Q&A with Carl Zangerl

Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies has launched a new concentration in social media as a complement to its Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication. This new concentration recognizes the growing demand for communications professionals; savvy social media strategists who can integrate social media into communications and marketing, leveraging its power and potential to inform and persuade.

1. What is an academic concentration in social media?

Our master’s program is designed to help professionals deploy effective communication practices in support of organizational performance. As a consequence, we have to anticipate major trends and incorporate them in our curriculum. Today, we know that social media has changed communication forever, forcing organizations to adapt and evolve. This concentration will enable students to design and manage social media channels and online communities to achieve organizational objectives. It fills what is, to a large extent, an academic void.

2. Who do you think will pursue this concentration as part of a graduate degree?

As a veteran communication professional, I’m concerned about the lack of guidance and strategic perspective many of us have as we chase the latest shiny new digital technology.

Let’s put it this way: if you are responsible for a social media channel and want to know how it fits into the bigger communication picture, you need to reach out to internal or external stakeholders using digital technologies, and if you aspire to a leadership role in organizational communication, then you should consider this program!

3. Are there different academic “schools of thought” about how to use social media? What will students in Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies program be learning?

This concentration, like the overall master’s program, integrates theory and practice. Each course involves three elements: learning from course resources, experimenting with various tools and platforms, and reflecting on lessons learned from active engagement and experimentation. The pedagogical approach can be summed up as ‘learn, do, reflect.’ Most importantly, students will always keep in the mind the strategic framework, the big picture, and the role of digital media in supporting organizational performance.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

One of the courses explores the legal, policy, and ethical issues resulting from the increasing use of digital technologies. The emphasis is on managing organizational risks and learning best practices in the creation of social media policies and guidelines. This, we know, is an area of great concern to executives in both the nonprofit and private sectors.

In another course, the focus is on implementing and managing social media channels. Students will learn how to define metrics for measuring success, develop training for community managers and other stakeholders, and evaluate the performance of social media activities, along with the ongoing adjustments and listening that are necessary to sustain and increase goals.

4. Isn’t social media evolving too quickly to be captured in a graduate degree program?

The course topics, readings, and assignments reflect the dynamism of social media and will be updated continually. In some ways, this is a new frontier for organizational communication — the change will be constant, we recognize that. We’re all on a steep learning curve, and this specialization will help students move rapidly along that curve.

5. Are employers looking for staff with a social media credential?

I was just glancing at some of the job search sites, and it’s clear that the demand for professionals with the ability to design, manage, and assess social media channels and online communities is growing rapidly. Solid organizational communication skills, knowledge, and experience will continue to be requirements for many positions involving social media channels. We believe this master’s degree and concentration will be a differentiator.

Read more from Carl about preparing for a career in social media in Employers are liking – and hiring – social media workers.

Dr. Carl Zangerl is a full-time faculty member and teaches graduate-level courses in Corporate and Organizational Communications. Prior to joining the College, Zangerl was co-founder of ZHC Partners, a communications consultant firm and worked with individuals and teams to improve personal and organizational performance. For over 20 years, he worked with New England Financial and MetLife providing a wide range of support to managing partners, top producers, and sales managers. In 2007, the College recognized him with the Excellence in Teaching Award. Zangerl is also active in the Yankee Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, serving three terms as the Vice President of Professional Development on the chapter board. He holds a PhD in Modern German History from the University of Illinois, a master’s degree in Public Administration from New York University, an MA from the University of Michigan, and a BA from the University of Illinois.

Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) is committed to providing career-focused educational programs that are designed to accommodate the complex lives of motivated learners. Offered in a variety of innovative formats, CPS courses are taught by accomplished scholars and practitioners who have real-world experience. The result is an educational experience founded on proven scholarship, strengthened with practical application, and sustained by academic excellence.

Northeastern University is a global university with a tradition of partnership and engagement that creates an innovative, distinctive approach to education and research. Northeastern integrates classroom studies with experiential learning opportunities in 70 countries, and pursues use-inspired research with a focus on global challenges in health, security, and sustainability.