot nationally, and third among all western US institutions. The QS World University Rankings rated USC Annenberg, the top institution for Communication and Media Studies in the US, and the second highest ranked University anywhere in the world.

Now, we’ll turn to the program’s curriculum and some of the advantages you’ll have as an online USC Annenberg student. Master of Communication Management, this program has been designed for both early career and experienced working professionals, everyone you’ll be taking classes with will play a role in your learning, to share your work experiences, to talk about issues that you’re currently facing on the job. You will get as much of the people you are going to classes with, as you will for your instructors.

This program is done in a cohort style, which means you’ll go through the program with the same group of people over your courses. Typically, each class is divided into sections of about 20 people. That doesn’t mean that you will have the same 20 people all the time. But everyone will have gone through some of the same courses that you’ve gone through. You can complete the program in less than two years, 16 months to be exact.

This is important, we found for working professionals because you have a lot on your plate, a lot of responsibilities at work and at home, especially now. Taking classes will add considerably to your workload. We know that it’s really important for you to get through this as quickly as possible. We think that completing the program two classes per term in about 16 months is the best way for you to achieve your goal of earning a master’s degree from USC.

What does MCM mean? This is a management degree for communication professionals. We operate from the understanding that communication is at the center of every enterprise. Communicators shape and change the world. This degree is offered so that communicators like yourselves, feel empowered to lead within your organizations. This is going to be a rigorous online program. We want you to be able to immediately apply what you learn to your professional career.

We don’t want you to think that online and easy are synonymous. We want you to think that online is valuable and rigorous, challenging you to think and expand your perspectives. We have state-of-the-art course design and learning platform integrated with social tools that encourage personal and professional networking. Feedback we received from hundreds of students and graduates has been terrific. They’re really getting what they want out of this program.

The online learning management system that we use makes connecting with others in your class and with your professors, extremely easy. You’ll have a network of people all around the country, and then some occasions around the world. You’ll be able to maintain this network long after you’ve completed your program. Learning is phenomenal online, because in the on-campus program and as alumnus, I can speak to this, you come to class for three hours, and class kind of works and moves at a particular pace, and you’re forced to move at that pace.

In online program, you’re actually able to cover far greater material and at far greater depths because you’re working on it more incrementally. Of course, you’ll also be working in groups with your cohort, and working with your colleagues in your cohort on a regular basis. We think that’s an extraordinary advantage of our online learning program, because the ability to work in virtual teams is essential in the modern workplace.

Students in the MCM program will gain relevant skills that enable them to analyze complex business and communication problems. Utilizing critical thinking and strategy, oral and presentation skills, gather and analyze research to improve decision making across organizations and design communication with a global perspective. We find that’s very, very important right now in the modern workplace.

Graduates are positioned for careers in management consulting, branding and development, public relations, advertising, promotions, business and marketing, and pretty much anywhere, where communication management and communication strategy is essential. Let’s talk about the classes that you’re going to be taking and the curriculum you’ll engage in. Our curriculum is designed to give you an advanced applied skill set in the areas of Strategic Organizational Communication, Marketing Communication, and Market Research and Analytics.

Such skills you can employ to your advantage anywhere your career takes you. The way the program is set up, students will ultimately take two classes per semester. Everybody begins with the core research class, Uses of Communication Research or CMGT 540, and the core management theory class, Managing Communication or CMGT 500. You’ll also take a key communication strategy course called Strategic Corporate Communication or CMGT 502, and a Market Research and Analytics course during your tenure in the program.

We believe that possessing these core research and analytic skills, combined with applied theory and management strategy, will make you a powerful agent in your organizations. You’ll conclude the program with a capstone course or practicum. Our capstone course CMGT 510, communication, attitudes, values and behaviors. Of course, it’s been taught by Dr. Brad Shipley, as well as the communication research practicum, which is an option for students to select if they wish to do a final research project as part of their tenure in the program.

We offer three areas of focus and a generalist option. Students can select to focus after their first term, on marketing communication, strategic and organizational communication, or market research and analytics. Alternatively, students can choose to just be communication management generalist, and they’ll assemble a broad toolkit of strategic communication skills in organizational communication, marketing, public relations, and market research and analytics.

You will have an option to start off with your first core courses and ultimately make a selection as to what area of focus or generalist track that you would like to move forward in. You don’t have to know this going to the program, it’s not part of the admission process. You’ll make this selection with more information during your first term in the program. We’re going to talk about the strategic and organizational communication [inaudible].

This focus area is one that Dr. Brad Shipley leads. It’s also the area of focus that contains the course that we’ll be talking about tonight, Communicating in Crisis: Strategies for Risk Mitigation. Strategic and organizational communication is at the foundation of pretty much anything we do in our communication as a program. Even our courses in marketing communication, and market research and analytics, are built out of organizational communication theory.

This is an essential part of what you’ll study at the very beginning of the program at CMGT 500, and if you’re interested at some point, once you’re admitted in learning more about this focus area, Dr. Shipley will be your point of contact, to learn more about the strategic and organizational communication focus area. Now, I’m going to turn it over to Dr. Brad Shipley, to talk more about Communicating in Crisis: Strategies for Risk Mitigation.

Thanks, Neil. It’s interesting, as I was listening to Neil talk about the program, I can’t help but think about all of the students that are working right now at this very minute, working on their assignments or attending live sessions, and doing all of this wonderful work. I also, by looking at the earlier slide, and that picture of that graduating class, one of my favorite workplace events every single year is graduation.

It’s such a pleasure to see the students in their sense of accomplishment, but more importantly, to see them talk about and reminisce about all of the classes that they took, and all of the projects and get closer to the other students with whom they worked throughout the program. I’ve had that experience of interacting with students in the program and watching the end of the program.

What I delighted is to be here tonight, to be at the genesis of your journey and to have a chance to meet you at this point when you’re considering the Communication Management program. Tonight I get to share with you a little preview of a class that will be offered in the spring, it’s called Communicating in Crisis: Strategies for Risk Mitigation. I think you’ll agree with me that it’s a pretty timely course, right? It really is a wonderful time to be thinking about these issues.

But we all have some relationship with crisis communication, in everyday life, things happen, right? We use that phrase, stuff happens, and then you have to deal with it. Likewise, in organization, things happen, crisis happens, and then the organization to have to deal with it. Sometimes, those crises are generated from factors or variables outside of the organization’s control. It might be a natural disaster, it could be a disruption in the industry or disruption in the supply chain.

But a lot of times the crisis is brought about by an organization shooting itself in the foot. In other words, they are the cause of their own crisis, and that might be because they have a product failure, you might be thinking of Boeing in the 737 crash, and then a few months later, another crash. You might be thinking of an accident like BP, the oil spill in the Gulf, you might be thinking of scandals that occur that go viral, perhaps the CEO of Uber berating one of the drivers and that video going viral, or it might be Domino’s, and one of its employees posting some pretty disgusting things.

What I like to argue is that when organizations communicate about crisis, they’re much less likely to end up in crisis. When they are in crisis, they’re much better prepared to address it. For this course, we have a number of learning objectives, I’ll kind of go through those with you. The first is, to use communication theory to describe, explain and manage crisis. But I want to underscore communication theory. I’m sure that you’ve read articles, follow these five steps. There’s a lot of prescriptive advice out there.

But that’s really insufficient, it doesn’t capture the nuance of crisis in our approach to managing crisis. What we really need is a deep dive, and a rich understanding of communication theory. Students in this course, will certainly have that opportunity. For the second bullet point or second learning objective, after students have taken this course, they will be able to perform a crisis vulnerability audit. From that vulnerability audit, develop a crisis prevention, detection and mitigation plan. This is something that might be used in a particular department or as a manager of department, in leadership as a consultant etc. Very practical skill set.

A third learning objective is to develop leadership skills, for learning organization to monitor risk, adapt to crisis, and learn from crises, right? Then fourth learning objective is to develop communication strategies for internal and external stakeholders, which sustain organizational legitimacy and reputation, right? When something bad happens, explanation is called for, right?

This is the part of the course that you might label as public relations but it’s more than that really. It’s about explaining what happened, what’s being done, and being able to maintain or even possibly improve the reputation of the organization. Finally, and I think this is somewhat unique to my course. I would like students to not only understand how organizations should engage in crisis communication and risk mitigation, but individuals should think about their own careers, and the possible threat or crises that can occur, and then think about how you personally, can perhaps prevent crises from occurring, manage crises when they occur, and then have ideas about what you’ll say if you’re caught in the middle of a crisis.

We can move on. We’ll do a quick little ad hoc case study. By instinct back in March 2020, not too long ago, seven months. To remember the middle of March was a bit of a difficult time, just in terms of what was going on, in one week’s period of time, the United States enacted a travel ban in terms of European travelers, the NBA [inaudible] tested positive for COVID-19, and then they end up canceling the game and then eventually postponing the season, the NCAA tournament was canceled here at USC.

All of the on-campus classes were converted into virtual online courses and then, of course, then we were given guidance for the entire United States to meet in groups no greater than 10. We were essentially looking at a bit of a lockdown. At that time of increased awareness and concern, rather than thinking about generally COVID-19 as a crisis, as students of Organizational Communication, I want you to think now about one of your organizations, maybe it’s your employer, maybe it’s a school or a child school. Perhaps it’s a church or another civic organization.

I just have four questions for you to think about as you remember and relive that March 2020 time period. The organization that you have in mind, was the organization prepared? What were the impacts of the crisis for your organization? What is your perception of the leadership of your organization and what’s that impacted based on how they’ve managed the crisis? Finally, is the organization now better prepared for the next crisis? Not necessarily COVID, it could be any kind of crisis.

The organization that you’re thinking of right now, are they prepared for an earthquake? Are they prepared for a market crash? Are they prepared for a product failure on their part? Is your organization better prepared to deal with crisis than it was seven months ago? If we were to actually allow responses here and have a discussion, I think we’d find that most of the organizations were not really well prepared. Some may have been more fortunate than others. I think you would probably agree that the impact of COVID-19 was tremendous on your organization, some fared better than others, I appreciate that. But it was a challenge. In terms of preparedness moving forward, I really question whether lessons have been learned, or whether people at this point are still just trying to get through this crisis before we pick up discussion about any other crisis that may come our way.

I think that those four questions really kind of justify, as well as explain the crux of the challenge that we face for this course and there are several modules in terms of content, that get covered in this particular course. Neil, if you could move on to our next and final slide, please. There are six modules and it’s kind of spread across 14, 15 weeks. In module one, it’s really just an orientation. What is crisis?

In fact, I just gave you a preview into the module one, as a class we’re going to have that conversation about their organizations. I want to reinforce something that Neil said before, we can talk about what a wonderful university USC is, we can talk about all of the interesting class offerings, the capable faculty etc. But one of our greatest resources is the student body, it’s you, right? We have so many students that come from different industries in different regions of the country.

We have people at different phases of career and so that night or that week, I should say, in that section of about 20 people, we will be exposed to 20 case studies, about how their organization manage crisis in the age of COVID-19. What a tremendous benefit that is to see things that you may not be thinking about, by just reading about the experiences that other members of the class have, and it will allow us to have a tremendous depth as well as breadth of discussion about crisis communication.

We’ll also talk about ethics and crisis communication. Then we’ll move into crisis planning. I mentioned earlier, that students will be able to create a crisis vulnerability assessment or audit. I don’t want to say too much about that but let me say just a little bit more. In a quick summary of what that is about, it’s about facilitating conversations in the organization about potential sources of crisis.

There are two variables that you really want to assess when you’re thinking about threat. You want to think about the severity of a crisis should it occur, and you want to think about probability. The combination of severity and probability can help an organization prioritize which potential crises are of the greatest threat to the organization and then from there, it’s about setting up processes, perhaps a cross functional team, to assess and look for warning signs that crisis may be on the horizon.

Ultimately, if done well, there might be strategies for preventing a crisis from ever occurring, being able to recognize the warning signs, sounding the alarm, acting etc. There might be opportunities to mitigate the effects of crisis. But in some situations, especially when crisis is brought on by factors outside your control, you might not be able to prevent it, you may be able to mitigate some of the effects. But you might still find yourself in crisis. That’s where module three picks up. It’s about managing the crisis itself. One topic that we will discuss is, leadership during a crisis. Without going into great detail here, not every leadership style will really fit every crisis situation or the organizational culture. One example would be Hurricane Katrina, there was a capable person put in charge of FEMA.

He was a capable executive, but he was more of an administrator than he was a leader. He tended to rely on his experience, wants to use bureaucratic processes, which did not work out very well in that crisis situation. We might instead look for a leader who is more of a transformational leader. Some of the characteristics of a transformational leader would be that they are idealized, they’re admired in some way, they’re considered ethical, honest, and so forth. They tend to be charismatic, and so they’re able to motivate action.

They tend to have individual concern. I’m not just talking about direct reports. These are the kind of leaders that, while you may not have ever met her or him personally, you get a sense that they understand your needs and your perspective, and that you are being considered. Finally, transformational leaders stimulate intellectual analysis, and so they look at problems systemically. They know how to facilitate the kind of dialogue and the expertise from throughout the organization that will allow them to assess the challenges in front of them, as opposed to being influenced by decision making biases. One decision making bias is confirmation bias.

I’ll just mention this very quickly. Confirmation biases is not something that’s restricted to crisis or even leadership. Human beings in general, have a tendency to seek out data and information that confirms your perception of the world and what’s happening, and the reason why that’s so dangerous in a crisis situation, is because oftentimes, leaders are really hopeful that the crisis isn’t that bad. That the crisis will just go away. That the crisis will be resolved more easily than others are saying, and that can lead to a premature sense of victory, and instead of addressing the crisis, that kind of thinking makes a person feel better, but it really doesn’t address the crisis itself.

Moving quickly on to the last couple of modules. Looking at facilitating organizational learning, these are brought organizational communication concepts. But it does involve change management in crisis. Then reputation management has to do with, “Okay, what do we say? How do we deal with the media? In the age of social media, how do we respond?” Those kinds of concerns. Finally, I mentioned module six at the individual level.

Just very briefly, Tom Peters popularized the idea that just brands like Nike, spend a lot of time building a reputation, so should individuals think about their individual professional brand, and just as crises can threaten a business brand, a crisis can threaten your individual, professional brand. One of the things that I would hope that you would walk away with is thinking about, what are the greatest vulnerabilities for me personally in terms of my career, and what kinds of things might happen that would throw me into the middle of a crisis? Or what kind of mistakes could I make that would result in a crisis?

How would I remain resilient? How would I make good decisions? What would I do in terms of speaking about that crisis? How would I explain it to others? Through the course of all six modules, we will essentially get at this full spectrum of trying to prevent, manage and respond to crisis in a meaningful way. It’s my absolute pleasure to speak with you tonight. I look forward to having you in my courses so that we can discuss this in great depth and with that, I will say as all judges[inaudible] say, fight on.

Neil. Phil, if you’d like to take it from here.

Thank you so much, Brad, for that timely introduction to this very, very awesome course that we’re really excited to offer in the spring. I want everyone on this call to know that if you’re looking at applying to the program for this upcoming spring, although this course is being offered this spring 2021. You will be taking core courses during that semester, but it will again, be offered in spring of 2022. For those of you who are starting, say in the spring or in the summer, you will have an opportunity to take this course if you select the strategic organizational communication area of focus.

Don’t worry, it’s going to come back around again, everyone in this strategic organizational communication area of focus will take this course. No need to worry that you’ll miss out on it, it’s going to be a part of our curriculum. Before I hand the presentation over to Phil, who will discuss what our faculty admission committee will look for in your application, I’d like to mention that there’s plenty of time to get your application started and submitted for the spring 2021 semester. In fact, it may be easier than ever before to submit an application for this coming 2021 admission terms because USC has temporarily waived the requirement to submit a GRE or graduate record exam.

Special benefit to those of you who are looking to apply for spring, summer or fall, the USC has temporarily waived the GRE requirement. Hopefully, each of you will touch base with Enrollment Advisor after our call today, and I’ll hand it off to Phil, who will talk more about the admission requirements that you need to submit for application.

Thank you, Neil. Thank you, Brad. Regarding our admissions requirements, just so everyone knows, the entire application is available online and you really just want to make sure to request all of your official transcripts from every school that you’ve attended. Also, as Neil mentioned, just know that USC has recently temporarily waived the mandatory university wide GRE requirement for the spring, summer, fall 2021 admission cycle. If you have been sitting on the fence about graduate school, now’s the time to take advantage of the temporary waiver. Another part of the application process is to complete a statement of purpose along with a writing sample.

All students will need to submit a resume showcasing all professional work experience, along with two letters of recommendation. I do want to share some admissions tips. Communication with your Enrollment Advisor is an important first step I would say. We are here to support you throughout the application process, all the way into your first week of class. Also, as Neil mentioned, just a quick note for students that are looking to get started in the upcoming semester, there’s still time to apply. If you were worried about not having enough time to take the GRE, well, now’s a perfect opportunity to apply since it will not be a requirement for the spring, summer or fall 2021 cycle. Another good tip is just to make sure that you’re following the deadlines and the due dates in order to submit your application in a timely fashion. As always, make sure to reach out to one of us with any questions that you might have.

Next, I really wanted to just take some time to go over any questions that anyone might have. We did receive a few already, so if you have any questions, please be sure to share them in our Q&A box, so I can make sure that we are able to address those. We’ll get to as many as we can. I saw a question earlier. It says, hello, will students in this class, work with a company or organization to assist them in how to manage communication during a crisis?

Yes. Absolutely. In this class as well as the organizational change class, students are expected to work with a client and so in that way, you get very practical experience. Yeah. No, I mean, that’s the way to learn, right? It’s one thing to read and cases are wonderful and we use a lot of cases, but practical experience in terms of assisting real organizations is the best way to apply your skills.

Thank you, Brad. We do have another question here. How different will this communication course be, now that it is online compared to in-person learning?

I can take that question real quick. I just want to state that the Master of Communication Management program offers courses both on-campus and online. This particular webinar is for our online Master of Communication Management, which is a mature online program. We’ve been offering this program since 2011, so we’re coming on our 10th year as an online-only program. We did not transition these courses from on-campus to online overnight. These courses have been meticulously designed with our faculty and instructional design and media production team, specifically for an online learning audience like yourselves.

This course is still as rigorous as you’d expect an on-campus course that Dr. Brad Shipley would teach on campus, but it is being specifically developed and designed for online. In fact, the first time this specific course is being taught will be for our online Master of Communication Management students. Brad, you want to add anything there?

No, that was kind of the point I was going to make is that I’ll be designing this for the online program and should I have the opportunity to teach the same course on campus, I will. Well, certainly have the same content and I will continue to have the same kinds of assignments. The biggest difference would be whether we meet live via Zoom or live on campus. I still will keep asynchronous component to the course either way.

Thank you, Brad. Thank you, Neil. Another question here is, are there live sessions and how flexible are those live sessions?

Great question. Yes. Every one of our courses have live sessions and we try to schedule them for the evening hours Pacific through East Coast, so that students as many as possible can attend. Not every course has live sessions every week. There are some courses that design live sessions according to modules as opposed to weeks so that learning and weekly live sessions are not always necessary if it’s designed around the module. However, the vast majority of our live sessions, while highly encouraged, are not required attendance live sessions, meaning you’re expected to review the recording of the live session if you cannot attend. But we understand that as busy professionals, it is not always possible for you to attend every single live session.

There is, of course, some live sessions that are required, and these are usually midterm or final presentations or very rarely, the ones at the very beginning of a class, that kind of set ground rules and expectations for the course. You’ll have advanced knowledge of those mandatory sessions via the syllabus that you’ll receive prior to starting the course. Our expectation’s that students attend all mandatory sessions for individual or group presentations, and in very rare cases, we’ve had students who have had some sort of emergency situation or conflict that prevented them and of course, we find ways to make up that participation.

But yes, all of our courses have both an asynchronous and synchronous component, as well as an individual and a group component to them. It’s really important that we get you all to collaborate together as well as work individually. Live sessions are certainly a part of our courses and we encourage you all to attend as regularly as you can.

Thank you Neil. Another question that came in, what if we wanted to do two areas like marketing communication, and strategic organizational or another combination?

Great question. It’s something that a lot of students ask us and that’s why we maintain the generalist option, so that you get a combination of, at a minimum, you’ll get two Strategic Organizational courses, two Marketing Communication courses, two Market Research & Analytics courses, and two Public Relations focused courses and so, that kind of breath is going to be really important, especially if you’re starting out in an industry and you’re just getting your feet wet in your workplace and you’re not exactly sure where you’ll end up or what your next move is.

Having that kind of breadth and scope would be really helpful to new professionals in that scenario. We do allow our students to choose that generalist path, it is still a prescribed path, meaning there are specific courses that you have to take and you’ll receive a course plan as a student, for what courses you’ll be taking as part of that generalist option. But yeah, you don’t have to choose an area of focus. You don’t have to be exclusive to strategic organizational communication or marketing communication. You can choose to be a generalist, and many of our students do.

Perfect. Thank you, Neil. Another question just came in, I think it’s a good one. Hello, and thank you so much for your time this evening. How are client collaborations or any real world professional experiences set up for students who are pursuing their degrees through the online program, considering not all students may be in California for the course of the degree?

Oh, excellent question. Essentially, students are expected to use their social networks, right? You use your contacts to find an organization but here’s the thing. Most organizations are quite pleased to have students participate in a project, it really requires very little from them. Typically, it means that you’ll have conversations with them, interviews and so forth, and then as a result, they’re getting perhaps a copy of your vulnerability audit. There’s a payoff for them as well.

In situations where students are really struggling to find or maybe don’t have a lot of personal connections, nonprofit organizations are starving for professional help in terms of consulting or in terms of crisis management. Students do a really wonderful job of finding their client organization, some of these projects are actually root projects and so, a member of the group will likely have a contact. But that’s how it’s done.

Can I add on that real quick? I just wanted to make it clear that being an online student does not limit your access and opportunities at USC. Our online students have access to many of the same on-campus resources. In fact, due to COVID, USC has had to virtualize far more resources than they’ve ever had to in the past, resources that had been made available for online master’s students for some time, are now greatly expanded because of course, our on-campus students are all taking advantage of those resources as well. Like library resources, if there’s a book that’s available in our book stacks that’s not available as an online resource, USC has always committed to sending that physical resource to our students in the mail, prepaid with return postage, so that you can get that book that you need to do your research.

Our foundational course in communication management theory as well as uses of communication research, teaches you how to build effective surveys and focus groups, so that when you do end up consulting for an organization as a student in this program, you are equipped with the tools that a professional consultant would employ, surveys and focus groups and other types of ways of collecting information from that organization so that you can do the assessments, and in some courses, not I think in 599 but in other courses, we do have some explicit client partnerships that are part of the course.

I’m thinking of maybe our big data course or audience analysis course, where there may be some actual partner organizations that are identified by the faculty that students work on throughout the semester. You’ll have lots of opportunities to work in quote unquote, real world examples, throughout your program.

Thank you, Neil. Thank you, Brad. Another question came in. I am finishing my undergraduate degree and was wondering if you recommend getting work experience before entering this online program? Or if it would be efficient to work full time and also join this program straight out of graduation?

Dr. Shipley, you’ve had students who are fresh out of undergrad, who are working full time, who are working part-time. What are your thoughts as far as the benefits and the ways that a fresh out of undergrad versus a professionally experienced students perform in the program.

There’s not a bad time to be involved with the program, we have students that are fresh out of undergrad and by being in this program, they’re able to connect with people who are more senior in their careers. It’s a wonderful resource for them. On the other hand, if you’re farther along in your career, oftentimes the content from classes is very useful to you, if you’re in management let’s say or higher levels of an organization. I think it really comes down to timing honestly. There’s no wrong answer here. But do it when you can. The only fear I have is, once you get too far along in your career, it’s really difficult to carve out more time. There is an advantage to continuing straight from undergrad but if you have the logic that, “Hey, I want to go out there and get some experience and then use the Comm Management program as a stepping stone to advancement in my career,” at that point. Well, that makes sense too.

Yeah. I’ll add that there are benefits to being in this program while employed because everything that you’re learning is a case study. You’re using your organization and your day to day work as an example of everything you’re learning and you’re taking what you’re learning and you’re applying it to situations every day. That’s what this program is designed, frankly, we want you and we tell our students, “You’re going to take what you’re learning in your very first few weeks of class, and you’re going to start seeing it popping up and you’re going to start applying it to your situations by the middle of the class, by week six. Trust us, you will find an example that you’ll connect something you’re learning in your organization.” Sure enough, we get all these emails from students saying, “You were absolutely right. I’m already applying what I’m learning on the job every day.”

There are certainly benefits of being employed and a student at the same time in a program like this that’s professionally applied. But of course, to Dr. Shipley’s point, you have to do it when you have time. That’s a certain major consideration.

Thank you, again. A question for you, Neil, since you’ve taken the program in-person and have experienced it online as well. I mean, how do you feel the online program compares?

Great question. I love answering this because both programs are excellent, but they’re unique. They have different features to that. Our on-campus program provides a certain flexibility to reach out to other programs and Schools at USC to take courses from. It’s not as prescriptive of a course plan on-campus because you have access to all these courses that are not online. You have access to those courses that are on-campus only. I took all of my courses within communication management. But there is a certain advantage to say being able to take, with approval from faculty, a course in the business school, for example. But what I will say is, if you’re really comparing the two programs and their courses, they are the same program, they’re the same degree. We have very similar areas of focus, strategic organizational, and marketing communication, and market research and analytics, are all areas of focus across both programs.

What you will find it’s different is that, the students who are drawn to the online program are far more seasoned professionals. The network that you build within the online program is most likely one of your peers, meaning folks who are working professionally, who want to advance their careers with this degree, who are applying kind of case context from their professional lives into their coursework, and you’re working and networking with them at the same time, and because of our insistence and integration of collaborative group work as part of every one of our courses, you’re going to meet them and work with them and collaborate with them and learn from them while building this professional and personal network.

In the on-campus program, because so many people are driving in or used to be at least before COVID, would be driving in, in the evenings to your class, you’re basically counting down hours until class’s over at 9:00 or 9:30, and you’re driving straight home, to go get a bite to eat and talking to kids, or get some rest. There’s less of that kind of social engagement. I think a lot people think that the networking is more robust on-campus, and maybe at the undergrad level it is and maybe in certain graduate programs, it may be forced. But generally, I find that our online students network far more broadly and deeply than our on-campus students, because they’re not on campus all the time. Or as you guys are online all the time, collaborating together on your group work and in your classes and the cohort model helps enable that.

I want you all to know that if you’re looking for networking, you’re going to find that probably much more lifelong and meaningful in the online program, if you’re considering the two courses.

Thank you, Neil. Another question we have here. Students are working full-time, so they want to know what the workload is like. How many hours per day or per week or perhaps that they’re spending in the classes?

It’s a great question. It varies, it varies by class, it varies by week. But in general, these are four unit classes. If you’re taking one four unit class, the expectation is that you’re spending approximately 12 hours a week on that four unit class. That’s what the four units would amount to, in both contact time as well as out of work time on a weekly basis on average. That would be homework and reading and of course, live sessions and any of the media that you consume or engage with as part of the class. If you’re taking two classes a term, most of our students are spending somewhere between 20 and 25 hours a week on those classes. Of course, it depends because some weeks you’ll have a lighter load.

Of course, during midterms and finals, you’d probably spending a lot more time working with your team and individually on projects, so it fluctuates. We help our students as best as possible to manage their time, so that they know when to expect the heavier loads and in some cases our courses are designed because they’re paired, to offset some of the heavy load, so not always scheduling midterms, the exact same day or same week for some courses. But I would say I would budget somewhere around 12 hours a week per course. We have students who go through this program every single semester for almost 10 years now, who are taking two courses a semester and finding it manageable with their workload.

They’re carving out time in the mornings, in the evenings, during lunch hour, weekends obviously. We’ve designed our courses so that they begin on Wednesdays and end on Tuesdays, on a weekly basis. Our week is not your traditional week. We have designed our classes so that the middle of the week when we expect you to get most of your work done, is actually now Saturday and Sunday. A week could begin on a Wednesday and your final assignment or whatever may be, it’s usually due on either Sunday night, it’s like a discussion board post or some sort of initial post, to do on a Sunday night and then on Tuesday night, is when a group or individual assignment may be due.

We’ve done that so that you always have a weekend prior to a major assignment, because we know you’re working professionals, and that’s when you’re going to get most of this work done. Hope that helps.

Thank you, Neil. Another question came in. I think it’s just really asking to this flexibility of the program. But how can you tailor the MCM program to a retired person with a wealth of professional experience? One who wants to work in a sole proprietorship as a communication consultant.

Great question for Brad.

Well, yeah, thank you for the question. Two ways. One is by taking the Strategic and Organizational focus, and within those courses, oftentimes you have some flexibility in terms of the projects that you’re working on and so, what you would want to do is, really try to customize those projects that you’re working on, toward the interest of consulting and that shouldn’t be too difficult. But the other way that you would really customize your program is to consider the practicum. This is the 597. I don’t want to sound too biased here. But I absolutely believe that students ought to take advantage of this opportunity. This is where you drive your own project and this is, after taking many courses, at the end, you could take one more course and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Or you can do a capstone project and typically that means that you will work one-on-one with a faculty member. You will work with peers, maybe a handful of other students who are doing their own projects and you’ll give one another feedback, of course, but it’s your project. Those projects can be extremely flexible. We’ve had students that do projects that are more like a master’s thesis where they’re gathering data, we’ve had students start their own businesses.

We’ve had students do consulting type projects and so let’s say I believe it’s Eric. Eric, I would love to work with you on really taking advantage of that time to think about how you want to build your business, and using that time to not only receive course credit, but to really walk away from the program ready to use that knowledge.

Thank you, Brad. Another question just came in. Is there job placement help for graduates? I guess just another question asking about the resources?

That’s a great question. The answer is, yes. Absolutely. Not just for graduates. The reality is that USC’s Career Center and Annenberg Career Development [inaudible] an office are working constantly with our students to prepare them for job opportunities or to help them advance their careers. That could be individual consultations about resumes, just working through kind of your thought process as you apply for an advanced position. Additionally, there are resources that are only available to students and alumni. Not just alumni, but students as well, where you can look at ongoing job opportunities that are specific to the fields of communication, public relations, journalism, public diplomacy etc, within Annenberg. Employers reach out to Annenberg and send us job postings, and you get to see those job postings before many others do.

They’re available to you from the moment you become a student. You don’t have to be an alumnus to get access to these resources. Again, these are tailored to our students, so that could be again, in communication, public relations, journalism, sports media, all sorts of, if you could consider the breadth of our alumni, they’re coming from all sorts of industries and fields, so they send us job postings. Our online, MCM alumni are really great at attracting potential students into positions. They will send us not resumes, open positions, asking for resumes, asking if we know of anyone who would be interested in these types of opportunities. But yes, absolutely. USC centrally will provide this type of structure and support. But Annenberg will also specifically cater to you throughout your tenure as a student, and of course, in the future as an alumnus.

Perfect. It looks like we’re almost out of time, so if we didn’t get to your specific question, we will be sure to reach out to you on our one-on-one situation, and we’ll be sure to answer any questions that you might have. At this time, I would really just like to thank Neil and Brad for sharing all this information on the program. It really does mean a lot to us. We’d like to thank everyone that is attending our webinar and hopefully, you have a better understanding of what the Master of Communication Management program does entail. We hope that it helps you with your decision process. At this time, Neil and Brad, do you have any final thoughts that you might want to share?

I want to encourage everyone to just take some time to jot down this information, the phone number and email and to get in contact with their admission advisor and ask any questions you may have. Someone asked if they could connect with us on LinkedIn, feel free. You can find us on LinkedIn and if you have some follow up information, we’d be happy to reach out to you and speak with you.

Likewise. Thanks, everyone for coming tonight. I hope that we can continue the conversation about communication in organizations. I would love for you to reach out on LinkedIn. I would just mentioned, someone asked about how available faculty are outside of class, very available. I don’t know how all faculty operate but I’ll give out my cell phone, okay. Because I know that students are working and they need questions answered and I may not be responding to emails as quickly as I would a text for example. We try to do as much as we can for our students. It’s a wonderful community to be a part of, and I certainly look forward to meeting you in-person or online.

Phil Solaria:                      [inaudible] everyone.

Thank you both so much. Again, just as a reminder, a copy of this recording and slide presentation will be available in the next following days. Again, thank you for joining us. We hope everyone has a great evening. Fight on