Action learning – NYU students develop opening address

PR Conversations contributor, the Italian professional and scholar, Toni Muzi Falconi, has just presented his latest thinking and processes in an opening session of a two day workshop in Brazil (August 27/28), under the title:’Towards an effective infrastructure for global stakeholder relationships governance’ (click for the presentation and notes).

Toni involved six students in preparing his presentation – and in this post, we share their thoughts on the experience, along with their future expectations from public relations.

The students comprise Toni’s Global Relations and Intercultural Communication class taking the New York University Masters in Public Relations and Corporate Communication. The multicultural group (a Lebanese, two Americans, one Mexican, one French and one Chinese national) undertook project work to develop the final presentation.

The event – on the management of global communications (see full programme) – was organised by the Brazilian Association of Communication Directors, Aberje (, for its most senior members. The body is highly reputed in the global public relations community, is a member of the Global Alliance, and is active in promoting Brazil Days in Europe, the United States and South America at which its members present their stakeholder relationships policies and case histories to peers from other countries.

Elena, Evan and Muriel

Muriel Hakim

I am a big fan of impromptu projects, especially when you have the luxury of exchanging a class syllabus for interesting research. As our class divided tasks, we each took a portion of the presentation that interested us the most. My classmate Stephanie Bower and I chose to tackle the topic of ‘stakeholder dialogue and involvement’.

Stakeholder dialogue and involvement implies an ongoing exercise of listening and dissecting multilevel stakeholders before engaging with them. It is important for an organization to listen to those stakeholders and interpret their attitudes and opinions before implementing their specific communication objectives.

For us, the biggest challenge was to avoid repeating the same content as our colleagues who had selected topics like employee engagement and listening. We discussed the difference between active stakeholders, influencer and opinion leaders. We also dissected the GOREL process, which is used to help an organization identify stakeholders, listen to them, decide actions, implement the program and at the end, evaluate results. And finally, we discussed the importance of pre and post testing of each campaign.

Overall, this research project has pushed me to think outside of the box and challenge the ways I approach a research project. I am looking forward to incorporating my research as we develop the final presentation.

About Muriel: I am currently an Account Executive at MSLGROUP New York , where I work in the media relations practice. I am writing her capstone project on communicating with women in the Middle East in the health care sector.  CONTACT: Twitter – @murielhakim | LinkedIn – murielhakim

Elena Garcia Cano

Within the project, I discuss how employee engagement has a direct effect on a company´s productivity levels. The evidence from research shows a decline in the last few years, and explains a list of engagement drivers that companies should focus on in order to bring it back up. It also emphasizes in the need to focus engagement efforts beyond employees and towards diverse lateral segments, as mentioned in the Stockholm Accords.

While doing this work, I found a study by Gallup that shows an innovative and effective way to correlate engagement with each person´s level of productivity. It is translated into a simple formula: Per-person productivity = Talent x (Relationship +Right Expectation + Recognition/Reward).

About Elena: I am from Mexico City, where I studied Communications in one of the country’s top schools. Before going to NYU for the Master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communications, I worked for four years in Scotiabank Mexico’s Employee Relations area. After I get my degree, I hope to go back to Mexico and become a successful PR professional, specializing in Crisis Communications and Reputation Management.  CONTACT: Twitter – @elenagc83 | LinkedIn – elena-garcia-cano

Evan Xinchiao Jiang

One of the best things about working on this project is that each piece of work brings up new challenges and learning possibilities for me to deal with. I am glad because it gave me the opportunity to manage my knowledge and findings systematically. It was also essential to my development of research skills and thinking strategies.

As an inherent part of any communicative process, listening is extremely important for any organization. Although there are few professional methodologies and tools for an organization to create and evaluate its own listening policies, the organization need to adapt these tools based on different situations, which means it should have a true understanding of stakeholders.

About Evan: Before becoming a Masters student of the Public Relations and Corporate Communication grad program at New York University, I was was working for a Beijing based Investment Company specializing in the senior care and rehabilitation industry. After graduating from the program, I will return to China and help my company dominate the market.  CONTACT: Blog – | LinkedIn – evanjiang

Marie, Darrin and Stephanie

Marie Michelet

This experience was interesting as it related directly with the content of our class and allowed us to link theory to real professional practices.

I specifically, focused my interest on the two approaches to global communication: the symbolic and interpretive management approach and the behavioral and strategic governance approach. While both are still very valid, it was interesting to see the emergence of a hybrid approach, strategically more effective in different type of situations. It notably stresses out the importance of a contextual dialogue.

Context is one of the main components of an efficient communication plan and therefore should always be modeled along the sector it operates in while respecting the corporate culture. With the development of technology and globalization, there is growing expectation that communication has to be global but still adapted for each audiences.

About Marie: I am a French public relations graduate student at NYU. After graduating with a B.S in Corporate Communication and Event Management I oriented toward Marketing and Advertising. I am interested in working for a public relations agency with a focus on Tourism.  CONTACT: LinkedIn – marie-michelet

Darrin Bradley

As a group, we took on the task of surveying the landscape facing global relators and communicators at this critical juncture of the profession. Our goal was to understand some of the broader shifts taking place in the world, while simultaneously analyzing various specific elements. First, in collaboration with the professor, we agreed on the areas we considered to be ripe for exploration. Next, we each chose an area we were particularly interested in researching. My section analyzed some of the ways globalization and an interconnected global economy has, directly or indirectly, impacted our relationships with one another.

I was drawn to my section because of its “wide-angle” or “30,000 foot view” approach to the factors affecting how we engage with one another. As someone whose experiences are more grounded in cultural studies and the social sciences than public relations or communications, I am naturally inclined to take a step back and look toward societal forces, institutions, and systems for answers.

This project gave me an excellent opportunity to tap these tendencies and connect them to some of the specific themes and topics we have been discussing in the class; something I have not been able to do very often in my other classes. The project also allowed – actually required is more accurate – me to draw from a palette disciplines and sources to paint my section of the landscape facing communicators in the 21st century. I found this to be both challenging and stimulating, but perhaps most of all, representative of the kind of comprehensive approach I will need to employ after graduation in order to help further our understanding of the complexities that influence how we engage in the modern world.

About Darrin: For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the differences and similarities between different groups of people. Previously, I have explored using education, training, and arts programs as bridges to understanding between people from different parts of the world. After finishing my program at NYU, I would like to join an organization or endeavor which strives to help people develop better understanding of, and more productive relationships with, those who are in some way different from themselves.  CONTACT: Twitter – @Darrin_Bradley

Stephanie Bower

I analyzed the Gorel method of multicultural communications, previous case studies, and in-class discussion to present a few practical takeaways for consideration when listening to stakeholders throughout a communications process.

One issue I ran into is meshing the ideal world with practical work life. I found it challenging, in a good way, to “practice what I preach” when discussing listening to active stakeholders before you begin the objective-setting process. The public relations profession as a whole could be better counselors if we took the time to hear from stakeholders before we create goals to reach them in a more relevant way.

About Stephanie: I currently work at Emanate PR working on corporate, consumer tech, and non profit accounts. My upcoming capstone project focuses on the role of employees as ambassadors, and their affect on corporate reputation.  CONTACT: Twitter – @TxSteph| LinkedIn – stephanie-bower | Google+ – Stephanie Bower

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One Reply to “Action learning – NYU students develop opening address”

  1. Heather, I am grateful for this post and hope that others might pick up on this or other similar action learning exercises that lead to operational consequences.

    The presentation in Sao Paulo went very well.
    Here is a brief summary:

    18 cco’s present from both brazilian and other international companies in Brazil,.

    Three main discussion items:

    1. Time pressures do not allow us to think.
    My response: the only good thing that we can do for our own health (as well as for society’s health) is to convince leadership to champion a ‘take your time’ process that does not imply not responding, but does imply dealing your own deck of cards proactively ( the most recent Page Society CEO research just distributed indicates this proactivity as a significant step forward for our profession… moving from the buffering to the strategic governance approach. (here is the link

    2. The deceleration implies more regionalization rather than the return of the nation state.
    My response: yes, but national differences, labour issues and protectionism rising from nation states make this trend a shor term one. We should still think global and think local, as well as act local and global.
    Surely we should think.

    3. The role of CCO’s in developing a listening culture in the organization is strongly related to the option for the second approach (strategic governance).
    My response: the reflective role is not necessarily in contradiction with the interpretive behavioral one and is now within the reach of thoughtful CCO’s.

    Much interest in the gorel process and many kudos to the “They have seen the future” paper by Jean Valin and John Paluszek for the GA and Enel.

    The role of the students was essential, I am very proud of them and am sure that, also through the limelight given to them by this post, they will each have a splendid career.

    Thanks again to the PRC team. Love you as always.

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