On occasion, we allow a guest blogger or two to share relevant insights. In this instance, I’m turning over my blog to LouAnn Buhrows, a Toronto-based communications strategist and writer whose career has focused on supporting change initiatives in the public and private sectors. Buhrows wrote me to relate how her experience with the Wharton Foundation Series on Coursera “was hands-down the best professional development I’ve ever had, and much of the content has been readily transferrable to what I do as a corporate change communications strategist.”

Below is an excerpt from an essay Buhrows wrote describing her experience:

There is nothing subtle about an exclamation mark. It sings and shouts. It anchors and amplifies. Whatever the sentiment, expression with an exclamation mark is never shy.

When effecting organizational change, the goal is to build to that point of change! when people heed the boarding call with positive intention, behavior and action. The emphatic exists not only at the end of the journey, but at points along the way when ideas and solutions are generated and milestones achieved. Nevertheless, much of the change process occurs through subtlety, nuance and incremental brick-by-brick construction of plans and perspectives.

And along the way, there will be bumps in the road; in my many years as a change communications strategist, I’ve learned that it’s a certainty. As such, I’m always on the lookout for professional development that will help me to mitigate issues and smooth things over. Imagine how delighted I was to learn of the Wharton School’s inaugural offering of “An Introduction to Marketing” via massive open online course (MOOC) format, taught by professors Peter Fader, Barbara Kahn and David Bell.

This course, which is part of the Wharton Foundation Series on Coursera, was the perfect complement to my on-the-job experience to date. While I was familiar with many of the marketing concepts covered in the curriculum, it provided me with new thinking and fresh perspectives on old challenges. In particular, the exploration of experiential branding components, customer acquisition, social capital, and network and community affects is of tremendous value in helping me to develop better content with better tactical positioning.

In marketing and change management alike, you’re looking to influence thinking and incent behavior, whether it’s about buying or buying in. It all comes down to knowing the intricacies of your target audience and the end-state branding that will inspire ambassadors to act. Transparency and authenticity are the two fundamental aspects of a change strategy brand mantra. People need to believe in the change – its purpose and meaning – and leaders must live it along with them. Leaders must also believe in what their own people can bring to the process and be inclusive of them. The influence of colleague-to-colleague and group-to-group networks cannot be underestimated, either. If there were a way to access the flurry of personal texts after a left-field unintelligible corporate memo, it would no doubt yield dizzying amounts of data on actual sentiment.



Connect with us: Coursera’s next offering of “An Introduction of Marketing”—again taught by Peter Fader, Barbara Kahn and David Bell, Wharton’s Frances and Pei-Yuan Chia Professor, Patty and Jay H. Baker Professor, and Xinmei Zhang and Yongge Dai Professor, respectively—begins on Oct. 14. Find more information on the Coursera website, and in the video above.


Regular communications in clear, plain language take away the guess work for everyone by allowing people to relate at a more personal level and to internalize organizational priorities. The visioning messages that kick off a change strategy evolve into a narrative that encourages two-way dialogue, celebrates milestones and resolves emerging issues. Content should inspire focus and fortitude and become less aspirational over time as concrete outcomes are realized. Mix up the media to keep it engaging, but always recognize the effort and progress to date, the people who’ve been on the journey, and what’s still to come.

I always knew that marketing had an inherent role in change communications, but applying what I’d learned in the course inspired me to muse about what I think is the winning formula for corporate change initiatives:  a (authenticity) + b (belief) = c! (change). The ROI is all about people.

LouAnn Buhrows

—LouAnn Buhrows

LouAnn Buhrows is a Toronto-based communication strategist and writer whose career has focused on supporting change initiatives in the public and private sectors. She was a participant in Wharton’s “An Introduction to Marketing” via MOOC format. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Waterloo and an M.A. in Criminology from the University of Toronto.