Recognizing cultural variations in social media & intercultural education

I was pleased to stand along with colleagues from 42 different cultures presenting their research at this year’s International Association for Intercultural Communication (IAICS) conference. It was my honor to present my research paper, Exploring Organizational Use of Social Media Marketing: A Global Perspective.  I appreciate the support from Dr. Carl Zangerl and the Northeastern University Alumni Relations Office  project. The data from my study was collected from 17 different cultures.

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What would you do if you weren’t afraid? — Lean In To Grow

Lean In To Grow — Event #10 and growing!

On September 17, 2017, Lean In To Grow was first introduced in the Communications Alumni Network Blog by Teeraporn Johsuntorn ’17. As TJ shared, we started this Lean In Circle from scratch. However, we all knew that it would be something beneficial to international female students. Over the past 17 months, we’ve sponsored ten events and directly inspired more than 200 students.

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Five steps to building a personal brand

How do you build a personal brand that distinguishes you from others?

You start by recognizing what a personal brand is not. It’s not a product. And it is not based on  how many followers you have on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn accounts.

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The importance of cultivating cultural awareness at work

Group of Diverse Business People Discussing About World Issues

Becoming culturally aware, however, requires understanding what “culture” means.

“’Culture’ is very dynamic and complex,” says Dr. Patty Goodman, cross-cultural communication faculty lead for Northeastern’s Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication program. “It has to come from the individual perspective and go all the way through to the macro perspective.”

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Making a Mark in 2017






January is often a time to develop resolutions for the New Year. Prior to thinking ahead, I like to reflect on the past. It can be fruitful to consider the communication trends at the societal level, which often influence the corporate strategies.  Based on evaluating my social networks, I noticed communication processes in 2016 were unique. Although I tried to avoid American political discussions, the communication strategies both formal and informal were fascinating.  When teaching abroad, I was a bit surprised how much of the world was turned into American politics. By the time Fall came around and the American political debates were in full swing, it was difficult to avoid some form of political commentary. Additionally, the communication strategies employed in the political campaigns incorporated intriguing communication techniques both on large scale and storytelling, which seemed to make connections across generations and cultures. I have no doubt research and editorials will be written analyzing the impact of mass media on our social networks, like Facebook and Twitter. In the following, I will highlight some communication anomalies from 2016 and propose a challenge for 2017.

First, let’s take into consideration that as communication professionals, we might evaluate content as having value or interest, then share it within our network. I too take part in this sharing of articles and videos. In 2016, it appeared the political divides forged unprecedented open forums in social media to voice political “propaganda.” Even with the vast amounts of information available, our interpretation of the content can be subjective based on our own reality.  Did you notice a greater number of informational silos being developed? I did within my social networks and truly struggled with the level of political communication and miscommunication.

From an ethical communication perspective, these pieces of political “propaganda” and persuasive techniques might influence others. What does it mean to accept diversity and be inclusive? I find there is value in trying to understand multiple perspectives, even when there might be fundamental differences. Can we listen without being personally obligated to agree? I found myself acknowledging other’s voices are important, but avoided engaging in personal views. My thoughts has been that it might be just as important to be aware and avoid getting caught up in a frenzy of negativity.  

In an effort to maintain a positive attitude, I took control over what I would view. I will admit that I was one of those, who unfriended relatives and longtime friends with passionate political views at either end of the spectrum. On the political front, I really tried to gather information from multiple perspectives prior to formulating my judgment. This is not an easy process and I was not always successful.

So, at what point do we unplug, make a stand, or take a pause? Do we have sufficient understanding of how this information era and open-forum social media environment are influencing our society? I posed these questions as points to ponder because I certainly do not have a definitive answer.

Hence, it is time to make our mark in 2017.  There is a common adage, Attitude is everything!  “Attitude is a powerful determinant of evaluative responses to the source and content of influence attempts (Pratkanis, A., Breckler, S., & Greenwald, A., 2014, p.438).”  One interpretation is that if you look for the positive, you will see the positive. As communications professionals we value understanding the full picture, how do we apply information from diverse perspectives?

I plan to focus on optimism in 2017. Not in a vacuum; but convinced that with a good attitude, seeking to understand, and being collaborative, great opportunities are ahead of us. How about you?


Pratkanis, A. R., Breckler, S. J., & Greenwald, A. G. (2014). Attitude structure and function. Psychology Press.

Posted by Patty Goodman, Ed.D., Faculty

Have you been to a professional conference lately?

Why were professional conferences developed? My guess is as a means of efficiently delivering professional development to a large group of people at once. It was a one-stop shop for confirming regulations, gathering new knowledge, gaining motivation, and meeting like-minded people. In our information-rich society, we can click a button to gather data, learn tidbits, and communicate with people across the globe. Has this surge of information and social media changed the image of conferences? Is attending conferences a thing of the past?

If I was asked last year, do you plan on attending a conference this year? I would likely have said, I don’t have time. However, I ended up attending five. Yes, five conferences within six months! I do not share this to boast, but am truly shocked myself. Why would I attend so many and was there value? I should provide a bit of explanation. One was associated to a presentation and another was a result of being part of the planning committee. This still leaves three, which does seem like a high number of conferences to attend. Yet, I will tell you that I would do it all again! Below are some visual takeaways.


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All of the conferences that I invested my time and resources were associated with different parts of my personal and career development. Although so much information is available at the touch of a button, I don’t make the time or space to focus on it. Do you?

In particular, I was enriched by attending a professional conference with engaging topics. I was stretched by participating in the planning of our college faculty development conference. Moreover, I was fulfilled from attending an empowerment conference and an alumni conference.

Personally, I found there is a difference in sharing a space with others, engaging in conversation, and being outside of my comfort zone. Honestly, I did not gain new knowledge, but I gathered many amazing stories and developed new connections.  Considering the importance of a strong network, I would say I have been able to develop a deeper network. This in turn offers opportunities to build deeper relationships with people having shared interests.

Below are some links to communication related conferences in order of career focus:

So I ask you, have you been to a professional conference lately? If you have found a good conference, please share the conference name in the comments.  If your answer is no, consider finding one that connects with your personal or career goals. You might be surprised how a conference colleague might become part of your inner-circle.

Posted by Patty Goodman, Ed.D., Faculty

Whats’s on your must-read org comm list?

I find that staying abreast of trends in a dynamic field like organizational communication seems, at times, hopeless. The first challenge is that there are so many moving parts!

Consider, for instance, digital media. It seems like every week a new digital medium emerges, taking the communication world by storm. I’m still coming to grips with Facebook and Twitter as organizational communication tools!

Add to this a plethora of information sources: online newsletters, blogs, consulting reports, white papers, vendors pushing their best and brightest ideas. In this kind of environment, how do you separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff?

Where to begin? I’ve found that registering for a few information sources that I can rely upon for substantive and timely content is the key.

At the top of my list is the online McKinsey Quarterly, published by McKinsey & Company, the global management consulting firm serving businesses, NGOs, and nonprofits.


The Quarterly combines insights from McKinsey with ideas from other world-leading experts and practitioners. Content is organized in broad categories such as industries, business functions, and global themes.

The target audience is also broad, including executives at major corporations, professionals representing a wide range of functional responsibilities — and, yes, graduate students! McKinsey’s research on the consumer decision journey, for instance, has fundamentally changed the way I — and many of my students — look at marketing communication.

As communicators, we face the challenge of keeping up not only with trends in the communication field, but also with what’s happening in the business and nonprofit world. Business models, for example, are changing rapidly with the advent of digital technologies, and that has implications for the way we communicate with both internal and external stakeholders.

All the Quarterly’s articles and multimedia content are available free of charge at the site and you can sign-up for email alerts.

What’s at the top of your organizational communication reading list!

Posted by Carl Zangerl, Ph.D., Faculty

The Vision ‘thing’ – Northeastern 2025

As John Kotter (2002) argues in The Heart of Change, visioning “involves trying to see possible futures. It inevitably has both a creative and emotional component” (p. 68). As communicators, one of our jobs is often to help craft visions, and, more often, to talk about them in a way that will inspire our audiences.

Northeastern’s president, Joseph Aoun, recently announced that the Board of Trustees had approved Northeastern 2025, the university’s vision for the next decade.

Take a look. Personally, I find this vision inspirational; it motivates me to think about how the vision translates into enhancements in our curriculum and how we can enrich the educational experience of our students.

Alumni also figure prominently in the Northeastern 2025 vision document, which states the following:

“As students graduate and continue to participate as alumni, they will plug into a multigenerational ecosystem of lifelong learning and career support—critical to personal and professional resilience.

Northeastern 2025 will integrate employer and alumni networks as sources of lifelong learning, teaching, mentoring, and innovation. Our campuses around the world will serve as amplifiers for integration—pathways to richly diverse networked relationships, including employer and alumni partnerships, affinity groups, and topical communities. Employers and alumni will also take on more formal and informal mentoring and learning assessment responsibilities.”

What could this all mean for you, our alumni?

Posted by Carl Zangerl, Ph.D., Faculty

Get out and vote! Need a ride?

In the last six months, we’ve been doing a lot to embed experiential learning opportunities into our master’s curriculum, from traditional co-ops to international field study courses to experiential capstones.

For me, experiential learning means, quite simply, learning in action. This happens when we apply a skill, a concept, an insight, a new way of looking at things in order to communicate more effectively. This is what we hope to motivate and enable our students (and our alumni!) to do.

An example. Nicole Wild Merle, a recent alumna who is based in Charlotte, applied what she learned in her social media and assessment courses in a co-op project, WomenVotes. You can read about this creative initiative here.

Some of our students and alumni in Charlotte: Martha Alexander, Corinne Guidi, Pamela Darcy-Demski, Kimberly Powers
Some of our students and alumni in Charlotte: Martha Alexander, Corinne Guidi, Pamela Darcy-Demski, Kimberly Powers

But this was just the first step. Along with many other volunteers and nonprofits, Nicole has harnessed digital media to help people get to the polls. As Brian Rashid writes in Forbes, “Carpool2Vote is the first ever volunteer based app that provides free rides to the polls for people all across America. Even the major ridesharing platforms are not offering such a service. Yes, they offer vouchers and gift certificates, but only one-way, and only to new users. Carpool2Vote, on the other hand, offers free rides to anyone who signs up. No credit redemptions. No stress about whether or not you are a first time user. Free for everyone.”

We’d like to hear your stories of ‘learning in action’ — share your stories by commenting or drop me a line at to tell your full story in your own blog post”.

Posted by Carl Zangerl, Ph.D., Faculty

Study highlights ‘mission critical’ role of communication

We know the value of benchmarking: It provides us with a frame of reference, whether we’re assessing the effectiveness of a communication tactics, or, on a much larger scale, the evolution of a profession. Hence, the interesting insights yielded by the Conference Board’s recent study, Corporate Communications Practices: 2016 Edition, based on a survey of 45 U.S. public companies.

Survey respondents identified the top three responsibilities for corporate communications officers as being oversight of the company’s reputation, providing advice directly to the CEO, and supporting employee relations and engagement.

While the full report is only available to Conference Board members, the press release states this: “Growth in corporate communications department budgets, team sizes, and leaders’ compensation, as well as the organizational choice of having senior communications officers report directly to the CEO, point to the fact that corporate communications is becoming increasingly critical to strategy execution and business growth.”

Check out the Conference Board press release.

Posted by Carl Zangerl, Ph.D., Faculty