How Earning a Graduate Degree in Communication Can Help Your Small Business


Gwyn Guenther, Student & Alumni

Like a lot of small business owners, I am good at what I do, but I struggle with the business side of things. I became a reporter right out of college (in 1995) with no journalism experience, just a father who owned a company and wanted to teach me how to be successful at covering politics. So he trained me to know everything about being a political reporter.  When I took over the company (in 2011) I had little training in being a small business owner. I started the Purdue online MS in Communications program in August 2015, and everything I’m learning is helping me be a better small business owner. So what have I learned and how am I applying it?

How do I Focus on Communication with Specific Groups?

  • Strategic Communications class, I learned how to focus on specific groups to communicate with. I did a paper which helped me to understand why small businesses fail after the third generation, and how family owned small businesses have special communication challenges. I learned how to make strategic growth plans for my company and how to effectively communicate those plans with my employees.

What are the Different Ways to Deal With Crises?

  • Crisis Communications class, I learned that there are many different ways to deal with a crisis, and many ways to prevent a crisis. I learned how to properly identify and understand a crisis, and how to address a crisis with my employees internally and how to address a crisis externally with the public.  Keeping my employees in the loop and informed during a crisis can prevent any crisis from getting worse.

What are the Various Social Media Channels and How Do I Use Them?

  • Social Media Communications class, I learned what the various types of social media platforms are, which ones serve what functions, how to evaluate my current social media campaigns and how to make them more effective. I completed a professional social media evaluation of a non-profit organization.  The practice of looking at what another organization is doing and telling them how to better focus their social media has prepared me to evaluate my social media campaigns. I learned that the Cost of Ignoring (COI) can be far greater than most people think.

    I am half done with my MS in Communications and I know there will be more that I learn that will help me not only be a better political reporter, but continue to make me a better small business owner.

    Oh, and the homework – you’ll read (about 100-200 pages a week) and you’ll write a weekly discussion posts (a few paragraphs) and papers (about 1 paper per 8-week class), but if you’re a small business owner like me, you’ll succeed because you already understand time management.

Learn More About Helping Small Businesses Through Communication

Gwyn Guenther is a student in Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.