CSUF College of Communications and Ad Agency, DGWB, Team Up to Promote Organizational Values

Mike Weisman ’74 (B.A. communications) a founding partner and president of DGWB Advertising & Communications in Santa Ana, was becoming increasingly concerned over what he saw as a disconnect between companies’ mission statements and how they actually operated. Working with his former director of strategic planning – who happened to have a master’s degree in sociology – he decided to try to understand what was happening.

 “We were concerned with what seemed to be a revolving door in marketing and advertising,” Weisman said. “Our agency was frequently called upon to analyze these campaigns. What we discovered was that the average tenure of someone in a marketing position was about 18 months.

“Often we found ads and communication strategies that were fine,” he added. “But when we dug a little deeper, we’d often find problems with the quality of the product or inconsistent delivery systems. Sometimes the leadership of an organization caused problems. Or there was disorganization that prevented companies from moving ahead. But instead of focusing on the deeper issues, the tendency was to blame the marketing campaigns.”

So Weisman, along with his former partner, began to apply social science research methods to businesses – trying to determine what qualities successful companies used to stay profitable and maintain excellent reputations. That led to the implementation of DGWB’s Values Institute.

Recently the agency teamed up with Cal State Fullerton’s College of Communications to develop processes related to values-based marketing, relationship development and socially responsible corporate behavior.

After meeting with College of Communications Dean William Briggs, Weisman extended an invitation to advertising professor Mark Wu to join the board of the Values Institute. In turn, Weisman serves on the dean’s advisory board in the College of Communications.

“At the Values Institute, we looked at issues of trust and shared values,” Weisman said. “Rather than simply write up a mission statement or talk about customer service, we wanted companies to demonstrate how they put these words into practice. Some of them had a hard time doing so.”

When he (or his staff members) met with company leadership, they first conducted an audit of the organization, examining the leaders and influential employees. Weisman discovered that by looking within a company, he could determine if there were no ascribed values (values weren’t something addressed by the company), latent values that hadn’t been communicated (values had been developed but employees often couldn’t articulate what they were) or compliant values (values were in line with how business was being conducted). If it was determined that a larger problem was at hand, the group would turn to operational issues.

“The big idea here is that strong organizations that ‘live out’ their values are the ones that succeed over the long haul and out-perform their competitors,” Weisman explained. “We often look inward before we can communicate outward.

“The brand transcends the company,” he said. “Ad campaigns usually make a promise. If there is a problem with the product or delivery system, it’s hard to make good on that promise. If a company doesn’t have a set of values and live them, then long-term sustainable growth is almost impossible.”

Briggs had heard about the Values Institute and was interested.

“I found that it was a very progressive approach to looking at communications,” Briggs said. “The more we talked about what Mike was trying to accomplish, the more I wanted CSUF to play a role. It makes an enormous amount of sense that an academic component could enhance the credibility of what Mike was trying to do; and at the same time, it gives the college and our students, many of whom are interns at DGWB, a solid footing in the business community. 

“The future of public higher education will depend, to a large extent, on public/private partnerships,” said Briggs. “It is our hope that private organizations will come to recognize the added advantages of such partnerships.”

Weisman’s vision is to enable DGWB to become a recognized leader in the movement to base communications and management decisions on values. “Partnering with Cal State Fullerton makes sense for both parties,” he said. end of story