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Unfair Advantage

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November 2013 Articles:

Alumni Advantage is a newsletter for current students written by members of the National Professional Advisory Board and their colleagues. It provides insider advice, insight and inspiration so that, when our graduates enter the real world, they are ready to rock it.

Never Burn Bridges
Kay Jackson
Kay Jackson

Kay Jackson

You may have recently seen the story on social media or on the mainstream news about the young woman who made an “I quit my job” video for YouTube. She was a newly minted journalist major who scored an international job in Taiwan working for an internet news site service who quickly became disenchanted. She quit because (in her words) she felt she was selling out.

What does she do? She decided to get creative in how she told her employers she was quitting. She certainly hit the mother load of worldwide, viral buzz. But what's worse? What she said or how she did it? Or both?

As I prepared to write this, I did an Internet search: “I quit my job video.” You should try it. I couldn't believe the myriad of other disgruntled employees who actually lived out the fantasy of telling their boss to shove it.

Let me tell me tell you: As tempting as it might be to tell off a co-worker or boss, DON'T DO IT.

I'm sure you have heard the phrase “don't ever burn a bridge,” and believe me, that is some of the best advice I ever received in life. I can thank my mother for sharing these sage words. Of course, she also told me “if you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all” which oddly might have been the inspiration for me to go into Public Relations…well that's another column.

Once you enter the communications field, you will be amazed at what a small world it truly is. Word gets around fast about bad actors in our profession. Hey, what else would you expect from professional communicators?

Seriously, never burn a bridge because you never know when you'll meet that person in your future. That co-worker may very well become the executive you interview with for that dream job. Or that former boss may one day become a client.

Fortunately, I've been steadfast about living this advice, and it has paid off numerous times in my favor. On my very first job after graduation, I was PR director for a theater in Galveston. We had an ad agency in Houston and a great account executive named Elaine (another Tech grad). We enjoyed working together and stayed in touch for about year after I left that job. We lost touch when she changed her job, and I moved away.

Flash forward five years later: I'm with an ad/PR agency in Dallas with a Houston office. I was called by the head of our Houston office to come down and help him pitch the Conoco account. When I walked into the conference room, who do you think was sitting in the room with the other Conoco executives? Elaine! A blast from the past.

Now what if the two of us had become crossways with each other when we worked together. After all, I was the client and could have seized the advantage of having the upper hand. Now, those tables were about to be turned as she was a potential client, and I'm now seeking her business.

Fortunately, it was like old home week, much to the surprise of everyone in the room. And best of all, we got the account!

Other examples: I have worked for the same boss twice at different companies, and she is now one of my clients. I have hired former bosses and co-workers and the same was done for me. Do you see how this works down the career road?

So, when you land your first job, and if you grow disenchanted with it or grow crossways with a co-worker or your boss, just live out that fantasy in your head about hog-tying your boss. Don't blow up Twitter with your complaints or bomb the blogosphere. Rant and rave all you want in private. Better yet, go to the Internet and watch how other people quit their job with great fanfare…and so publicly. Go ahead, just get it out of your system, but do not be tempted.

As exhilarating as it could be, just remember that while you may get five minutes of fame, fleeting satisfaction, or admiration from co-workers, you only end up hurting yourself for you have just created a huge black mark that will follow you for the rest of your career.

Move on and be the better person. Be the professional. If you decide to quit, write a resignation letter and make an appointment with your boss to tell him or her that you resign.

Always take the high road. And it will always will pay off.

With more than 25 years of experience, Kay Jackson has a proven track record in using integrated and strategic communications to bring value to the bottom line for Fortune 500 companies, private companies and organizations. She is a seasoned leader with balance of corporate, agency and non-profit experience in marketing communications, media relations, financial and executive communications, corporate social responsibility and employee communications. As an independent public relations consultant, she serves clients in retail, healthcare, and service companies. At Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Kay spearheaded external corporate communications encompassing global crisis communications and business financial media relations. She also developed the communications strategy in support of the company's global sustainability efforts including major partnerships with NGOs including Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund. At RadioShack, she led internal and external communications and created the strategy and stakeholder outreach for corporate, brand and product public relations including successful new brand launches. She also led internal communications including efforts in support of change management and human resources. She has also worked for J. Walter Thompson on accounts including Conoco, DuPont, EDS and Johnson & Johnson. Kay earned a B.A. from Texas Tech University. She is on the advisory board for Texas Tech's College of Media & Communication and serves on non-profit boards.


3 Things I wish I had been told while in school
Jeff Balter
Jeff Balter

Jeff Balter

1. Focus on building a career not just finding a job.

A career is a set of accomplishments, talents and interests that will be applicable in different jobs. Odds are none of the current students will stay in the same job or company for more than 10 years meaning they will have to adapt to new options and circumstances. As a personal example, I've “reinvented” myself professionally three times in my career moving from newspapers to managing a large cable system to now deploying new IPTV and related advertising platforms. Each new employer saw accomplishments in my previous work that were needed in their business and sought me for solutions. Students in the College of Media & Communication are fortunate to be in a program that will provide a base knowledge level that will be applicable in a rapidly changing business environment.

2. Follow the strategy of the late Oilers coach Bum Phillips to “run where they ain't” to maximize your efforts.

My personal example is in my first staff meeting in a new marketing group for a former employer, three very assertive women each made a pitch about their creative expertise, what agency they preferred, their strategy, etc., and none were the same. Of course each suggested they should be the lead creative. Each wanted me to be on their side which created the political peril of creating enemies in my first week.

After some investigation I discovered none of them had any interest in media planning or dealing with the media buyers. I suggested to each in private lunch meetings that it would be a “win/win” to “relieve” them from the hassle of media planning and let me manage it so they could concentrate on creative development, which was their passion and interest. This allowed me to create an overall media strategy instead of the current piecemeal approach that led to personal recognition of taking a chaotic situation and turning it into a valuable business asset. The moral of this story is to seek out opportunities where your skills and interests can fill a business need to create a “win/win” for you and the company or client.

3. Ride the next big wave.

My suggestion on the next “big thing” in the general communications/media industry is “big data.” Every advertising conference I've attended in the past two years has focused on customer data and measurement. The hot issues are:

  • How do we measure content consumption on multiple devices?
  • What are best ways to define targets rather than current “spray and pray”?
  • What are demographic definitions once the archaic categories like Men 25-54 are finally retired?
  • How do we create definable metrics for content consumption?
  • What are platform requirements to allow for both mass and more targeted messaging?

There will be career opportunities for those who have a basic understanding of databases, an ability to connect marketing needs with data availability, a basic understanding of statistics, knowledge of marketing and advertising, and the vision to combine those into a more robust advertising ecosystem.


Jeff Balter is currently employed as associate director of U-verse Advanced Advertising Products at AT&T in Dallas. He was on the original U-verse core team that built the nation's first IPTV system from scratch. His current responsibilities include management of the nine sales forces who sell U-verse advertising inventory in 65 markets, which has grown to more than $200 million in annual revenue since its inception in 2011.

Before working at AT&T, Balter was senior marketing manager at Time Warner Cable in Houston where he managed the nation's largest single system upgrade with the highest digital buy-in rate.

Balter spent 13 years in the newspaper industry working at the San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and the Houston Chronicle in sales, sales management, and new business development roles.

Balter received his M.A. in mass communication from Texas Tech University. He graduated from Texas Lutheran University as a Scholars Program graduate specializing in communications and marketing.