Developing the next generation of corporate communicators at Marquette University

By Sarah Feldner

When considering the corporate communication function of an organization, discussion often starts with questions of corporate reputation, employee engagement, shareholder relations, issues management and key issues of the day.

As communication professionals, we know that we add value to corporate enterprise, and we work to ensure that the C-suite understands the value of this enterprise. But what if we reframe our questions and shift our focus? What happens when we start not with how communication strategy leads to business outcomes, but rather start with desired business outcomes and then work back to communication strategy?

These were the questions posed by Cree CEO Chuck Swoboda at the annual Corporate Communication Summit at Marquette University.

Swoboda offered a CEO’s view of communication function. Hearing what a CEO thinks about communication provided a view of the work that often does not get addressed. Communication conferences often tap the best minds in chief communication officer roles and provide invaluable insights into the profession. Yet this approach can be akin to us talking to ourselves. Bringing in the CEO view allows us to hold a different kind of mirror up to our work.

What we learned from Swoboda is not that our work is off track, but rather he underscored the need to think in terms of business strategy – framing communication as a business strategy itself. This view fits with the Arthur W. Page Society’s latest report on the CCO role. In this, the CCO works directly with the C-suite and acts as a business leader.

A renewed and strengthened focus on business outcomes as the driver of communication necessitates a different kind of professional. A solid foundation in communication skills, concepts and perspectives continues to be essential but not sufficient. Professional communicators need to hone their understanding of business fundamentals to get ahead.

We are actively engaging in these conversations at Marquette and thinking about the next generation of corporate communicators. The intersection of communication and business outcomes is where we situate our newest graduate degree program, the master’s degree in Corporate Communication.

Just as business outcomes need to drive communication strategy, our program combines the expertise of two of our colleges, the Graduate School of Management and the Diederich College of Communication, into a single program. To learn more, visit