“Swipe Right” – A Summary, Part 3

Welcome back! We hope that you have been studying up on the first two steps (Process and Tools) in order to become more attractive to employers. In this third and final step, Bob Layne shares with us how to apply these aspects to truly grab an employer’s attention.

“3. Application (the attractive-to-employers part)

And now to our final point – Application. This is where you take all of the research, all of the preparation, all of the tools you’ve developed and you put them in action. This is really where the “attractive to employers” comes together.

Think about it. When you are a candidate who has a professional skillset that includes:

a. The ability to understand challenging concepts

b. The ability to relate to all people

c. The ability to communicate a message in multiple formats through multiple channels,

d. And the ability to persuade,

How can you not be attractive to employers?

When an HR manager is interviewing candidates out of college, she sits down and asks a set of standard, routine questions. And with every candidate, she expects standard, routine responses. So when she asks a candidate, “So, we’re interviewing a lot of candidates for this position. What can you bring to Apex Corporation that sets you apart?” She expects to hear responses like:

Well . . . I’m very organized. I like people. I’m a people person. My friends all tell me that. And I’m a fast learner. I like to learn. Learning’s my favorite.

But when she asks you, as a professional communicator, “So what can you bring to Apex Corporation that sets you apart?” You will look her straight in the eye and say, “Ms. Jones, I consider myself a professional communicator. Someone who can write technical content, ad copy and employee communication all in the same day; someone who can communicate complex topics clearly to a broad range of audiences from employees to shareholders to customers and prospects; someone who can negotiate adroitly and persuade effectively. And I take this very seriously. So when Apex launches the Widget 5000 this spring, you are going to need someone who can help craft the messaging that the sales team can bring to the company’s clients. It’s a complex product, the message must be concise and persuasive. I can help you create that. I can also help you target the right media to get the attention you want with the industry. And when you roll out the new employee benefits program in the fall, you will need someone who can help write the technical documentation and help effectively explain in the employee meetings why healthcare costs are going up again. And Ms. Jones, if the union organizing efforts that I’ve been reading about are effective, you will need assistance with developing the most effective employee communication strategy. I can help lead that effort. These are just a few of the qualities I can bring to Apex that set me apart. And I’m also a people person.”

Can you see the difference? We need to stop simply taking classes, and start using them to improve ourselves in the areas of process, tools, and application.

Mr. Layne closes by saying telling us that we have OPTIONS!

“With a degree in communication and a commitment to becoming a professional you will be giving yourself options. Unlike many career choices, a professional communicator is necessary in every industry, every size company, every geographic location.”

Spotlight on Department Curriculum Changes


We have exciting new curriculum changes happening in the Department of Communication! This semester marks the first time that the Communication Studies Major allows COMM 489 Internship in Communication to substitute for COMM 494 Capstone in Communication. This change allows Communication students to gain more hands-on experience in preparation for their careers. Additionally, COMM 200 Communication Foundations is now allowed as a substitute for ENG 300 Writing in the Disciplines for general education requirements. But more exciting changes are coming in the future too! Dr. Jennifer Mize Smith, chair of the department’s curriculum committee explains that the department is in the process of creating COMM 410 Study Abroad in Communication, a class that allows students to gain upper level communication credit through a variety of study abroad experiences.

While these curriculum changes are great for the department, the process behind them is a bit more complicated than many of us realize. Dr. Holly Payne, Undergraduate Curriculum Committee member, explains that proposals must first be reviewed by the committee in order to determine if they are feasible. For instance, the committee answers questions like “Do we have the faculty to teach this course?” and “How would this impact graduation requirements?”
Once the committee has gathered enough data and determined a change would be realistic to implement, the entire Communication faculty votes on the change. If they approve, the proposal then must be approved by the Potter College Curriculum Committee and the University Curriculum Committee before it finally requires approval from the University Senate. Given this stringent set of requirements, it is understandable that curriculum changes typically take months if not years to make it from the initial idea stage to being implemented.

In addition to formal changes to the department’s curriculum, faculty members are also working diligently to improve assessment in their courses. Dr. Helen Sterk, Department Chair, explains that we as a department are working to align our program objectives with the National Communication Association’s learning outcomes. She explains, “We want to stay current as a department and we want to ensure we are teaching things that are fresh, new, and important.” To accomplish this, the department’s faculty are working to improve assessment of individual courses and the program as a whole.
Dr. Mize Smith explains that this assessment is both qualitative and quantitative, with professors meeting to discuss their courses informally and also employing written and verbal assessments across courses. This includes utilizing common assignments across course sections. She says, “We use this process to see where we fall short and determine where to beef up the curriculum—changing existing courses and possibly even creating new courses”.

We in the Department of Communication applaud the work of our faculty members for working hard to ensure that changes can begin benefiting students for years to come. As the Department moves forward, we continue to seek ways to improve our degree programs. If you have questions or ideas for curriculum changes, please contact Dr. Helen Sterk,
Department Chair, at


How Communication Makes You More Attractive: A Summary of Bob Layne’s Presentation Part 2

Bob Layne

In Mr. Bob Layne’s first segment of his speech, he informs us of the first step of PTA we must take to become professional communicators: Process. Research, preparation, and presentation skills are very important qualities that employers are looking for. Below is an excerpt from Mr. Layne’s presentation at WKU.

This brings us to the T of PTA and that’s “Tools.” We could certainly spend a lot of time here, but I’m going to suggest considering three broad categories of skills to make sure you have in your tool box when you leave Western.

The first is a solid “Fund of knowledge” – what does that mean? As a professional communicator, you are most valuable to your employer when you are an outstanding conversationalist. One way to become an outstanding conversationalist is to have a large fund of knowledge.

Remember all those colonnade classes you took—or the ones you have been putting off because you think they are a lame waste of your time? These are the “I’m a communication major—why in the world do I have to take this? Courses. Who cares about art appreciation? Who cares about meteorology? Who cares about New Media Literacy? After all, I’m a communication major!

Well, whether you realize or not, as a professional communicator, you care! At least you should. In fact, you should be busy gaining as much basic knowledge about as many topics as you can. When you can relate to someone on a topic they care about, you are

90% the way there to establishing a relationship; professionally, that matters!

Barclays/Top Gear/Corvette, for example . . .

I didn’t have to know all there is to know about corvettes. I didn’t have to know all there is to know about British television. But because my fund of knowledge included at least some information about these two topics, I was able to use that to create a relationship which helped Barclays feel better about working with a company that was based on another continent.

Bob Layne’s audience in the Recital Hall 

The next skill you need is a mastery of the Language. As a professional communicator, it is not okay to say, “I’m not good at grammar.” In addition to grammatical precision, you need to be intellectually curious about all aspects of the English language. From the correct pronunciation of words to the origins and meanings of colloquialisms. I cannot stress this enough.

The final skill category I will mention tonight is Effective writing. I can tell you that this is among the most important skills to master and probably the most underestimated in terms of its important. When I was at Western I took quite a few writing courses, both in the Comm curriculum as well as through the English and Psychology departments. When I left Western, I thought I was a good writer. Until I got to law school a couple of years later. It was then that I realized how much more I needed to improve and wished I had taken more writing courses at Western and wished I had put more time into the courses I did take. I was fortunate that I had some great professors in law school who helped me continue to build my writing skills. That helped me land the Editor-in-Chief role of my law school’s International Law Review and helped me develop a professional writing career which has resulted in my ghostwriting 12 books and hundreds of other projects. And I can tell you, I am still improving my writing every day.

Please, take this seriously. Take advantage of the writing opportunities that you have here at Western and ask your professors for any help they are willing to give you to become a better writer.

We have discussed the “Process” and now the “Tools” needed to be an effective communicator. Stay tuned to learn the “A” of Mr. Layne’s “PTA” steps for becoming attractive to employers!


“Swipe Right!” – A Summary

We were honored to have Bob Layne come to WKU to share “How a Degree in Communication Makes You More Attractive…To Employers!” Bob Layne serves as President & CEO of The Visibility Company, a global marketing, communications and technology development company headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee. Among The Visibility Company’s proprietary products is an industry-leading health and wellness technology platform marketed under the brand name Propel®. Clients of The Visibility Company include Allstate, Cummins, Edmunds.com, Frito Lay, Imerys, Lipscomb University, Loyola Marymount University, Pepsi, Pfizer, Pitney Bowes, Tesla, Pinnacle Bank, Vanderbilt University, Western Union and many others.

Prior to working with The Visibility Company, Bob served for more than 10 years as an officer of Dollar General Corporation managing such functions as law, corporate communications, marketing, advertising, merchandise planning, public relations, human resources, training and development, risk management, and strategic planning.

Mr. Layne began his discussion by confessing that he does not have a Tinder profile, however, he understands that we want employers to “swipe right.”

“First things first. I want to be clear right up front that the reason a communication degree makes you attractive to employers, is because of what it represents. It represents that you are a professional communicator. It represents that you operate on a completely different level as it relates to a very valuable set of skills. A set of skills that every single organization requires—for profit or not-for-profit, domestic or global, small or large. When you are a professional communicator, you have a wealth of career options.”

He describes a process that college students can follow in order to be attractive to employers. It is divided into three categories: Process, Tools and Application – PTA.

First: Process

“A professional communicator understands that effective communication is not random.

a. Research – You should not only learn the value of research, you should become passionate about it. The better researcher you are, the better communicator you will be. When you get a research project in one of your classes, you should be thrilled, because it is one more opportunity to learn how to do it well. (Research gives you confidence in your messaging) – This is why you take courses like Comm 300.

I spend a significant portion of every week researching. Even to this day, I research everything. From behavior science strategies to the corporate culture of a prospect before a sales meeting.

And I use every resource I have at my disposal, from peer-reviewed journals to social media, to personal interviews. Get used it and get really good at it.

b. Preparation – In addition to research, Process demands you learn how to prepare. I’ll say it again, good communication is not random. It happens because you prepare.

Whether you are preparing for a contract negotiation, a training meeting or a sales pitch, the professional prepares, understands the audience, the motivators, the goal outcome, etc. and doesn’t leave the opportunity to chance.

c. Presentation – After you research and prepare, it’s time for the presentation. And since this is what most people think of when they think of a communication major, you better be the best at.

This is why you take courses like voice & diction, speech courses like fundamentals, business and professional and persuasion. Take every opportunity to hone your presentation skills.”

In the following posts, we will discuss the subsequent steps that make us attractive to employers. Until then: research, prepare, and present!


Something to JUMP About

The Department of Communication is pleased to announce the first graduate of the Joint Undergraduate and Graduate Program (JUMP).  Michaela Ash is finishing up her program and will graduate this summer.  The JUMP program allows students to finish their bachelor’s and master’s degrees simultaneously.

Michaela Ash

Michaela will complete a Master of Arts in Organizational Communication and Bachelor’s degrees in Communication Studies and Agriculture in August, 2016. As an undergraduate she was involved with Lambda Pi Eta, the Communication Honors Society and Block and Bridle though the Agriculture Department. Her interest in Communication was first piqued in Ms. Stacy Gish’s COMM 145, the introductory communication course required for all students.  Ms. Gish encouraged her to join the communication field because of the talent she displayed in the class.  She joined the JUMP program to set herself apart from others in the workforce, and she appreciated the opportunity to finish both of her degrees within five years.  After graduation, Michaela plans to work in public relations and marketing.


Dr. Angela Jerome

Dr. Angela Jerome, Associate Professor and the Graduate Program Coordinator has worked closely with Michaela co-authoring papers and recently presented at the International Conference for Crisis and Risk Communication in Orlando, Florida.  According to Dr. Jerome, “Michaela is a prime example of the quality students we have in our undergraduate and graduate programs.”  Michaela’s advice for students is simply, “Don’t second guess yourself.”

Students who are interested in the JUMP program should contact Dr. Jerome or Mr. Crawley.  We are pleased to have new students joining the program each semester!


Success Connection


With final exams right around the corner, it’s that time of year when students begin experiencing feelings of existential dread.   Luckily, students in any Communication course can come to the Department of Communication Success Center where tutors are standing by to assist.  This helpful place is in Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center in room 138. For those of you who find FAC hard to navigate, the Success Center is across the hall from the Department of Communication main office.  The Success Center offers tutoring for students in need of editing, revising, GoReact, and APA formatting help. The Center contains multiple computers for student use and is the only open computer lab in Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center.

Gavin Kirkwood, a graduate assistant, leads the tutors in the center.  They offer assistance with the basic communication course, but also in helping students with papers, projects, and presentations from any undergraduate or graduate-level course.  The tutors take their time in giving targeted feedback to help students succeed.  The center’s hours are as follows: Monday-Wednesday 10:30a.m. – 4:30p.m., Thursday 11a.m. – 4:30p.m., and Friday 9a.m. – 12:00p.m.  The Communication Success Center is just another valuable resource the Department of Communication offers students for getting ahead.


Above and Beyond: School Crisis Communication


Wednesday, March 16, 2016 Dr. Blair Thompson spoke at Gary Ransdell Hall on “Exploring Communication, Pedagogical Relationships, and Crisis at the P-12 Level.” This lecture was a part of the ‘Above and Beyond’ speaker series, hosted by the Communication Department here at Western Kentucky University.

Dr. Thompson presented his on-going research on analyzing school crisis communication, studying student and parental academic support, and examining how computer-mediated communication is transforming various pedagogical relationships (i.e. student-teacher, parent-teacher, and parent-child).

During his lecture, Dr. Thompson focused his attention on the main areas of struggle for schools, before and after a crisis, such as a school shooting or bomb threat. According to Dr. Thompson, “Most schools are not prepared to talk to national reporters and struggle to manage the information that is being released to reporters.” Another issue that schools must deal with after crisis is the inaccurate information being reported by the media. “This can be very confusing and harmful to schools when trying to control a story and release only what is necessary in these highly tense scenarios.”

Dr. Blair Thompson

Social media can contribute to unwanted publicity regarding crisis management. Dr. Thompson described a scenario where a student sent out a picture of a young boy’s body before his parents were even aware of the situation. With the advances today in social media, it is likely that the public will receive information in a very raw form. Crisis management is put in place for schools so that students and faculty can be protected, information controlled, and situations such as school shootings can be effectively handled.

Dr. Thompson is passionate about this field of study and provided important research for schools in the journal, Computers and Human Behavior. His most recent publication on school crisis communication and social media which he published with colleagues from WKU and Clemson University is accessible at the following link: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S074756321500480X