Business & Finance Boot Camp for Communicators

A one-day business crash course for communications professionals

Dec. 5, 2019 • WEBCAST
Price per location: $899

Do you have what it takes to get a seat at the power table or win an invitation to join the important conversations? Financial skills and business fluency are the keys to success, as it becomes increasingly important for both internal and external communicators to demonstrate their value.

This information-packed, one-day boot camp will teach you the business skills you need to tackle the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. You'll walk away with a strong understanding of the complexities that today's leaders face, and be prepared for your leadership positions in communications and public relations.

This course is grounded in the principle that to be a strategic advisor to your organization, not only must you know your business, but you also need to know about business generally. As you prepare for 2020, don't miss out on this important boot camp.

You'll learn how to:

  • Manage and interpret financial statements, and develop and oversee organizational budgets
  • Speak the language of business and finance, and use financial tools to evaluate trends
  • Master the business planning process and differentiate between a strategic and an operational plan—and understand their relationship to communication planning and activities
  • Create strategic plans that deliver profitability and demonstrate your value to top leaders
  • Understand how the global business environment and economic issues can have an impact on business success—or failure

Bonus takeaways for all attendees:

  • Certificate of completion
  • Glossary of business and accounting terms
  • Executive summary of the boot camp
  • List of helpful tools and guides
  • Attendee benchmarking survey results

This one-day boot camp can change the course of your career and your organization.


For questions or additional information, contact Shallon Blackburn at or 800-878-5331


8-8:30 a.m.


8:25-8:30 a.m.

Opening remarks

Diane Schwartz, CEO, Ragan Communications
8:30-9 a.m.

Networking breakfast and keynote address

Daniel Faust, executive vice president, southeast region, AECOM
9:15–11:15 am.

Business and finance for leaders

To prove the value of your work and become a strategic communications advisor to business leaders, it’s imperative that you know the priorities and KPIs that matter to them. During this session, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the terms, tools and tactics used by business and finance professionals in their planning and operations, and the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.

You’ll learn:

  • The definitions and significance of basic financial information
  • A deep dive into reading and managing a balance sheet
  • The key components of an annual report or CSR report
  • The structure and interrelationship of various financial statements used in business
  • How organizational budgets are developed and managed, and the key sections they include
  • How different financial tools are used to evaluate trends
  • How to "talk the talk"—business terminology and language you need to master
Lawrence J. Parnell, associate professor and program director, masters in strategic public relations, George Washington University
Karen Vahouny, adjunct professor, George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management
11:30 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

Communications in context

To earn the trust of top leadership, you must understand the complex challenges leaders face in today’s business environment. Discover how various economic and reputational issues can affect your organization’s bottom line—and how communicators can help leaders address potential threats.

You’ll learn:

  • Key regulations and economic trends to be aware of as a communicator
  • Common investor relations challenges
  • How to keep leadership briefed on reputational threats that could harm financial performance
  • What to keep in mind when crafting messaging around sensitive business issues
Lawrence J. Parnell, associate professor and program director, masters in strategic public relations, George Washington University
Karen Vahouny, adjunct professor, George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management
12:15–1:30 p.m.

Lunch and keynote speaker

Michelle Russo, chief communications officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
1:30–2:30 p.m.

Case study: How communicators get a seat at the table

You'll hear how a leading communications pro used her business acumen to ensure she was part of the strategic decisions at her organization. We'll take you behind the scenes of her journey to business leadership and show you how to elevate communications within your own organization so you can also tie your PR efforts to the bottom line.

Learn how to:

  • Keep business goals and roadblocks in mind when formulating your comms strategies
  • Use financial data to support the recommendations you present to leaders
  • Gain influence with top leadership by offering solutions to their toughest challenges
2:45–4 p.m.

Strategic business planning for communicators

Now that you can speak their language, you’ll learn how to tie your communications strategies to the goals of business leaders—and hear case studies of how top professionals in your industry are doing so successfully.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Tie your communications plan to your organization's business goals
  • Understand the ROI on the tools you're using
  • Position your department for a larger slice of the marketing/comms budgetary pie
  • Identify the difference between a strategic plan and an operational plan, and their relationship to communication activities
  • Weave business and financial planning into the strategies you present to executives
  • Set budgets and measurable goals for your programs and demonstrate profitability to leaders
Lawrence J. Parnell, associate professor and program director, masters in strategic public relations, George Washington University
Karen Vahouny, adjunct professor, George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management
4–4:30 p.m.

Key takeaways

We'll bring it all together for you at this fast-paced wrap-up of the day and discuss how to effect change right away.

4:30–5:30 p.m.

Networking reception

Pick up your class certificate and enjoy cocktails and hors d'oeuvres as we cap off a great day with peers.




The boot camp will be taught by George Washington University faculty and guest speakers who will provide a financial lens to business challenges.

Michelle Russo

Chief communications officerU.S. Chamber of Commerce

Michelle Russo is chief communications officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest advocacy organization for business. Before joining the Chamber, Russo spent four years in London as executive vice president of Global Communications for the leading media company Discovery, Inc., where she supervised cross-functional marketing and communications teams across the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and the Asia Pacific. In addition, she led the top-to-bottom communications and public affairs strategy for the company’s groundbreaking first broadcast of the Olympic Winter Games across Europe. Prior to relocating to London, she served as the company’s senior vice president of Corporate Affairs & Communications in the U.S. There she built and managed Discovery’s reputation as a global media leader, including its debut as a publicly traded company.

Daniel Faust

Executive vice president, southeast regionAECOM

Daniel Faust leads AECOM's Design & Consulting Services (DCS) business unit for the Southeast, including the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, and Latin America. In this role he is responsible for growth, operational performance (including profit & loss) and client account management for all DCS business units including Transportation, Environmental, Water Resources, Program & Construction Management and Architectural & Building Engineering. The Southeast region has over 4000 employees and annual revenue of over $950 million.

Lawrence J. Parnell
Lawrence J. Parnell

Associate professor and program director, masters in strategic public relationsGeorge Washington University

Lawrence J. Parnell, M.B.A., is an award-winning PR professional and academic. An associate professor at George Washington University, Parnell has been director of its master's degree program in strategic public relations for 10 years, having built it into one of the nation's best-known and most-admired programs within the discipline. He is also an adjunct professor of strategic communications at GWU School of Business. He operates Parnell Communications, a strategic communications and leadership training advisory firm, advising government, corporate and nonprofit organizations on executive development and strategic communications.

Karen Vahouny

Adjunct professorGeorge Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management

Karen Vahouny's career has included corporate and agency experience at the most senior level, having counseled top-level executives on a range of issues. She was a founding partner of Qorvis Communications, a startup that grew to become one of the top five independently owned U.S. PR firms. Her focuses there included investor relations, corporate communication and financial communication. In 2012, Vahouny embarked on a new career as an entrepreneur and professor, starting her own consulting firm and joining the adjunct faculty of Marymount University and George Washington University. She teaches the business/finance class in GWU's Strategic PR graduate program.

Diane Schwartz

CEORagan Communications

Diane Schwartz is the chief executive officer of Ragan Communications, a leading media company that serves communicators worldwide with education, networking and unparalleled event experiences. She joined Ragan in May 2019 after serving for 23 years at Access Intelligence, where she was senior vice president of the media communications division and oversaw the growth of brands including PR News, Social Shake-Up, Cynopsis, AdExchanger, Admonsters and many others. Schwartz launched more than 75 conferences, training programs, awards competitions and subscription products that put customer and premium content front and center. A former journalist, Schwartz also serves on the boards of the Institute for Public Relations and the Alliance for Women in Media, as well as volunteers in her local community in Connecticut and for Make a Wish, where she is a wish granter.

Marie Lerch

PresidentExecutive Scribe, LCC

Marie Lerch is President of Executive Scribe, LCC providing speechwriting, executive communications, and financial communications services to senior leaders in business, industry, and the nonprofit sectors. She is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University, teaching a graduate course on global public relations. Previously, she was vice president of marketing and communications for Booz Allen Hamilton, the leading strategy and technology consulting firm with over $5 billion in annual sales and more than 20,000 employees. She led the Marketing & Communications function and served as the chief communications officer for the firm for more than 20 years, with responsibilities spanning corporate identity and brand communications; marketing strategy and programs; press relations and executive communications; digital communications; employee communications; community relations; and investor relations communications.



If you work in:

  • Employee communications
  • Public relations
  • Media relations
  • Corporate communications
  • Executive communications
  • Digital Communications

This boot camp is designed for communicators at corporations, nonprofit organizations and agencies.


                           The George Washington University: Washington, DC