David “Randy” Brandt, Connecting the Best of Both Worlds
Whether working with clients in business and industry, teaching communication classes to eager students, or exploring the waters of the Caribbean, Randy Brandt keeps busy using his communication background to make a difference in people’s lives.
After finishing his doctorate degree in 1979, Brandt served on the faculties of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of North Texas. In 1983 he decided to step away from the world of academics to pursue a career in business – specifically, marketing research and consulting. During the next 35 years, he held senior leadership positions at two of the world’s largest research and consulting firms, and eventually started his own company, Voice Crafter.
Brandt says, “At the beginning of my academic career, I had little to draw upon with respect to ‘real-world’ experience and/or examples of how communication knowledge and skills can be applied in the private or public sectors. Now, after many years working with business and governmental entities, I have many such examples and experiences to share with students. I also strongly believe that the business and academic communities have much to learn from and share with one another, and I am committed to helping build stronger bonds among these communities.”
Randy recently returned to academia and currently teaches public speaking and organizational communication at Northern Kentucky University as an adjunct professor. In the past, he has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses and plans to teach a variety as he moves forward. His favorites include advertising, where he stresses message development through analyzing target audiences; organizational communication, where he teaches students to listen to and focus on communication with both organizational members and key external stakeholders; and both interpersonal communication and public speaking, where he accentuates how non-verbal cues play a central role in how we interpret communication with each other.
“The thing I enjoy most about teaching is watching students get excited about new topics and areas of interest/research, and seeing them ‘take the reins’ from there,” says Brandt. For example, a young professional attended one of Randy's seminars on "Capturing and Leveraging the Voice of the Customer." This participant was so struck by the importance of this activity, that he re-directed his career development path, and today leads the "Voice of the Customer" program for one of the world's largest IT firms.
Having had considerable experience working and interacting in both academic and corporate spheres, Brandt encourages students to consider both. He says, “Academic and corporate communities each have their own culture, values, and practices, and a student will greatly benefit by becoming immersed in both. The situation is analogous to becoming fluent in two different languages so that one can live and function comfortably in two different nations/cultures. [I encourage] students not to choose between academic and corporate communities, but rather, decide when and how they will engage with each.”
One of Brandt’s proudest moments includes being invited to serve on the Advisory Board on Policy and Technology to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He was tasked with helping to develop a strategy for attracting, hiring, and retaining talented people to work for the EPA. Brandt says, “At the end of my term on the Board, I received letters of commendation from both EPA Director Christine Whitman and former U.S. President George W. Bush. Both letters are framed and proudly displayed on a wall in my home office.”
Another proud moment came in 2012 when Randy was named one of “Twenty Researchers You Should Know.” Each year, Survey magazine recognizes ten research professionals for significant contributions to the survey research community. Brandt says, “While at Burke [a Cincinnati-based marketing research company], I developed a customer loyalty metric known as the Secure Customer Index. At present, it remains one of the most widely-used customer survey-based metrics in U.S. companies, and is also endorsed by the Customer Experience Professionals Association.”
Having retired from his consulting business at the end of 2017, Brandt hopes to return to academics on a full-time basis doing both research and teaching. In particular, he is interested in how organizations listen to and interact with external stakeholders, particularly communication among companies and consumers. He recently co-authored “Brand Engagement and Communication among Companies and Consumers” with Dr. Austin Lee, and presented it at the National Communication Association Annual Convention in Dallas, Texas, in 2017. Additionally, he completed a nationwide study of “Voice of the Customer” program practices and effectiveness that was presented in 2017 at the Kentucky Communication Association Annual Convention. He hopes to continue his research in these areas, as well as other questions and issues related to the process and impact of listening in interpersonal and organizational contexts.
Randy is not all work, teaching, and research. In his free time, he likes to cook, cycle, golf, hike, run, scuba dive, and do underwater photography and videography. He also enjoys visiting the local Laguadalupana Grocery Store every now and then, to pick up habanero peppers and assorted Mexican spices, and to practice his Spanish. In line with his interest in the water, Randy is also a certified open water scuba diving instructor, and teaches regularly at Central Coast Dive Center in Edgewood, Ky.
He takes his methods of teaching scuba diving and aligns them with how he teaches public speaking – his way of “dipping students into the public speaking waters.” Brandt says, “My approach to teaching public speaking is similar to how I teach scuba diving. Students can learn much from reading and watching videos, but ultimately they become better speakers by doing speeches, just as students ultimately learn how to become divers by getting in the water and actually practicing/using diving skills. Thus, with respect to both speaking and diving, developing knowledge and understanding of key principles and practices is important, but applying them is even more critical. I emphasize this point continually.”
Brandt earned his Ph.D. in Communication from Michigan State University in 1980, his M.A. in Communication from Indiana University, Bloomington, in 1975, and his B.A. in Communication from Purdue University in 1974. He is a member of the International Communication Association, the Kentucky Communication Association, the National Communication, the Professional Association of Dive Instructors, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.