Many CCPA majors are fortunate enough to enroll in Boulevard Consulting, one of the division’s most unique offerings. The course has been taught by Kim Commerato for several semesters and we are here to share a bit about the class from her perspective. Read more about Boulevard Consulting below with a special feature from Professor Commerato herself.
Notes from Professor Commerato
Boulevard Consulting is designed to mirror the workplace and industry. Each semester we partner with a start-up business from the DFW ecosystem and our very own SMU Incubator. Some student cohorts are faced with the challenge of learning business-to-business communication, while others work in more “millennial” areas such as online entertainment or gummy vitamins. This term, the team is working on educational technology. Today, our clients come to us so we must be doing something right!
My ultimate goal with Boulevard is to develop future strategic practitioners and business leaders, those worthy of the boardroom, and not mere communication taskmasters. To do this, the class is structured into four key components: Applied Research, in which I consistently guide students to ask the right questions, or become curious, and then go out and find the answers; Setting Objectives, where students learn to put clear communication “stakes” in the ground to inform planning and evaluation; and Programming, where students develop guiding strategies for their plans and then push forward with the creative and timed tactics. All of this is rooted in understanding that communication programs are designed to achieve business goals, for example, meet a revenue target or launch a product. All programming must march towards achieving specific goals and must spend the client’s budget wisely. I hope that all students recall my phrase: “We do not throw spaghetti at the wall and hope that it sticks.”
Learning is a Process
Within Boulevard Consulting, the learning truly occurs in the process, similar to a language immersion program. Little by little, the light starts to burn brighter and students realize what a strategy is versus a tactic and why it is so important to continuously gather research and data to inform planning. I consistently repeat that I don’t want to hear what you “think,” I want to hear what you “know.” To know something means we need to study it, dig a bit deeper, even if it’s “quick and dirty” research to glean some insight on the attitudes and behaviors of a target public, or the messaging and public perception the client’s top competitor.
The learning process also features a great deal of teamwork, and students present their work along key milestones. Whiteboarding is commonplace, and we hold a very fun brainstorm day where I teach students how to “blow tactics out of the water,” or truly build a simple event idea into an event, held at the Eiffel Tower, with a specific key message and promoted via TikTok, for example. We also hold a rehearsal day prior to the final client presentation, and during this day I truly work the teams and present feedback that extends from calling out a student who says “Uhm” or plays with a string of hair, to re-flowing a presentation deck or suggesting graphics. This day is extraordinarily valuable, and I have yet to see a team that did not “wow” a client during the final presentation. Our students are amazing and the final product can go head-to-head with any agency plan.
On top of all of this, our Boulevard Consulting students are now simultaneously completing a portfolio to demonstrate their competence in Applied Research and Information Literacy. As a department, we realized that most of this learning was already embedded into the course curriculum. With only a few additional assignments, students have a comprehensive portfolio that they can then reference on their resumes and bring to future job or graduate school interviews.
In sum, I love teaching this course and watching our students grow. I still remember when I was an account supervisor with Ketchum in Atlanta, and brought an account executive to a whiteboard session. He told me he had never participated in that level of thinking, he just did what he was told to do and never knew “why” he did certain things. And he thanked me for the experience. I want to ensure our students have the confidence and ability to always understand the “why” behind the flurry of activity present in day-to-day communication work.
Our CCPA fellows team would like to extend a special thanks to Professor Commerato for her wonderful insight. For students who have completed Boulevard Consulting in previous semesters, we would love to hear your voice as well. New majors, we hope this information gives you a glimpse of the exciting courses that the CCPA division has to offer and we look forward to following along your academic journey here. For more information, feel free to contact Professor Commerato at firstname.lastname@example.org.