Volume 6 (2009) Special MCM Issue on Strategic Communications Management

As co-editors of this special issue of the McMaster Journal of Communication, we are pleased to present papers authored by seven students in the initial two classes of Canada's first Master of Communications Management program.

We are all public relations practitioners and, in our professional roles, we provide strategic communication leadership to a variety of organizations and companies. But, while we have experienced success in our careers, we came to the MCM program seeking an opportunity to broaden our knowledge from a business perspective, while exploring some of the biggest challenges facing the public relations profession today. We were attracted by the program's novel curriculum as well as its academic pedigree - a unique partnership between the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

We believe that the articles in this issue of the MJC showcase some of the most interesting outcomes of this scholarly adventure.

Brittany Cadence provides a case study that delves into how an American tragedy has impacted communication practices in Canada. She analyzed the response by a university in Ontario to the Virginia Tech massacre, and discovered that lessons learned south of the border are indeed changing crisis preparedness practices here at home. Among those lessons was the recognition that a crucial factor in readiness to respond to a crisis is leadership mindset.

In her exploration of corporate citizenship, Heather Ferguson tests how an environmental scan tool she designed can help organizations decide how to fulfill civic responsibilities while staying competitive. Although she notes there are clear gaps between theory and practice, her analysis points to the value of using the scan as it helps corporate leaders expand their concept of success.

Colleen Killingsworth examines the attitudes held by municipal government leaders about the role and function of communicators. In her study of government leaders in a large western Canadian city, she found that communicators are not included in the dominant coalition. She also determined that, unless the leaders have past, personal experience with effective communicators, they are unlikely to perceive the function as strategic or valuable.

Kim T. Morris offers a unique perspective on crisis communications in remote and rural communities. Using a decentralized health organization in north eastern Ontario as her case study, she asked a wide range of staff members to identify key communication strategies. Among other conclusions, her results confirmed that conventional strategies are not considered adequate, and that creativity and innovation must be high priorities.

Heather Pullen's article provides an updated look at the long-standing turf war between public relations and marketing. Her case study focused on analyzing the relationship between the public relations department of a large Ontario hospital and the foundation that fundraises for the hospital. What she found was that while tension is felt and disagreements occur, leaders on both sides agree that compromise and cooperation are vital to the organization's success.

In his article, Donald L. Smith uses established mass communication theories to interpret a current communication challenge - how to change the behaviour of taxpayers who overload the government's on-line filing system by waiting until the last minute to submit their returns. He proposes a new theory, the theory of unrealistic expectations, to explain that when people cannot see the lineup in front of them, they don't think it's relevant to them.

Natalia Villegas has contributed an article that looks at the relationship between a company's reputation, internal communication within the company, and employee perceptions about the company. She interviewed four business managers and the leader of a nonprofit agency in a south central Ontario community. They all described internal communications as a relatively narrow service function, however they also agreed that good internal communication translates into improved reputation and financial performance.

The theme threading its way through all these articles is the spirit of inquiry that characterizes the Master of Communications Management program. As the first academic offering of its kind in Canada, its students are challenged to ask questions that have never been asked in a Canadian context before, and to test theories that are helping to shape a field of study that, in this country at least, is still in its infancy.

It has been exciting to be pathfinders in this program and we would like to extend our gratitude to the MCM faculty. In particular, our thanks go to Dr. Terry Flynn, director of the MCM program, for inspiring us to grow as public relations practitioners and as academics.

We also feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with Dr. Alex Sévigny on the development and editing of this issue of the McMaster Journal of Communication. His vision and encouragement were essential and have been appreciated tremendously.

As the Art Editor, Parker David Martin has created an outstanding cover design for this special issue, and we thank him for sharing his talents with us. Thanks also to Laura Strong who helped us with the copy editing for the print edition of this special issue of the McMaster Journal of Communication. And last, but certainly not least, we would like to extend our appreciation to McMaster University's Digital Strategies Librarian, Nick Ruest, for his guidance and patience as we worked on this project.

-Brittany Cadence & Heather Pullen, Co-Editors, MJC 2009



Editorial Team

Brittany Cadence
Heather Pullen

Faculty Co-Editors
Terence (Terry) Flynn
Alexandre Sévigny

Art Editor
Parker David Martin


Brittany Cadence - In her 14-year career as a professional communicator, Brittany Cadence has contributed to the success of organizations in a variety of fields, including the tourism sector, post- secondary education, and now health. She currently serves as Communications Officer for the Peterborough County-City Health Unit. In 2009 she placed second in the business school category of the A.W. Page Society Case Study Competition. Later that same year, she completed her masters degree in Communications Management from McMaster University and Syracuse University.

Heather Ferguson - Heather Ferguson has broad experience in public relations, journalism, fundraising and non-profit management, most recently as President, The Hearing Foundation of Canada. She holds degrees from the University of Toronto as well as Ryerson University, and recently completed a program offered in partnership by McMaster University and Syracuse University, a Master's degree in Communications Management. It was at McMaster where she focused her research in the area of corporate citizenship. Professionally, Heather holds the designation CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive) as well as the designation ABC, (Accredited Business Communicator.) An active volunteer, she is a director on the Board of The Empire Club of Canada, the country’s oldest speaking forum of record.

Terence (Terry) Flynn - Terry Flynn, Ph.D., APR, FCPRS is an assistant professor of communications management and the academic director of the Master of Communications Management degree program at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University. Dr. Flynn’s research interests include public relations management, crisis communications and reputation management. Prior to earning his Ph.D. in 2004, Terry spent 20 years providing crisis, risk and corporate communications counsel to some of North America’s largest organizations. In 2008 he was named a Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society and became the Society’s 55th president in 2009.

Colleen Killingsworth - Colleen Killingsworth, APR, ABC, FCPRS is the principal of CK Communications. With more than 20 years’ experience, Colleen has provided strategic public relations counsel to public, corporate, association and not-for-profit organizations. Her work encompasses change, multi-stakeholder, crisis and integrated-marketing communication, reputation and issues management, and community relations. In 2009, Colleen was named a Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society. She served a two-year term as CPRS National President (2005- 2007) and is the chair of the CPRS National Council on Public Relations Education and a member of the Commission on Public Relations Education. Her work has won local, national and international awards.

Parker David Martin - Parker Martin is currently working towards completing his Combined Honours Bachelors degree in Theatre & Film and Multimedia at McMaster. His recent accomplishments include the staging and production of Merit in McMaster's Robinson Memorial Theatre. Co-directed and Co-written with fellow student Justin Nusca, Merit showcased a rich performance environment where digital, animated projections were utilized alongside live actors in order to explore the creative process. The production won several awards within the McMaster Theatre & Film community and was featured at the CSMM FRESH 2010 Symposium for its rich multimedia. Parker will graduate in the Spring of 2011.

Kim T. Morris - Kim Morris is Director of Communications and Public Affairs at the North East Community Care Access Centre based in Sudbury, Ontario. Prior to that, she was the Manager of Administrative Services and Communications at the Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario for several years. Kim is an active member of the Rotary Club of Sudbury Sunrisers, and Past- President of the Sudbury Community Legal Clinic. She also sits on the City of Greater Sudbury French Language Services Advisory Committee and is a member in good standing of both the IABC and HCPRA.

Heather Pullen - Heather Pullen, APR, is Manager of Public Relations & Communications at Hamilton Health Sciences a group of six hospitals and a cancer centre, all located in Hamilton, Ontario. Heather has worked in health care public relations for more than 20 years and, prior to that, she was a producer, editor and reporter at CBC Radio (Ottawa and Toronto.) In 2009, while a student in the Master of Communication Management program at McMaster University, Heather was the Grand Prize Winner in the Arthur W. Page Society case study competition. She also placed second in the Public Relations Society of America's health academy paper competition.

Alexandre Sévigny - Alexandre Sévigny, Ph.D., is associate professor of communication studies, multimedia and French at McMaster University. He teaches communication theory in the Master of Communication Management program in the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University. In 2001, he joined McMaster to co-found the Communication Studies program, which today has among the largest undergraduate enrollments in the Faculty of Humanities. He has practiced as an occasional political communicator for provincial and federal politicians he believes in. He has published many book chapters, journal articles and conference proceedings applying the techniques of content analysis, pragmatics and cognitive science to the study of communication. He is co-author of a reference dictionary of Mi’kmaq and is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Professional Communication. In 2008, The Hamilton Spectator named him to their Top 40 Under 40 list.

Donald L. Smith - Don Smith is the Director of Operations in the Public Affairs Branch at the Canada Revenue Agency. After spending the first 10 years of his career as a broadcast journalist, he joined the Government of Canada as Press Secretary to a federal cabinet minister. He held a number of other positions, including Senior Analyst in the Communications and Consultations Branch of the Privy Council Office. Donald recently completed a Master’s degree in Communications Management at McMaster University. The current focus of his work is content analysis of media coverage, as well as the practical applications of social media in the context of Government of Canada communications.

Natalia Villegas - Natalia Villegas is a Communications Specialist in Employee Communications at Research In Motion, the creators of BlackBerry. She has more than 15 years of experience in international markets, including the United States, Canada and Colombia. She recently completed the Master of Communications Management Program, a joint program from McMaster University and Syracuse University. Her recent work has focused on employee communications and corporate social responsibility as an approach to international public relations. Her latest research in corporate social responsibility was accepted to be presented at the Reputation Institute’s 14th International Conference held in Brazil in May 2010.