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Frank Ovaitt Talks to Students About the ‘So What’ Factor

April 4, 2011

It’s Communication Week at Radford University and students are encouraged if not required to attend at least one of the scheduled events throughout the week.

Students, mostly communication majors, packed into the McGuffey auditorium on Thursday to hear Mr. Frank Ovaitt, speak about the “So What” factor in Corporate Communications.

Director of the School of Communications, Dr. Hazelton introduced Frank Ovaitt as his friend and joked how they discussed theory and research in Miami over mojitos for a period of six or seven years. He praised Mr. Ovaitt for having a “long and distinguished career in public relations.”

Ovaitt began by engaging the audience in a series of questions such as how many students were in Public Relations or another concentration of Communications and of those how many were seniors and what jobs if any did they have lined up.

“The ‘So What’ factor has certainly been around for as long as I’ve been in Public Relations and today I would argue that it is higher than ever.”

Ovaitt listed four reasons as to why the stakes are so much higher.

First is the increase in channels for communicating. He emphasized that even though new forms of media are being introduced constantly the traditional forms will not be lost but instead “always be a part of the mix.”

An example he gave was Gutenberg’s moveable type which was the start of print media. Ovaitt pointed out that before Gutenberg’s there were an estimated 30,000 hand-written books in Europe. After Gutenberg’s invention the total number of printed books sixty years later had reached 20 million and by the 16th century were around two-hundred million.

Ovaitt made a very important point “The radio did not end print journalism, television did not end radio and the telephone did not end face-to-face communication,” which further proved his theory.

The second reason was justifying or measuring success of a company or business with inaccurate and unreliable equations such as AVE or add/value equivalency.

Third was described as not spending enough time focusing on the valued stakeholders and what they want the organization to do and say or who they will listen to.

He said “Many organizations put a lot of information out there for employees through the company internet, newsletters, emails, posters etc. but the question is who is it that these employees actually listen to when you put all of this out.” Its important to understand and figure out what the stakeholders want to hear, what’s important to them and who they will trust.

And finally the fourth reason as to why the ‘So What’ factor is higher than ever according to Ovaitt was that planning research is what drives value into the organization however its often overlooked and replaced with measurement. Ovaitt stated, “It’s all about show me the metrics except I’ve got to tell you that’s the wrong place to start; it’s the planning research that really shows us what it is were suppose to be measuring.”

Ovaitt really hit home with his speech when he told the audience to prove the value of what you do so that you’ll never be at a loss when asked the question “So What.”

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