About Donovan Jackson, MS: Mr. Jackson is a Senior Public Relations Account Executive at Kellen, a management and communication services corporation in Atlanta. Prior to this position, he worked as a Media Relations Manager for the American Retirement Association, and as a Public Affairs Specialist for Maxwell Air Force Base. He also worked as a Digital Content Specialist for 33 Universal Inc., and as a Staff Writer, Account Executive, and Social Media Producer for Troy University, his alma mater. Mr. Jackson earned his bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism from Troy University in 2012, and his Master of Science in Strategic Communication from the same institution in 2014.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please elaborate on your work as a Media Relations Manager at the American Retirement Association? You recently started a position as a Senior PR Account Executive–what does this position entail and how is it different from your work as a Media Relations Manager?
[Donovan Jackson] As a media relations manager for the American Retirement Association, it was my job to manage the entire media and public relations operations for the association. My day to day included tweeting and posting to Facebook and LinkedIn. Other responsibilities included media pitching, writing press releases, editing speeches, creating internal communication reports, creating social media content and engagements, and acting as the point of contact between media and the Association.
My new role at Kellen is completely different. Now, in a senior position, I am tasked with finding new business opportunities, as well as managing the day to day public relations activities of various multi-million dollar clients.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a Master’s in Communication and why did you ultimately choose Troy’s Master of Science in Strategic Communication program?
[Donovan Jackson] Honestly, I chose to pursue a masters because I wanted to enhance my earning potential. I chose Troy because I was already familiar with the faculty and I knew that the education would be extensive based upon the in-depth education provided by my bachelor degree. In reference to skills, I knew that Troy’s program would teach me the fundamentals and advanced techniques of communication. Some of these skills included persuasion, influence, the art of propaganda, crisis communication and various levels of marketing and advertising.
Troy’s program was the determining factor in landing me my position with the American Retirement Association. I was told by the hiring manager that they wanted a candidate with a masters degree, and mine was perfect in conjunction with my experience.
I decided to pursue an online program due to the fact that I was already working fulltime for Maxwell Air Force Base and would not be able to attend a traditional program.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Troy University’s program structured, and what concepts did the program emphasize? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Donovan Jackson] Troy’s program I believe was structured in a term setting. Each term, I was allowed to enroll in up to two courses. The courses ranged in difficulty depending upon what students’ chosen specialty in communications. My specialty is influence and manipulation. A common communication problem that I have encountered is trying to convince a group or journalist to take action on behalf of your company’s cause. For example, while working for the American Retirement Association, it was my job to come up with new ways to market the importance of planning for retirement to millennials. I had to refer back to a persuasion textbook that was used in one of my Strategic Communication courses for answers. After going over a few chapters, I then decided to use a combination of tactics to form a strategy to push the ARA’s agenda. Reminding millennials of what life would be like if saving for retirement was not done at an early age helped increase millennial involvement. During my time in Troy’s program, I learned how to proactively and aggressively approach a communication problem and assess it based upon several key factors, thus implementing the most strategic approach. I remember each course rigorously educating us on the benefits of strategic approaches.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please elaborate on your experiences in Troy’s online Master’s of Arts in Strategic Communication program? Were courses mostly synchronous or asynchronous and how accessible were instructors outside of the classroom? What academic and career support services were available for students of this online program?
[Donovan Jackson] Professors were available whenever I needed them. However, because I was already working in the field and had been for at least two years, I did not really need the assistance of the professors. I do remember them being extremely available. Courses were synchronous. Most teachers were available via email for the majority of each day. Of course, no one sent emails past 10:00pm. But there was never a time when I needed a professor and they were not there for me.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Troy’s Master of Arts in Strategic Communication have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Donovan Jackson] Honestly, Troy’s program covered all aspects of Strategic Communication except for social media, as social media was not used back in 2012-2013 in the ways it is used today. I’m sure the degree program has adopted some changes. Other than social media, Troy’s program prepared me for the communication field, especially in crisis communication. Some of the concrete skills I learned from the program or rather developed was the ability to pay attention. The program taught me that when a crisis is happening, before drafting an initial response to any form of media, it is best to go over the details as thoroughly as possible. If the information is not carefully reviewed, and a response to the media is drafted that is based on unclear or false information, it can make the crisis worse. Additionally, I feel as though the program gave me the skill of influence. Influence is an art that must be practiced. When trying to convince an entire population or demographic about the importance of a product or service, each word used in the pitch must have a level of influence behind it.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Troy’s MA in Strategic Communication program? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a Master’s in Communication program, whether it be at Troy or another university?
[Donovan Jackson] I would advise students preparing to enter Troy’s program to make time to read and truly understand the concepts. Communication can be tricky as not everyone’s brain processes information the same way. For example, if four people witness an accident from opposite sides of the street at the same time, each person will have a difference account of what happened. The different perspectives people may have on the same experience illustrate how one must use multiple strategies that take into account multiple viewpoints, when seeking to influence communication on massive levels and to connect with multiple audiences to achieve your desired task. For example, if a company has or wants to start a new campaign for a product and you are tasked with creating the campaign, you will need to learn about your desired demographic and take into consideration every variable that plays a part in your desired results. Troy will teach you how to carefully assess variables such as age, race, income, education, location, gender and even community, thus creating the most effective strategic approach. Lastly, you should only pursue this masters if communications truly means something to you. There is A LOT of reading involved and some of the topics can be extremely boring, especially the case studies, so if you do not have a passion for this, you will not make it.
Thank you, Mr. Jackson, for your insight into Troy University’s Online Master of Science in Strategic Communication program!