Division of Humanities and Social Sciences (DHSS) presented a lectures series on strategic communication on 26 and 27 November.


Attendees at the first of three lectures

They invited two guest speakers, Department for Advertising and Public Relations, Professor Fuyuan Shen from Pennsylvania State University and UIC DHSS Associate Professor as well as CEO of CenterBrain Partners, Inc., Mr James Ebel.

Prof Shen gave two talks, the first talk was titled ‘Research seminar in strategic communication research’ while the second was titled ‘Principles and process of strategic communications campaigns’.

During his first talk he explained that he is most interested in messages communicated via mass media, including traditional methods in addition to social media. On top of that, he specialised in narratives for the past eight years as a mean for advertising.


Prof Shen during his first of two lectures 

During the lecture he introduced narratives by showing a series of ads that use the narrative approach including a sketchers commercial and a jewellers commercial. He said, “Stories are the most persuasive way to get messages across because of the emotional appeal and it lets consumers believe they aren’t getting persuaded, because they don’t like that.”

Prof Shen introduced his next research study which is about narratives in corporate advertising, this will have to do with sponsorships and influencers. He explained that people resist ads but if it’s a friend or someone you trust and look up to, such as an influencer, people don’t look at it as an ad and are more likely to buy it.



Audience members listening to Prof Shen 

There were numerous questions at the end involving how influencer marketing works, persuasion in marketing and how to keep a brand appealing after many years.

His afternoon session was filled with students and faculty waiting to hear about how to lead a good campaign while keeping the brand alive.

During this session he went through the physiological principles that have to do with a successful campaign. He also went in depth about different theories that have to do with why people buy certain products.


Prof Shen during his second lecture 

He said, “We (people) look for brands we know because we are scared and feel uncomfortable with imbalance, when we change a brand that is off balance therefor causes discomfort, which is why people stick with the same brands they have always trusted.”

At the end there were many questions about what happens if brands need to change, how brands keep up with the changing world, incentives in branding and so much more.



Room full of eager faculty, staff and students



Questions being asked at the end 

The following day Mr James Ebel gave a lecture titled, ‘Building a Big Idea-A CenterBrain Approach’.

During his lecture he focused on how to build a brand, how branding works and what it’s like being in the business of branding.


Mr Ebel explaing the CenterBrain approach

“It’s exciting, it’s always changing, its dynamic and you can always learn something new,” he said when talking about what it is like working in the branding business.

Throughout the lecture he used many visual aids such as commercials, ad posters and storyboards to give examples of his experience with brands how he built each one of them. He emphasised that brands are the heart, mind and soul of companies and companies cannot live long without a good brand.



Audience listening in on the secret of sucessful branding

When Mr Ebel was asked for advice on how to build a good brand he responded by saying, “think like a four year old”. He added that people don’t like things that are complicated; when things are too difficult to understand then people lose interest. “When building a brand keep that in mind,” he said.

His session ended with numerous questions about how to build brands, questions about how to work in the industry and more.

Reporter/Photographer: Lauren Richardson
Editors: Deen He, Samuel Burgess
(from MPRO)