Integrating Business Communication Skills into a Buyer-Behavior Course Project

Article excerpt

Marketing educators have long recognized the need for strengthening their students' business communication skills. Recruiters routinely consider superior communications skills as essential hiring criteria when filling entry-level marketing positions. Additionally, marketing students consistently rate communication-intensive business courses as among those most helpful to them in preparing for their business careers. This paper discusses an undergraduate buyer-behavior course project targeted at improving students' business communication skills through a team-teaching project. The paper highlights the value of integrating written, oral, and electronic communications pedagogy with buyer-behavior course instruction and then outlines the project from a "how-to-do-it" perspective.

A traditional approach to strengthening the communication skills of business students has been a speech class outside the school of business and a standard three-credit, upper-division course in business communication. This type of course ordinarily offers a broad conceptualization of various business communication activities, with learning outcomes that are usually output-oriented (for example, letters, memos, reports, and speeches).

A recurring problem embedded in this approach is that students sometimes see business communication skill development as a discrete, one-time classroom activity set apart from functional learning. Standalone courses like business communication do not encourage business students to transfer the skills learned into their respective disciplines. Marketing educators, although acutely aware of the need to strengthen their students' business communication skills, have been continually cited for their lack of attention to developing effective communication skills in their graduates (Mason, 1991; Porter & McKibbon, 1988).

A more contemporary instructional model is that business communication is more effectively learned by students if the basic communication principles are first presented in an introductory course or courses, then further developed through integrated content courses that students complete within their majors. In this way students can begin to experience and practice such higher levels of learning as application, analysis, and evaluation.

The course project described here was designed to integrate the essential written, oral, and electronic (e-mail) skills into an undergraduate buyer-behavior class. The purpose of the team-taught project was to simultaneously improve upon students' business communication skills and their knowledge of key buyer-behavior principles. The project highlights the need for and value in integrating these necessary communication skills pedagogy with marketing instruction. A step-by-step approach for conducting the project is also presented.

Importance of Business Communication

Skills

Among marketing educators and researchers, the importance of enhancing students' written and oral communication skills has been well documented. Kelly and Gaedeke (1990) surveyed over 100 national college recruiters and reported that the most important hiring criterion for entry-level marketing positions was oral communication skills. Joby and Needel (1989) indicated that recruiters believe communication skills are the most important skill that individuals seeking entry-level marketing research positions can possess. Tomkovick and Erffmeyer (1993) similarly reported that recruiters feel oral communication skills are the most important skill necessary for individuals to be successful in entry-level sales positions.

Gaedeke and Tootelian (1989) reported that employers listed communication abilities, interpersonal communication skills, speaking abilities, and writing skills among the qualities they always or almost always consider when screening new college graduates. Goldgehn (1989) and McCorkle, Alexander, and Diriker (1992) presented similar findings about the importance of communication skills to marketing students seeking professional employment after graduation. …