SU business symposium a sellout

Patrick Jephson addresses the crowd while William Beaman looks on during their presentation Friday morning as keynote speakers during Shenandoah University's eighth annual business symposium at the school in Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER – The ease and speed with which information is disseminated in today’s society is challenging for companies that handle public relations, according to Patrick Jephson and William Beaman, keynote speakers at Shenandoah University’s eighth annual Business Symposium on Friday.

The speakers, of the JephsonBeaman public relations and crisis management firm of Washington, D.C., and London, shared their thoughts on what brand means and how its changing definition affects today’s business landscape to a sellout audience at SU’s Harry F. Byrd Jr. School of Business.

Brand,  Jepphson said, is “how you exist in other people’s minds.”

This existence in the minds of others, according to the presenters, is something that can be built up, maintained, torn down and rebuilt, actions in which JephsonBeaman specializes.

“Countries have brands,” said Jephson, who hails from Ireland. “You can tell from my voice that I’m not American, or that, perhaps, I’m a foreigner, but I have, a year ago, become a naturalized American. So therefore, your perception of me as a foreigner is wrong already.”

Dr. Miles Davis, dean of Shenandoah University's Harry F. Byrd Jr. School of Business, listens to keynote speakers Patrick Jephson and William Beaman. Rich Cooley/Daily

Beaman noted that it’s easier than ever for a prominent figure to make one misguided statement and have it be on CNN by that evening.

“The huge challenge is that things live on. They are attainable,” said Beaman, explaining that comments that have been made are easily pulled up and read, and re-read online. “The strategy is not hoping people don’t notice. It’s making it more difficult for them to find it.”

In addition to the keynote presentation, the symposium included breakout sessions presided over by industry leaders. One breakout session,  “From Transgender to Marijuana; The New Challenges of HR,” was a discussion by a panel of area human resources professionals about legislation on marijuana use and transsexual rights and how they relate to the workplace.

“Lunch and Learn” included sessions on developing one’s personal brand, the business school’s MBA program and advice on what to expect when seeking a first job after graduation. Afternoon sessions included hiring millennials in a Generation X world and corporate responsibility.

Symposium organizers said they hope this year’s event theme — “The New Reality: Meeting the Challenge” — resonated with those in attendance, and that they are more prepared to handle the changing landscape of business today.

Dr. Miles Davis, dean of Shenandoah University's business school, speaks Friday morning during the school's eighth annual business symposium. Rich Cooley/Daily

Dr. Miles Davis, dean of the business school, said we find ourselves in a time that is driven by social media and instant access to information.

“You have to handle things in a timely matter,” he said. “When something happens, you have to get ahead of the story.”

He added that the symposium is a way to give back to the community and invite  businesses and nonprofits to the campus.

“Oftentimes businesses and owners don’t have the time to take long-term training, and we offer a day where they can be introduced to different aspects of business.”

Dr. Adrienne Bloss, SU’s vice president of academic affairs, agreed.

“No matter what you are studying to do, no matter what field you’re going to go into … you’re going to have to do that in a way that is financially viable, and that is part of an organization that is entrepreneurial, forward-thinking and facing a new reality,” she said.

Paul Delmerico, symposium chair and a member of the business school’s advisory board, said this year’s event was sold out with 500 registrations and is the fifth consecutive year they’ve reached maximum registration.

“This event enables a dynamic interface between the regional business community, students and faculty along with a roster of subject matter experts who lead a variety of breakout sessions that inform and inspire attendees,” Delmerico said.

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com