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DePaul PRAD Professors' New Book, Sheds a Light on the Importance Business Plays in Communications

By Holly Jenvey

DePaul PRAD professors Ron Culp and Matt Ragas recently published their new book Business Acumen for Strategic Communicators: A Primer. The book explains business essentials for communications professionals as well as profiles key figures and shares their advice. In an interview with DePaul PRSSA, Culp and Ragas explained some key pointers they would like their readers to take away.

“I came [to DePaul] about a year after Matt did and we immediately bonded. And one of the first questions he asked me was, ‘have you ever thought of writing a book?’ I thought it was a joke,” Culp said. “But when he told me the subject matter, I bought in immediately and we've had an amazing time with writing three books that we hope are helping the profession.”

Culp and Ragas wrote this book as an update representing what is going on in the world of business communication. Their first book, Business Essentials for Strategic Communicators, was published in 2014, and is still being used across 40 universities. After Culp and Ragas sketched out the ideas for the new book three years ago, Business Acumen for Strategic Communicators was published amid unordinary circumstances. However, the pandemic drove the two communicators to further enhance their communication and collaboration skills.

“As of this recording, [we] maybe have seen ourselves together three times in a year and a half,” Ragas said.

Culp explained how Covid-19 will change the way of thought in communications, specifically business communications, going forward. He also discussed how the pandemic helped the process of committing to putting the book together. It made Culp and Ragas have the best communication out of any of the books they worked on because they had to stay in touch, be more organized, and understand what deadlines were coming among other demands.

Business Acumen also highlights the advice of influential business communicators. Examples include Joe Cohen, the chief marketing and communications officer at AXIS; Shelly Lazarus, the chairman emeritus at Ogilvy & Mather; Maril MacDonald, the founder & CEO of Gagen MacDonald; and more. When asked how they made these contacts, Culp explained that he and Ragas are a part of the Arthur Page Society, the top global organization for senior public relations and corporate communications executives and educators.

Culp also met Lazarus through his work at Fortune 500 companies and that work connected with Oglivy and Mather. Through their network, Ragas and Culp were able to tell the stories of notable communications figures as part of their book.

“Another important point for students and PRSSA members is to build that network, build your LinkedIn connections,” Culp said.

Ragas and Culp also explained how their book is an interactive experience with discussion questions posed at the end of each chapter.

“Students want to be engaged and involved in the process and so a lot of this book and the design of it and the content of it is really wrapped up, honestly, in the DePaul student experience,” Ragas said.

Culp explained that the goal of the book is to have students ready to be able to shine in their work environment and to not have to be nervous about questioning business terminology.

“The key thing is we want to give you the confidence so that, when you're called in to a meeting and all of a sudden, they tell you they need help solving a business problem,” Culp said.

Business Acumen for Strategic Communicators is available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and at other booksellers.

Follow @MattRagas and @RonCulp on LinkedIn

About the Authors:

Matt Ragas has worked at DePaul for 11 years and is a tenured associate professor in the Public Relations and Advertising program. The New Orleans native has co-authored many books and contributed to a variety of publications including: The Chronicle of Higher Education, NIRI's IRupdate, PRNews, PRSA's Strategies & Tactics, The Public Relations Strategist and Public Relations Tactics, and to the Institute for Public Relations. Ragas has won awards for his work including the Nafziger-White-Salwen dissertation award. He also used to be the co-director of the Graduate Program with Culp.

Ron Culp is a professional in residence at DePaul’s Public Relations and Advertising program and director of the graduate program. Prior to coming to DePaul, Culp worked at Fortune 500 companies and major agencies. He was the partner and managing director for Ketchum’s Midwest Offices and prior served in senior communication positions at Sears, Eli and Lily, Sara Lee Corporation, and more. Culp is the recipient of distinguished awards in the public relations fields including John W. Hill Award by the New York Chapter of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in 2011 and the PR Professional of the Year from the Chicago chapter of PRSA in 2012. Culp funds a scholarship for first generation college students at DePaul and his alma mater Indiana State University.


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