Q: You are the current PRSSA advisor at Boston University and have been teaching there for some time. What is going on with the upcoming generation of professional communicators? What trends are you seeing? Are we seeing a more diverse student body that will soon enter the workforce?
A: I recently became a full-time Associate Professor of the Practice – Strategic Communication at BU’s College of Communication after two years of adjuncting. It started as a side gig and creative outlet to complement my corporate communications leadership role at Takeda Pharmaceuticals during the crazy time of COVID. When I was a BU student, my fellow PR student peers and myself were just trying to graduate and find a job…anywhere. It didn’t really matter where as long as they were paying.
A big contrast to this current generation is that they are seeking purpose along with the paycheck. While that is positive, I’d like to see them become more career savvy. Employers tell me that they want to see this in the new generations as well. I infuse professional development/career readiness in the classes that I teach – Media Strategies & Management and Corporate Communication. Everything from how to write a cover letter (and what they even are) to how to network properly – leading with one’s value to others, not what others can do for them.
Q: You have an extensive background in healthcare and biopharma, both on the agency side and within organizations. Most recently, you’ve launched your own consultancy. Can you share some insights from both perspectives, and tell us about your firm?
A: My diverse professional background enables me to relate to the challenges that leaders in all of these facets of communications have; I’ve been in their shoes. My personal motto is to add value, not space. And having this experience positions me well to deliver value to agencies, pharma companies and students alike.
COVID and the social-political movements of the last few years impacted all industries, particularly the communications field. More now than ever, companies are investing in areas of comms, such as employee engagement and change management, internal communications, executive visibility, narrative writing and amplifying DE&I efforts. All want to attract and retain top talent, but with the recession, companies are not keen to hire premium-priced agencies as they once were. I hear often from corporate communications leaders that they value contractors who can come into a company, operate nimbly and effectively and generate impact.
Monique Kelley Consulting, LLC optimizes client-agency relationships, providing (1) corporate communications leaders with a contractor who partners with their cross-functional teams and agencies; and (2) agencies with a client/former agency leader who gets their world. I will always be rooting for agency partners; agency was my world for 16 years! Being a strategic problem solver who knows how to execute will always be in my blood. I don’t like to jump into activities or initiatives without fully understanding how they connect to a company’s business objectives, even if that means the activities are less sexy and more impactful.
I am also passionate about networking through leading with one’s value. In fact, my first client assignment out the gate was
leading a virtual workshop for a telecommunications leadership organization on this topic.
Additionally, this fall, I was recruited by Ray Jordan, former J&J and Moderna Corporate Affairs leader, to become one of his independent senior consultants at Putnam Insights. It’s one of the most diverse agencies out there. In this industry, thought partnership is incredibly valuable to ensure the best ideas are out forth to clients. We are strong individually, but even better together.
Q: This past year in Boston, Communication Evolution has been PRSA’s 75th anniversary theme. Can you speak to the industry’s changing landscape from the university level through to corporate?
A: Part of what I love about communications is that it’s always evolving, but still a strategic business lever at the core. Within BU, we recently reviewed the title for a graduate-level course in media relations. Some of the professors wanted to include earned media in the title to differentiate it from advertising or digital marketing. However, we ended up agreeing that the title of the class should reflect the evolving nature of our business – that paid, earned, shared and owned media are all important. Earned isn’t necessarily better – it depends on a company’s goals and audiences. And comms is in a prime position to “own” it all. The blurred lines between marketing, advertising and comms that we’re continuing to experience needs to be fully reflected in how it’s taught at the university level.
In fact, BU is hosting for the 16th year the upcoming PRSSA Northeast District Conference on Saturday, February 25th. Speakers include those from the digital and social marketing world. There will always be a place for traditional PR, but integrated initiatives could offer more value. For this reason, I encourage my PR students at BU to become familiar with omnichannel engagement and make friends with those in marketing, even sales.
Q: What’s on your playlist or what are you binge watching.
A: I definitely have diverse taste in music. I think it stems from the fact that my grandfather was a sessions saxophonist for Duke Ellington. Music is in my blood. And all genres. I work with trap music from Bryson Tiller or PARTYNEXTDOOR on in the background. I run or weight lift to one of my all-time favorites, being from the Philly area in South Jersey, The Roots. And when I’m on a road trip, it’s always 1st Wave or Yacht Rock Radio on SiriusXM. My husband and I recently took a trip to Quebec City, Canada, and I discovered Christopher Cross’s “I Really Don’t Know Anymore.” Where was that song all of my life!