College of Charleston Boundless Profile

Profile from the College of Charleston Boundless Campaign

Executive In Residence: Tom Martin

Tom Martin is the first executive in residence for the Communication Department at the College of Charleston and has been serving in the position since 2007. He first became involved with CofC when he joined the Communication Department’s Advisory Council in 2004. Prior to coming to CofC, Tom had the career of a lifetime, and what he learned throughout his life he brings to the classroom each day.

Tom graduated from Vanderbilt with a B.A. in English in 1975, and his first job was as a busboy. However, on the side, he was writing scripts and magazine articles as a freelancer. He joined FedEx at the age of 25 in 1978, by 1981 he was writing speeches for FedEx founder Fred Smith, and by 1995, he was appointed Vice President and Chief Communications Officer at FedEx.   In 1996, he moved on to join ITT as Head of Corporate Relations and in 1999 he was elected as Senior VP of ITT and named to the Executive Council before retiring in 2007 when he began teaching.

It never occurred to Tom that he would be a teacher until he began guest lecturing at CofC and at that time he felt a call to come teach.  When teaching, Professor Martin keeps a few important goals in mind. One of his top priorities is to help students improve their writing, because he believes it is so essential in whatever one may do.  He is also focused on making students more “street smart,” having students understand the strategy behind many decisions they see and will make in the real world. He emphasizes the importance of credibility, being ethically defensible, and being appropriate in the work world.

Professor Martin tries to encourage students not only to focus on their career goals and achievements, but also to focus on the giving back aspect of their lives at all ages.

When it comes to CofC’s community, Tom loves how the college is interwoven into the Charleston community, both physically and intellectually.

Tom’s corporate experience fosters a unique and beneficial classroom environment and experience for students. He appreciates his students and loves teaching. What he has accomplished so far is monumental, yet he is very modest. He values hard work and equality, and he hopes to learn just as much from his students as they learn from him. His students leave the classroom with knowledge of strategic communications, the importance of strong writing skills, and most importantly, an understanding and confidence to enter the corporate world and how to go about doing so. He is boundless.


Author: Caroline Hubbell ’15



The Mentors: Article from “Charlie” Magazine

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Here’s to audacious goals!

John F. Kennedy first announced the goal of landing a man on the Moon in a speech to a Joint Session of Congress on May 25, 1961; his vision became a reality only eight years after his speech to Congress with the Apollo 11 mission of July, 1969. In explaining this audacious goal, Kennedy said:

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

On January 31, the Arthur Page Society Board of Trustees approved a proposal for a new membership organization designed to provide developmental and networking opportunities for high-potential leaders in Page-member organizations, the Chief Communications Officers and Agency CEOs of the future. Only four months later, the Board approved the first slate of 42 members for the new organization, christened “Page Up.”

Page Up now has close to 80 approved members with more in the pipeline. The first annual meeting of the group is scheduled for November. The leadership structure of the new organization is in place, with a 15-member operating committee, led by newly-elected Chair Sherry Scott, a Future Leaders Experience graduate and the chief operating officer of Gagen MacDonald. A dedicated Page Up website is in the process of launching, and additional networking, mentoring and developmental opportunities are being explored. It is an exciting time.

I will admit that it may be overreaching to compare Page Up with the Apollo mission. But when we begin to think about an organization that may one day grow larger than the Page Society itself, and that will serve a critical audience, I think the analogy rings true on many levels. Indeed, to paraphrase Kennedy, no organization, which aspires to be the thought leader of its profession, can overlook the need to include the next generation of leaders in its outreach.

In many ways Page Up is the culmination of a journey that began several years ago with the launch of the Future Leaders Experience. Now in its third generation, Future Leaders has a network of 50 alumni and a current class of 36 participants. Some of the Future Leaders graduates are now chief communications officers of major corporations and are Arthur W. Page Society members.

In addition to Future Leaders, the Page Society has also developed and launched a mentoring program and fielded several Learning Community events aimed at serving the needs and interests of the next generation of Page Society leaders.

This process has helped enrich the Page Society in a number of important ways. Our members have benefitted from being able to offer unique developmental opportunities to key members of their teams. While many Page organizations have internal developmental programs, they don’t provide the networking opportunities with colleagues from other companies, industries and sectors. This cross-company collaboration and communication has been one of the most appreciated facets of the Future Leaders Experience and Learning Community events, and the potential for this to continue with Page Up is enormous. These initiatives also provide additional avenues for reinforcing the timeless and lasting value of the Page Principles.

The benefit from these programs is two-way. The participants in these outreach efforts are already proven leaders in their organizations. They are younger than most Page Society members; they are closer in age and stage to those just entering the profession; they are immersed in the tumultuous changes that are reshaping our industry. We can learn a great deal from them. They have also made it clear that they are eager to give back in meaningful ways to the profession, and they view opportunities such as Page Up as another avenue for them to do so.

For those Page members who have not yet nominated Page Up prospects, it is not too late. Nominations will be considered on an ongoing basis and the form can be obtained by clicking here.

As we move toward the first gathering of this energetic, enthusiastic and committed group of leaders, it is gratifying to know that the future for the Page Society could not be brighter. Onward and upward!

Tom Martin
Chair, Arthur W. Page Society Professional Development Committee
Executive-in-Residence, College of Charleston


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Tom Martin speaks out on ethics in public relations


Vision Provides a Destination, but Values Provide the Compass

(This article first appeared on the Arthur Page Society “Page Turner” blog in March of 2012.)

The Arthur Page Society Future Leaders Experience gathered recently at the College of Charleston, the fourth of six sessions for the group. In the three-day meeting the group of rising communication stars considered: “Building a Strong Foundation: Values for Our Companies, Our Profession and Ourselves.”

Through a series of case studies, interaction with Page leaders and group discussion, the participants focused on the role values play in our lives as professionals, in our relationship with our companies and in carrying out our responsibilities as counselors and advocates.

Prior to the session, the participants spent time considering the values established and communicated by their organizations, as well as their personal roles in creating, shaping and sustaining these values. They also examined the professional values we maintain and how our day-to-day actions reflect these values.

In one very popular part of the session, participants were challenged by communication students at The College of Charleston to explain their own roles in developing, maintaining and communicating values. These students had researched the participants’ companies prior to the session and wanted to know more about how values figured into key business decisions. The comments by participants during and after the session reinforced the belief that values play an increasingly important role in the corporate communications practice, especially as we seek to restore trust in our organizations and the clients we serve.

When they considered what they had taken from the session the group noted that:

  • We each have a personal as well as a professional responsibility for values.
  • Values have to be developed and evaluated in a deliberate, purposeful way.
  • Values can play a pivotal role in creating an emotional bond with other stakeholders.
  • In many ways, values demonstrate the humanity of the corporation.

In reflecting on the experience, one participant noted “it was eye-opening to see the power of values in building emotion in an organization with many publics. This session was inspiring because values are often not considered as critical as other ‘business’ requirements, yet they are clearly a key issue. It was very valuable, inspiring and motivating to take this learning back to my company.”

Another said that the “session provided valuable and timely insights into the fundamental importance of values, the role of Communications in safeguarding a company’s values and serving as the corporate conscience, and the increasing dangers of straying from values in a world of transparency.”

Clearly the session provoked reactions that were not expected. As one person described it: “I went in thinking this would be a kind of a hokey cheerleading session…but I emerged feeling invigorated. I was inspired by the examples of how people and companies are living their values — this is clearly what it means to live an authentic life or run an authentic enterprise.”

Another summed it up this way, “I will apply what I learned at work and in my personal life. While my company has strong, well-understood values, it is now clear to me that we have not done enough to define what those values mean and how we live them at work and in our decision-making. My conversations with my team will change. On a personal level, I will create my own set of values and visit them periodically as some of the speakers suggested.”

Some may confuse a consideration of Values with “happy talk” but the session in Charleston was about much more than that. The group came away with a renewed appreciation of the connection between Values and Trust. They learned about organizations making very tough decisions by examining what they really believed in and acting in accordance with these beliefs. Many companies fail by focusing solely on shareholder returns at the expense of employees, customers, regulators and communities. The companies that deliver financial returns while also understanding the importance of employee satisfaction, customer loyalty and community impact tend to outperform the ones that only worry about Wall Street.

I have worked with lawyers, journalists and financial analysts my entire career and thoroughly appreciate their understandable skepticism about these concepts. That’s their job. But it doesn’t negate the fact that some companies have been very deliberate in turning well-crafted and well-managed values into sound decisions and financial success. For the Future Leaders, these concepts clearly resonated in Charleston.

By Tom Martin
Executive-in-Residence, Department of Communication
College of Charleston


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Professional Development Begins on Campus

(The following post first appeared on the Arthur Page Society “Page Turner” blog in November 2011).

One of the four standing committees of the Arthur Page Society focuses on Professional Development. This committee oversees numerous activities, including the Future Leaders Experience, the Learning Community and an expanding program focused on mentoring. These efforts recognize the critical role of staff development shared by our members in growing the next generation of professional leadership.

As part of this commitment to staff development, we should also recognize that the effort begins with the quality of the academic programs that prepare our employees for their careers before we ever meet and hire them. One group that has worked hard to enhance the effectiveness of academic programs in the communications profession is the Commission on Public Relations Education. I’m proud to serve on this Commission, which includes leading academics as well as practitioners in the field.

The Commission’s most recent effort focuses on the effectiveness of graduate education in the field. While the full research study won’t be released until next year, a preliminary report was presented at the recent PRSA international conference and it contained some sobering findings.

The number of graduate programs has soared in the last decade, from 26 in 2000 to 75 this year. Yet these programs vary widely in what they are called, what they require of students, and what they teach. As a result, employers are ambivalent about the real value these graduate degrees offer those who earn them.

The survey respondents pointed to four critical knowledge areas on which graduate programs should focus: strategic management, business, theoretical foundations and globalization. They point to ethics as the most highly rated topic area. They were hesitant to give a broad endorsement of the graduate programs in large part because of the lack of consistency in standards, curricula and expectations of students.

Elizabeth Toth, chair of the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland and a member of the Page Society, is leading the research effort. It includes a review of all 75 programs in the United States, along with a survey of over 400 practitioners and educators and in depth interviews with 21 senior communication employers, many of them Page Society members. As Toth expressed it, “We have a long way to go before an advanced degree in our field has clear meaning and value.”

I agree. But more than that, it’s critical that we continue to work with educators to enhance the effectiveness of these academic programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. As I said in my address at the Page Society annual meeting in September, we need to work together to improve the timeliness, relevance and effectiveness of our academic programs. We need to help university administrators understand that we aren’t just the cash cow that delivers lots of tuition paying fresh faces while not costing a lot to produce.

The growth in graduate programs has come about in large part from the genuine desire of educators to better serve the needs of the profession. We need to work with these educators to help them deliver graduates who can truly thrive in our profession.

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Burson-Marsteller and Facebook: Lessons Learned Again

Arthur Page Society Logo

(This was first posted on the Arthur W. Page Society blog in May 2011)

I have been following with great interest the recent coverage of Burson-Marsteller’s ill-advised anti-Google campaign for its client Facebook. I plan to use it as a case example for my strategic communication class in the fall. Some blog posts I’ve seen have criticized those in the academic community for opining on the case, claiming that we are naïve in not understanding that tactics like this are common in the PR field. To me, that is the underlying problem. Yes, it does happen. A lot.

The fact that one of the leading firms in our business participated in this questionable practice is disheartening, but not surprising. Many of its global competitors have acknowledged similar transparency failures in recent years, most notably Edelman, Fleishman-Hillard and Ketchum. I teach their cases in my class as well. The heads of all of these firms are Page members; I know them well and I have done business with them in my tenure at both ITT and FedEx. Executives with these PR firms serve on the Advisory Council at the College of Charleston and we are proud to have them. They and their firms do a great deal of good in this world.

What I will be discussing with my students is the purpose of being transparent, and the risks of not being so in this new media age. Why should we as a profession work doubly hard to convince our clients and our companies of the need for transparency? Because it is the only way to preserve and enhance the trust we have with our stakeholders—customers, prospects, employees, investors, and regulators.

Everyone recognizes that much of this trust has been depleted in the last two decades and we may never fully get it back. But by attacking our competition in deceptive ways we don’t enhance our own reputation and that of our clients, we damage it even further. The defense that is being used, even in Burson’s own mea culpa, is that “Any information brought to media attention raised fair questions, was in the public domain, and was in any event for the media to verify through independent sources.” Perhaps. But if someone whispers in your ear something bad about another person and you later find that the whisperer was being paid to do so, I think the whispered message loses more than a little steam.

The other reason we must be transparent is that there are no more secrets anyway. The Internet in general, and social media in particular, has taken away all the privacy screens in the dressing room. We must win our arguments on their merit rather than with once-clever tactics that no longer work. Just what are some of those tactics?

• Fake surveys that conveniently get us to the conclusions our clients need rather than legitimate findings that will benefit our audiences.
• Celebrity spokespeople who don’t reveal that they are being paid for their appearances or opinions.
• Industry associations and trade groups that don’t clearly reveal the sources of their funding.
• Advocacy web sites that don’t prominently display their sources of financial support.
The list could go on but you get the picture.

What I will ultimately discuss with my students, who aspire to starting positions in this industry, is that they must examine their own values in considering how and with which firms they will begin their careers. At times they will have to demonstrate personal integrity and courage in advising a client or a boss that a tactic being proposed isn’t truthful. It will not be easy for them to do so. The Page Society and its members can do them a great favor by continuing to endorse the Page Principles and the concepts of honesty, candor, transparency and integrity in how we lead this profession. For us to be taken more seriously as counselors, I think it is a stand worth taking.


Originally Posted on the Arthur W. Page Society Page Turner Blog