Christoph Brunner

Christoph Brunner

“MScom11 gave SAF’s Brunner a solid executive education and friends for life”

When Christoph Brunner decided to supplement his University of Zurich Bachelor of Arts degree with an executive education in communications, he didn’t waste a minute comparing programs. Brunner, Head of Information for the Swiss Armed Forces, said MScom was his first and only choice.

Brunner, Head of Information for Swiss Armed Forces, Federal Department of Defense, said MScom came highly recommended: one of his best friends, Martin Zehnder, is a graduate of MScom9.

“Martin told me how great the program is and advised me: ‘If you get a chance to do MScom, go for it.’ In addition, Jacques Andres, my direct boss at Swiss Armed Forces Communications, is an MScom5 graduate. So from the beginning, I was convinced of MScom’s value and didn’t look at any other programs,” Brunner said.

A University of Zurich Bachelor of Arts degree – with emphasis on English, literature and language and minors in media science and British and North American history – served Brunner well during his long career as a print journalist, but he found himself wanting a graduate education more aligned to communications.

In 2008, he was offered his current post as Head of Information for Swiss Armed Forces, and negotiated for MScom tuition and time to be part of his contract.

Communication’s strategic role
“In my role as Head of Information, I talk to the media about every aspect of the Swiss Armed Forces. I wanted from MScom to get a better understanding of various aspects connected to the communications business,” Brunner explained. “For my daily work, it’s very important to understand the link between communications and stakeholders and the strategic role communication plays.”

Brunner found that he was immediately able to apply MScom’s lessons to his daily work.

“One fundamental thing I was able to immediately apply to my daily work was the understanding that it is very important to bring your own points of view into play and that you’re talking to the media and public in an active way,” he said. “You don’t have to wait until an audience asks the questions; you can set your messages.”

A community of communicators
In addition to the solid executive education in communications he gained from MScom, Brunner also values the program’s community.

“The contributions of classmates contribute so much to MScom. During MScom11, I made three friends for life, and that’s something I did not expect. Our class really was a community, and a diverse one, with 24 people from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and communication discipines,” he explained. “We learned from one another and with one another. The MScom community is one factor that makes the program really unique.”

Other factors that differentiate MScom from other executive programs are its intensive, two-week management session at UCLA’s Anderson School of Business in Los Angeles, Calif., and its capstone consulting project.

“The two weeks at UCLA were a mixture of leisure and study with really great professors conducting their courses in a less formal, more conversational mode. It was clear that they wanted to learn from us as much as they wanted to teach us,” said Brunner.

“The capstone consulting project, a real-life consulting project carried out by teams of classmates, was another key part of MScom11 for me,” he added. “Teams are assembled by MScom administration, not chosen by participants, so you’re forced to collaborate on a very demanding project with different personality types. This is an added ‘real world’ factor because we all know that in the communications world outside of the classroom, we don’t always get to choose our collaborators.”

Brunner’s project team carried out a consulting project for Copenhagen Business School, providing the institution with recommendations for attracting tuition-paying students from outside of Europe. As with the rest of his MScom experience, the capstone consulting project offered information he could immediately transfer to his work with the Swiss Armed Forces.

“One important finding of our project was the importance of the social media. This is something we were told about during our first year of MScom11, but the project really brought its importance to the forefront,” said Brunner. “And the Swiss Armed Forces is already becoming involved with Facebook and Twitter – so that’s another example of MScom’s relevance and timeliness.”

Text based on interview carried out in December 2010.