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5 Skills Communication Professionals Need from Stacey McCray, VP at Bojangles and Program Advisory Board Member

Stacey McCray

Today, Stacey McCray serves as the VP of Communications at Bojangles. But in 1998, she was a recent Wake Forest University graduate with her Bachelors degree in Communications and unsure of what her career path would look like. 

“Initially, I leaned into journalism and thought I wanted to be on television as a news anchor,” Stacey recalls. “But I quickly realized I enjoy being behind the scenes of communications.”

Behind the scenes, Stacey has had an impact everywhere she went. From her time as a communications specialist in education to 17 years at Luquire, an advertising and public relations agency, she brings more than two decades of communication experiences to Wake Forest as a member of the Communications Program Advisory Board (PAB) in the School of Professional Studies. 

“This was an opportunity to give back to the university that gave so much to me,” Stacey says. “Using my expertise and what I do every day to support other professionals to grow in their careers was very appealing to me.”

As a PAB member, Stacey offers professional advice and guidance to build the curriculum for the Master of Communications program. She and other industry leaders helped develop the curriculum to ensure it aligned with what communications professionals need in the workforce today. However, given how quickly the world changes, the PAB offers ongoing support to tweak the curriculum as needed so that students get the most out of their learning. 

Stacey offers insight into five skills that she and the other PAB members believe are critical for a communications professional’s success. 

1. Strategic Planning 

“If you want a seat at the table, if you want to be able to impact an organization, then you need to know strategy,” Stacey says. 

This is a skill she uses every day in her current position as VP of Communications at Bojangles, a fast food chain founded in North Carolina that now spans more than 15 states and more than 800 locations. 

She is responsible for leading all aspects of communication in a way that aligns with the company’s overall goals and objectives. Stacey felt she learned the basics of strategy during undergrad, but it was through her graduate studies and professional experience she was able to put the pieces together and see things from a different perspective.

One question Stacey always asks herself is: “What are the most important things from a communications standpoint that are going to help impact the bottom line?”

2. Digital Tools, Skills, and Knowledge 

Digital tools and trends rapidly change. After more than 20 years on the job, Stacey has seen this firsthand countless times. 

“It’s a skill to be able to stay on top of these things to see how technologies may or may not help what you’re doing from a communications perspective,” Stacey says. 

For this reason, she and the other PAB members recommended that the courses in the Master of Communications program helped students build a foundation in current digital practices and emerging media technologies.

3. Corporate Social Responsibility

When looking at what employees and customers want from a business, it’s important to consider Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). This is a business model that helps a company be socially accountable to itself, its stakeholders, and the public.

No matter the industry or company size, Stacey believes this is an important consideration as a communication professional that can be overlooked. 

“In my world at Bojangles, one example of that is how we’re making an impact on literacy and supporting our military as part of the company’s community relations pillars ,” Stacey says. 

4. Crisis Communications 

Early in her career, Stacey gained a crash course in crisis communications as an External Communications Supervisor at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the second largest school district in North Carolina.

“I was fresh out of graduate school, and it was my third day on the job,” Stacey says. “My boss sent me to a school because of some accusations being made against a teacher. She told me to keep the media off campus, sit with the principal, and develop some talking points.”

This experience highlighted for her the importance of crisis communications because inevitably, some type of crisis will occur no matter the industry or organization. That is why Stacey felt it was critical for the Wake Forest’s Master of Communication program to offer a “Crisis and Issues Communications” course to help students understand what a crisis is and what needs to be done to address it. 

5. Empathy

In Stacey’s experience, successful communication professionals must possess certain soft skills, such as empathy. From her time as Director of PR at Johnson C. Smith University to her work today at Bojangles, empathy has remained a constant. 

“You have to understand from every perspective, particularly when you’re communicating to different audiences,” Stacey says.  

Since faculty members in the Master of Communications program are also practitioners, soft skills, including empathy, are woven into the curriculum and emphasized throughout courses. 

Looking to the Future of Communications 

It’s impossible to predict what the world of communications will look like in a year or more from now. It’s a field that constantly must evolve and adapt to the needs of audiences and society as a whole.

However, with PAB members like Stacey using real world, on the job experience to help the curriculum and courses evolve with the times, students will be equipped with the tools to be successful communication professionals. 

Learn more about our online Master of Communications program today.