From co-authoring a book, to composing and directing a TV series, traveling the world for research, and appearing on our morning news here in Denmark, DIS faculty member Benjamin Holk Henriksen knows how to strategically communicate. You might have seen him first on our DIS Faculty Teach What They Do video – but here, he gives us more insight on his communication expertise, and details on his Strategic Communication core course and Designing Communication Campaigns elective:
DIS: What are the highlights of your core course, Strategic Communication?
Benjamin Holk Henriksen: We are fortunate to visit some very unique organizations that enable us to link academic theories with real life, hands-on experiences, and to see how communication professionals work within their contexts. This semester, we had the opportunity to meet with Copenhagen Zoo’s Director, Bengt Holst, to hear about the case of Marius the giraffe, the media’s skeptical response, and how he handled the attention that was suddenly drawn to the Zoo.
London as a location for our week-long study tour is also a highlight. Its historical importance as a nation and communication hub brings a great deal to the academic experience. UK still represents some of the strongest brands in the world.
DIS: In your Strategic Communication course, everyone reads the news section of a major daily newspaper to keep up with breaking news and current events. What does this add to classroom discussions and dynamics?
BHH: Again – connecting current affairs with academic theories is a big part of the course. Students bring real current cases into the classroom, which empowers and encourages everyone to take ownership and raise discussions. In this case 1+1 really becomes 3.
DIS: When in London on tour, the class separates into small groups to meet with professionals and hear about how they communicate their message and brand. Tell us about this academic aspect of the tour and its importance.
BHH: Meeting organizations or clients face-to-face is both empowering and culturally enriching. It’s an experience they would never be able to learn from a school book.
DIS: You authored a book and directed and composed a TV series together with DIS faculty member Frederik Lassenuis, ‘Sådan tænker ledere’ – ‘The Mind of a Leader.’ For your research, you traveled to different parts of the world to find out what modern day leadership looks like. Tell us about this project – why were you inspired to take on this research and share this story?
BHH: Yes it was quite a pilgrimage… A journey that become much more than a research project. Throughout my years obtaining a Master of Law and a Master of Business Administration, and the following years as strategic planner and adviser, I had developed an urge to challenge my academic understanding. I did this by linking some of the oldest strategic works, like “The Prince” by Machiavelli and “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu, with hands-on experience from some of the world’s most prominent leaders. People such as marketing guru Philip Kotler, design icon Philippe Starck, Acer founder, Stan Shih, The Body Shop founder, Anita Roddick, Aston Martin CEO, Ulrich Bez, Lego CEO, Jørgen V. Knudstorp, former Danish Prime Minister Poul Rasmussen, Ford Model CEO, Katie Ford, and many more. The series was aired on national Danish TV and received great reviews in The Financial Times.And actually, I am currently working on a new marketing & communications film series sponsored by The Danish Ministry of Education. It’s always nice if you can make your work and hobby go hand in hand.
DIS: Do your students draw ideas and inspiration from ‘The Mind of a Leader’ in your courses?
BHH: Yes. The series contains 39 episodes and topics. Many of the episodes would fit into our curriculum, but mainly, I have been using episode three, “External Organizations and Markets.” What are pros and cons in terms of using a centralized or decentralized communication approach?
DIS: At DIS, you have been a part of introducing ways to ‘flip the classroom.’ Can you tell us about this concept and its role at DIS?
BHH: It’s a privileged to work for an institution that wants to be frontrunners of technology in education. DIS Academic Director, Helle Rytkønen, is really the one pushing boundaries, and due to my experience with visual learning, or video learning, I have been asked to join the team. Together with DIS faculty member Fredrik Lassenius, we have produced the first ‘flip the classroom’ film. The idea is to watch the video to learn before class, so that class time can be used for practical discussions and workshops.
DIS: In your Designing Communications Campaign elective course, students actually work with a client in Copenhagen to create a marketing campaign through video production. Can you tell us about this semester-long assignment?
BHH: We see it every semester… how students start out learning about strategic planning, the communication platform, and creative campaign development, without really knowing what journey they are about to enter. Once they find their clients and meet face-to-face, they form a personal and professional bond based on mutual trust and respect. Organizations like Tivoli, Vega Music, Help Now, and etc., expect our students to deliver something professional – and they really do rise to the occasion. It’s such a pleasure to guide the students as much as I can and to see how passionate they get about the final campaign result.
DIS: In your own professional career, you have gained an expertise in several different roles within the communication field, as a director, composer, writer, and communication consultant. Many of your students are aiming for a career in the communication field. Given your experience and success, what is your best advice for their road ahead?
BHH: It’s not an easy question… Most of our students are here in Copenhagen because they crave adventure and knowledge. In that sense, they have already taken some big steps in terms of experience, cultural savviness, and communication. Of course it means something to explore the different fields in marketing and communications, so that you know where to focus. And of course it’s important to intern or work for a ‘brand’ or respected organization if you aim for a career in one of the top global organizations. However, I first encourage all students to enjoy the moment, be open minded, and always strive to be good at what they are doing even if they are not sure what it will lead to.
Many great companies didn’t start out with a clear mission and vision written in stone, but found their path according to interest and circumstances. My research has shown that it’s the same with a lot of people. Very few know exactly what they want in ten or twenty years from now… we are not tennis players. Our choices are not directed by, or formed around, the one goal of winning a grand slam 10 years from now. But if we strive to be good at what we are doing at any given moment, we will learn a craft, build a track record, and see new wonderful opportunities arise that we did not plan for. So my best advice is, that there are so many doors to enter – be sure to enjoy the moment and do your best.