As communicators – and communication educators – staying on top of the trends that are driving our field is imperative.  One those trends: The explosion of digital technologies.

As organizations increasingly use data in all aspects of the enterprise, in how they make decisions, and engage all stakeholders, communicators will have to become more comfortable working with and interpreting data.

What are we doing about it?


Edelman executives Jim O’Leary and  Dave Samson note in the Page Society blog:

It boils down to this:  For most corporate communicators, the world has already shifted to one in which our greatest challenges and opportunities await us online–the space where our key stakeholders are increasingly working, learning, discussing and forming opinions.

But many in our profession lack the digital fluency and data analytics capabilities to fully embrace and drive this necessary transformation (August 11, 2020, para. 5).


Creating a new CommTech lab course


That’s why we decided to create a new ‘lab’ course in Communications Technology. Combining practical exposure to cutting-edge technology with creative portfolio-building, the CommTech Lab offers students the opportunity to learn skills that today’s employers demand.

The CommTech Lab is the brainchild of our faculty member and curriculum consultant Christina Inge. As the founder of her own digital marketing firm, Thoughtlight, Inge constructed the course with employer needs in mind. As she observes: “In demand now are skills that allow brands to be at the forefront of personalization – using tech to provide customized experiences. Tools to provide that personalized service to millions of customers are mission critical.”


Collaborating and creating on a digital platform


As Education Partners of HubSpot Academy, we’re able to leverage HubSpot’s industry-leading software platform. Students can gain experience with the kind of digital collaboration and content creation tools that are becoming the norm in many organizations.

The CommTech Lab takes that experience to a new level in two ways.

First, the course integrates certifications from HubSpot Academy, so students’ knowledge is validated independently.

And second, students can apply their learning immediately by creating content for our digital marketing and communication agency, Husky Communications. The result is a uniquely Northeastern learning model, one that pairs learning in-demand skills with real-world applications.


Preparing students to be on the right side of the “digital chasm”


We offered the CommTech Lab course for the first time this fall, and student response was enthusiastic. “This course has really changed my perspective on digital communication. I learned about automated tools that can not only help us collect information, simplify processes, and categorize interested customers,” says Jinyan Liu, a project management student.

Lizzy Zhang, a digital media management student, adds that the course is not just about software – it’s also about learning to use technology to lead, noting the course “has taught me a lot of marketing knowledge, and most importantly, it has given me a new way of thinking.” Andrei Antonescu summed up the experience: “This course only made me love digital communications more. It really made me have a newfound respect for it.”

O’Leary and Sampson conclude their blog post with this challenge: “It’s only a matter of time before a dramatic divide widens between traditional practitioners and those who are using CommTech to predict employee and activist behavior, reduce business risk, generate leads and drive stakeholders to action. Which side of the chasm do you plan to be on” (para. 12)?

As a graduate program in organizational communication, our goal is to prepare our students to be on the right side of that chasm!

Posted by Carl Zangerl and Christina Inge, Faculty


From the Reading List

The Page Society Blog: CommTech — The Path to a Modern Communications Function

The CCO as Pacesetter content on the Page Society site