Can you imagine sharing work space with a team comprised largely of folks who could have been your classmates? At the marketing office responsible for generating and managing marketing, public relations and other content for Franciscan Missionaries of our Lady Health System (FMOLHS), this dynamic is a reality. FMOLHS runs five hospitals in Louisiana, including Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, and about a third of the FMOLHS marketing team are graduates of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. (#ManshipMade)
“All the communications focuses that Manship offers you can do here at FMOLHS. Advertising, public relations, social, digital, strategic communication, even political communication. It all supports what we do here,” said Stephanie Roussell, a 2013 Manship School master’s in mass communication graduate who manages brand for Our Lady of the Lake and its larger health system, the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System.
While public relations concentrations dominate the majority of the Manship School grads’ backgrounds, other concentrations like political communication and strategic communication play a role as well. Each major contributes uniquely to the success of the department. This close-knit relationship between the many aspects of communication essential to a robust communications department mirrors the dynamic present in the Manship School, where a holistic and strategic understanding of communication forms the foundation of excellence.
“I graduated in public relations, but my work experience is more in the digital marketing side of things. I like how this organization puts marketing and communications together,” said Hailey Johnson, a 2017 Manship School public relations graduate.
“Our organization locally has 7,000 team members, and across the state it has 14,000,” added Rachel Totaro, a 2011 Manship School political communication grad. “So we’re communicating with a lot of people in a lot of different markets. Being able to think of content from a strategic point of view is key.”
The diversity of concentrations and experience the Manship School alumni bring strengthens the office’s communication efforts.
“This office is a great representation of so many avenues you can go into,” said Grace Weber, a 2012 public relations graduate. “So yes, it’s healthcare, but I do both earned and internal media. We’ve got people who do social media. We’ve got people who do a lot of strategically based jobs.”
All five of the alumni credit their Manship School education with preparing them to effectively perform their communication roles.
“What other degree could you go and play on social media in class?” said Lexi Verret, a 2015 Manship School public relations graduate. “It was a fun learning environment. I think the Manship School did a really good job of making learning fun while I was there because they used a lot of modern tools in the classroom. As a business student for my master’s, we weren’t on social media during class to use it as a learning tool. So to me that’s a fun way to learn.”
Beyond the fun learning environment, this group of successful alumni all agree that the Manship School prepared them well for their careers by keeping abreast of current trends in mass communication and incorporating real-world experience into the classroom.
“The Manship school equipped me with the skills necessary to be a successful communicator,” said Ryan Cross, a 2014 Manship School public relations graduate who serves as communications director for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. “Whether through hands-on experience, professors committed to seeing you be successful or opportunities outside of the classroom to learn, Manship went above and beyond to empower my class to pursue our career dreams.”
“The Manship School does an awesome of keeping the curriculum current,” Johnson added. “It’s a lot of writing, but it’s also learning about digital media and social media and learning how to incorporate that in strategic campaigns.”
In her political communication concentration, Totaro recalls the weekly long form papers that prepared her for success in the professional world of non-negotiable deadlines.
“That cadence of regular deadlines was really helpful,” she said. “It taught me how to prioritize my time, how to outline a long paper, how to organize my thoughts. I still use that today.”
“The focus on a solid writing foundation has continued to serve me exceptionally well and I still refer back to lessons learned from professors’ own experiences,” Cross said.
They also emphasized the power of the Manship School reputation.
“Having been on the other side of hiring, Manship School grads’ resumes are always on a different level; I find that their writing and their communication is always much more professional,” Roussell said.
“And it’s not just in the hiring process,” Weber added. “When I worked for the state and I met people who knew I graduated from the Manship School, it was like the reputation was already there. It was almost like, ‘Okay, that person is stellar. They went to the Manship School.’”
“And we can rely on each other knowing that we have the background to step into something you’ve never done before if we’re short staffed, we know you have that skill,” added Roussell. “There is no worry that you can’t handle that because you have that preparation.”
The alumni suggested current students and alumni make the best of their Manship School education by getting as much experience as possible before graduation, even if they have to make their own opportunities. They also recommended learning to write comfortably in as many different ways as possible.
“Read a lot of different content and learn how to write blog style. Learn how to write press style. Learn how to write casual social media. I think in our job we take a lot of complicated information and we have to make it interesting or short or easy to digest, and so I think that’s a skill that you’re never going to be sorry you practiced,” Verret said.
“We write all over the spectrum,” Weber added. “We do a lot of long form stuff like press releases and shorter content like blogs and stories, but then you have campaigns and you have to come up with fun, quippy things.”
Beyond these practical tips, they also recommend students hone the softer skill attributes no less essential to professional success.
“Have a personal brand,” Roussell said. “Know who you are, know what your core values are, what your personal brand positioning statement is, your vision statement, and don’t be afraid to tell that in interviews or use it.”
“And be willing to jump in, even if you’re not 100% sure how to do something,” Totaro added.
Most importantly, they recommend that current students and recent graduates use the power of the Manship School’s close knit community.
“Find that other Manship grad!” Verret said. “I think that’s the best way to make that connection and find a job.”
*Quotes in this article have been edited for clarity.
Article by graduate student Mary Chiappetta