Brad Blake is the director of new media and online strategy for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. He graduated from the Master’s program in communication studies in 2002 with a concentration in web and media. Mr. Blake was previously employed as a casting assistant at 20th Century Fox Television in Los Angeles, CA, a producer at Cinemetrix, Inc. in Newton Upper Falls, MA, and a senior interactive producer at Cramer Digital Marketing/Event Solutions in Norwood, MA.
1. COM strives to keep its teachings relevant to current industry practices. Were you well prepared for the media world? Do you still find your education relevant in your current position?
I was well prepared in that I had a broad understanding of the different aspects of communication—design, building websites, tools for online audio and video. COM also helped me hone my writing skills. I didn’t love it at the time, but I realized later how good it was for me. In any career, especially in communications, obviously, writing is an invaluable skill.
2. What advice can you give to communication studies majors to prepare them for the competitive job market?
Don’t be afraid to ask: Network as much as you can while you’re at BU. Talk to professors, faculty and alumni—they have experience and may be in the job you want someday, or know people who do.
Do as many internships as possible, but be selective: Find ones that will help you understand what’s out there, and develop the value you can bring to an organization. Make sure you don’t just have your GPA on your resume.
Think of yourself as a brand: The ways you connect with people online are the same ways others can find out about you online. Think about how you use Facebook, MySpace, blogs, Twitter and other social networking sites. Think about the person you want to be and be that person online and off, because the lines are blurring.
3. Many COM students are being told that in today’s job market it is important to sell yourself as a set of skills, not a list of old job titles. If you were searching for a job today, what skills would represent your capabilities as a potential employee?
- Web and social media strategy across large organizations
- Web writing and usability
- Managing cross-functional teams to design, develop and maintain websites and social media tools
- Explaining complex “technical” concepts and in plain language to dispel people’s misconceptions or fears of using new media tools and technologies
- Developing enterprise-wide standards, best practices and policies for website publishing and social media
4.What are you doing at your current job to keep Governor Patrick’s administration up-to-date with the changing media scene? Is there any specific project you are currently working on?
Currently, I’m doing a lot of internal consulting to our state agencies on ways to better engage constituents through social media. We want to make sure that agencies are using social media to socialize—to engage and help the citizens they serve—not just as a place to push out press releases or official statements.
We’re also working on opening up data. Governments have a lot of data—where the buses and trains are, school performance, crime data, etc.. There’s been a groundswell for making that data available in a standardized format online. This way, citizens can easily use it, developers can work with it to create helpful applications, and those ‘outside’ of government can help find things in the data that will help the government do its job better.
5. Favorite class at BU? Why?
Whatever class I took that Dottie Clark taught. It was one of the writing classes. I still laugh, eight years later, thinking about some of her stories. I still draw value from that class because of how tough and dedicated she was to making us better writers.
6. Social media or traditional media?
The lines between them are really blurring. I’m reading Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody which says that the traditional model was to filter, then publish. Now, it’s flipped: information is published, then filtered by ourselves and our social networks.
That’s great if you’re good at filtering and weighing different sides of an issue to develop your own opinion. But it also lets us tailor our media experience and world view so we only get news and opinions from sources we already agree with. While we have all these tools to connect with those around us, we can also use those same tools to isolate ourselves.
Whether you’re in traditional or new media, or an amalgamation of the two, you need innovative ways to reach your readers. Listen to the conversations online, find out where your audience is, and reach them where they’re ‘living’ on the web.
You can follow Mr. Blake on twitter here, or email him with further questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.