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Check out a review of GSPM Strategic Public Relations Program Director Larry Parnell and GSPM Prof. Janis Teruggi Page's new book, Introduction to Strategic Public Relations:  Digital, Global, and Socially Responsible Communication.

In their often-cited article from the first edition of the International Journal of Strategic Communication journal, Hallahan, Holtzhausen, van Ruler, Verčič, and Sriramesh (2007) define strategic public relations as “the purposeful use of communication by an organization to fulfill its mission” (p. 3). Like Hallahan et al.’s, hundreds of scholarly articles as well as books and textbooks have been written on the subject, analyzing it from a variety of perspectives, including internationally. Page and Parnell’s book, SAGE Publications first foray into the topic, does manage to stand out from the crowd, by offering interesting, current information with a hands-on approach.

Page and Parnell, who both teach at George Washington University (GWU), carry with them years of professional experience in the field, and are still partners in PR consulting firms, bring their know-how and background to a book that is openly meant for an introduction public relations class. Backed by renowned scholars in the field, such as Donald K. Wright and Don W. Stacks, the book is loyal to its subtitle, as it devotes quite a few of its hundreds of pages to discussing how globalization and also technology, including social media, have changed public relations. More than anything, though, the book includes the overarching theme of the “social responsibility” public relations professionals have.

Read the full review here.

Recent GSPM Strategic Public Relations graduate Amber Garnett wrote about how to manage a career while attending graduate school. It's a useful lesson on how to juggle one's time, energy, and passion and how a graduate degree can help take PR professionals to the next level.

"When I began working at Stratacomm as an intern in August 2016, I also began my journey in pursuing my master’s degree from George Washington University. Now almost two years later, I am an assistant account executive and completing my master’s in strategic public relations. Communications is not a field that necessarily requires an advanced degree, but I found more than a few ways furthering my education is beneficial to my day-to-day work."

Read the full article on the Stratacomm blog.

Dixon McReynolds III

Dixon McReynolds III did more than choose a life of service; he was born into it. His father was a member of the Army and his grandmother was a minister who Dixon said, “Always preached to me to do something for others. I should always be able to extend myself to others and be of service.”

His first mission was to take care of his brother, who was born with spina bifida. “He wasn’t supposed to live past age two but he ended up living to the age of 21,” Dixon said. “It got really difficult for him to get around and it got to the point where he was bed ridden. It was my job to get up at night and help him get settled. That started me on my path to caregiving and public service.”

From there, Dixon joined the Air Force as a personal affairs supervisor focusing on casualty assistance. “I notified families of death. It was very intense, but I came to find out that it was a very important job. Not only did you notify the family that a loved one was gone but you also case managed them for a year. You could see them at their worst time… and help them start the healing process,” he said. After 21 years in the military, Dixon went in search of the next way to give back.

Returning to his home base in Seattle, Washington, Dixon began working with the local homeless population and became a program manager for the Washington State Department of Veteran’s Affairs, running five programs for homeless vets.

From there, he looked for ways to get more involved in politics. “I think I’ve always been politically aware. Coming to GW was a breath of fresh air for me because I got to meet a lot of people that felt like I did,” he said. “After orientation I came to the conclusion that I made the right decision.” During his time at GSPM, Dixon worked for Washington Sen. Patty Murray (D) and the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee. His résumé–and a GW connection–helped land him the job. “I went to the interview and the lady who interviewed me said ‘When can you start?’ and I said ‘That’s it?’ and she said ‘I gotta be honest with you and I’m also a GW grad. I saw your resume and it was impressive,” he recalled.

Later, that same contact suggested he apply for a Presidential Management Fellowship, which he did. After a grueling interview process, he was selected to serve as a fellow in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Now Dixon is pursuing a Ph.D. in Human Services and Social Work focusing on military families at Walden University and is hoping to impact the next generation of political leaders and public servants.

The Graduate School of Political Management is always looking for the latest and greatest tools, techniques, and strategies for success in the fields of politics, communications, and advocacy. One key source of information is our Board of Advisors, senior leaders in their fields that have taken the time to provide strategic guidance and insights to our school and its students.

We asked our Blue Co-Chair Robert Hoopes, President of VOX Global and General Manager of FleishmanHillard's DC office, and Red Co-Chair Leigh Ann Pusey, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications at Eli Lilly and Company.

They told us that the opportunity to work to improve political discourse, as well as engaging with the next generation of political leaders has been an inspiration to them.

Lt. Col. Steven Coffee
Lt. Col. Steven Coffee says his GSPM degree has helped him better engage with senior civilian and military leaders.

A prevailing thought in the officer corps of the United States Air Force is that one needs a master’s degree to get beyond a certain rank. Practically any master’s will do.

For Lt Col. Steven Coffee, the Legislative Affairs program at the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) met that requirement and so much more. “I wanted to get something that would be useful to me in the military and when I transition back to civilian life. A friend from undergrad and fellow GSPM alum 06’, Anthony Coley, told me about the program and it sounded like a perfect fit given my undergrad degree in political science,” Coffee said.

Initially he thought that his degree would help him to pursue a run for office or a career in government relations after leaving the military, but Coffee was soon using the skills he learned at GSPM while in the armed forces. “Immediately after graduating in 2008 I served as a Force Structure Analyst at the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and was immersed in understanding the balance of Congressional and budgetary oversight with military requirements; and later served as a legislative analyst for SOCOM in 2010. I still use the critical thinking skills that are taught there, especially the importance of looking at issues in a comprehensive and holistic manner,” he said. Coffee added that class work in political rhetoric helped him manage communications and engage with Hill staffers, senior civilian, and military leaders.

He had another chance to use his GSPM skills during a stretch as a Social Aide in the White Houses of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, coordinating the planning and execution of social events for the president and first lady. “I was able to observe the theory of politics taught in the classroom in reality,” said Coffee. “It was great to learn how to engage and work within the political process and contribute to the conversation.”

Lt Col. Coffee currently serves as a Joint Manpower Analyst (J1 Human Capital Division), Directorate of Manpower and Personnel at the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In that role, he serves as the chief human capital and requirements expert for the nine geographical four-star combatant commanders. “The personnel staff works to validate the requirements of combatant commanders. We’re the gatekeepers of validating manpower and personnel efficiency requirements and requests from four star generals through the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Coffee said.

Now nine years removed from the program, Coffee shared some advice for current and prospective students in the lead-up to Colonials Weekend, the university’s homecoming celebration. He was set to receive the GW IMPACT Award, which is given by the George Washington Black Alumni Association (GWBAA), and is “the highest form of recognition bestowed on distinguished Black alumni by the GWBAA Executive Committee,” to those who have cultivated a history of commitment to the university. “You need to let the program go through you. Don’t just go through the program. Get involved in the discussions,” he said. “Where else can you learn politics right across from the Capitol with people who work there and tell you the reality? This program is special. Immerse yourself in it.”

Current Student Taylor McCarty says GSPM is "the ultimate networking opportunity"

 

It’s not what you know it’s who you know. Your network is your net worth. These sayings are clichés for a reason, but like many clichés, they contain a grain of truth. How do you stand out in a crowded job market? How do you learn about job openings before anyone else?

The most effective way is to leverage your personal and professional networks. Your current and former coworkers, your friends, and the alumni of the schools you attended are the key to your job search. This is even more important when looking for career opportunities in competitive fields such as politics and advocacy.

We asked several of our alumni how they got into the world of politics, and why they look to GSPM for future hires. A key for Bret Caldwell, GSPM ’95 and Special Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, was a shared understanding. “What I’m looking for are people who can enter an organization and adapt quickly; have the skills to bring about organizational change if necessary; and the ability to become leaders within the organization,” said Caldwell.

While filling a recent vacancy, Caldwell interviewed another alum, Ash Latimer, GSPM ’15. “It was clear she was going to be a great add to the team and since we’ve both been through the program it’s very apparent we’re on the same wavelength on our approach to tackling complex issues,” he noted.

Latimer first found out about the opportunity from a mutual friend. “I got a text saying are you interested in working for the Teamster’s,” she said. “Within an hour he had connected me with Bret. We set up a meeting two days later, I met with assistant directors the next week, and I got the offer later that week.”

For Bill Meierling, GSPM ’08 and Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President, Public Affairs at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the school’s unique curriculum is an asset for any politico on a job hunt. “If you actually want to win the campaign, you go to GSPM,” he says. “Thinking about the types of classes offered you can really get a specialized education in various disciplines in politics. It’s the single best place to gain knowledge from practitioners.”

Meierling added that the longevity of the school is a key asset for anyone looking to work in Washington. “There are 5,000 alumni in the school, and about 2,000 in the DC area. There aren’t 2,000 corporate offices in DC so think about how many organizations where there is a GSPMer. Virtually every one.”

Taylor McCarty, a current student and Communications Strategist at DDC, echoed that sentiment. “I stay in touch with the students and several professors and it’s benefited me personally and professionally,” she said. “It’s a great way to find a mentor and make new friends. You never know who may lend a helping hand down the road.”

When looking for a job it’s essential to be proactive, rather than just responding to publicly listed opportunities.

Research has shown that nearly 85 percent of all jobs are filled by networking, rather than responding to job postings. One key reason is that personal recommendations from others come with an additional level of verification. After all, anyone can say they’re a great employee, but not everyone can have someone else tell a future employer that they’re a must-hire prospect.

So how can you get out of the “responses to posting” résumé pile and into the “personal recommendation” stack? One key tool is the informational interview. Using informational interviews to identify mentors, explore job sectors, and learn more about companies should be a key step in your job search.

The easiest way to identify potential informational interviewees is to use your existing personal network. Does someone you know work in a field you’d like to enter? Talk to them about it and share how your current skills and experience would put you in position to succeed. Does someone in your network have a connection to a place you’d like to work? Ask for an introduction via email or at an event.

Once you’ve landed an informational interview there are a few key rules to remember. First, be respectful of the other person’s time, and be sure to pay for the coffee, drinks, and food. Secondly, do your research on the person’s employer and job history, but don’t veer too far into the personal side. This is a professional development opportunity, so don’t ask about their kids or the cool vacation you saw on their Facebook page.

Your questions should center around that person’s career journey, and the things that are essential for success at their firm or in their industry. Ask how they got their foot in the door. Learn more about what skills you may need to brush up on before making a concentrated push into that industry.

These conversations will allow you to share your story and learn more about how others have found success. Your questions should attempt to discover how you can differentiate yourself from other applicants or facilitate future introductions.

A successful informational interview could lead to future introductions, or the opportunity to apply for a job before it becomes public knowledge, which puts you at a distinct advantage over the general applicant pool.

 

Deep dives into one’s personal life, hours on the road or the phone drumming up volunteer or financial support, and the understanding that most of the candidates that start a campaign finish it with a concession speech. Running for office is difficult both mentally and physically, so why do people do it and what should they know in advance?

At the Graduate School of Political Management, our students will be able to hear why, and everything that momentous decision entails in PMGT 6434, Running For Office, taught by former U.S. Rep. Dan Maffei, D-N.Y.

In addition to being a candidate, Maffei served as a communications strategist and spokesperson in the halls of Congress and on the campaign trail. Rounding out his resume was a stretch as a television news reporter and producer. His 360-degree view of the campaign process is part of the reason why our school is so thrilled to have him leading this course.

“’The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,’ proclaims Theodore Roosevelt. Having seen politics from so many viewpoints, I can communicate to the student how different it is to be the one with the name on the ballot. Political theory and well laid plans fly out the window as ideals are challenged and egos assaulted,” said Maffei.

Maffei’s course uses a series of in-class simulations to take students through key campaign milestones, such as an announcement of one’s candidacy, a stump speech, and a campaign contribution solicitation. Since the unexpected is to be expected in politics, Maffei’s class will also have to determine a communications strategy to debunk an inaccurate news story and hold a “damage control” press conference.

Maffei added, “Plans for governmental change and sophisticated policy ideas are irrelevant if their advocates can not win elections or – more likely given today’s toxic political atmosphere – refuse to ever run for office. Through personal accounts of and by politicians, readings on critical aspects of real world politics, and intense self-examination, group discussion and practice exercises, I will give students a sense of what it is like and what is needed to run, win, and hold political office.”

At the end of the course students should be able to understand the decision-making process behind a run, the components of a modern campaign, the purpose behind any effective candidate, and the key personality traits needed to succeed amid the intense pressures of a political campaign. Starting a run with that knowledge should give our prospective candidates and campaign managers a head start over the competition.

 

Whether you hear about a job from an online advertisement, job board, or a friend, your first introduction to an employer will be through your résumé.

So, what can you do to make sure your résumé moves to the top of the pile? We asked our Career Services Director Mag Gottlieb what separates a good résumé from a great résumé.

Master the Basics

The first threshold your résumé must overcome from almost every recruiter is the grammar test, says Gottlieb.

Spellcheck is your friend, but it’s not the end. Read through the document out loud to make sure that there aren’t any typos that the computer wouldn’t have recognized (e.g. typing “no” instead of “on” or “form” instead of “from”).

Secondly, your verb tenses should be consistent. If you’re no longer at a job, for example, your duties should be in the past tense. Any current duties should be in the present tense.

Lastly, look for the verbs that the job posting uses to describe the position and integrate them into your resume. Be sure to use action verbs and consult a thesaurus to ensure that you're not using the same ones over and over again.

It’s Never the Same Twice

A résumé isn’t a curriculum vitae (CV). It doesn’t, and shouldn’t, include every position or every job duty you’ve ever had.

Your résumé is like a television commercial, and you’re the product. It’s quick. It’s concise. It speaks directly to the consumer’s (in this case the human resource worker reading the document) needs and wants in the ideal employee. Most jobs will accept a two-page résumé, but certain employers, especially Congressional offices, prefer a one-page document.

It’s a good idea to have a CV that lists everything you’ve ever done at every job for reference. It can jog your memory to help you craft a targeted résumé for the positions to which you apply. Executive search firms or academic positions may request a CV, but most employers just want the highlights.

Address for Success

All your correspondence should use the name that others use to refer to you. So, if you’re Anthony Smith, but everyone calls you Tony Smith, that’s the name that should be at the top of your documents. If you go by your middle name, consider an email address that uses it.

Save jimmylovestopartaaaaay@gmail.com for personal emails and get something professional for your professional communication.

Lastly, don’t apply to jobs with your current work email or phone number. That signals that you lack discretion, which is a major red flag for any employer, especially those in politics.

Make It Social

Many recruiters scour LinkedIn for prospects. If you don’t already have an account, sign up and complete a profile. Make sure your profile uses the relevant buzzwords in your field, and join groups that are relevant to your current job or your career goals.

Once you’ve upgraded your resume, you’ll be one step closer to the profession you want. If you’re considering a career in politics, communications, or advocacy, the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management can help you develop the skills and the network you’ll need to succeed.

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