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Woodbury Marketing Students Engage in Mock Entertainment Negotiations led by Real Industry Players

Professor Nancy McCullough teaching her course, The Art of Negotiation.

Across L.A., virtually every day, deals are proposed, negotiations entered, conflicts addressed and resolution reached (or not) – virtually all of these encounters occurring behind closed doors.

Woodbury University Marketing and Fashion Marketing students were able to pry those doors open a bit through the good offices of Nancy L. McCullough, Esq. during her second term offering the highly-demanded course, The Art of Negotiation.

Principal and Managing Attorney of a boutique law firm Nancy L. McCullough, Professor McCullough graduated from Harvard Law School, where she served on the Board of Editors of the Harvard Law Review, and UCLA.  She has more than 25 years of legal experience, including as in-house legal counsel to such major companies as Sony, Yahoo!, and Capitol Records, and as outside general counsel to tech entrepreneurs, costume and fashion designers, nonprofits, and others.

“Throughout the course, I’ve sought to provide students with skills needed for effective business negotiations, including addressing challenges to successful bargaining outcomes, by teaching them to develop an effective integrative negotiation style, and to use other sources of bargaining power — such as leveraging relationships — in order to achieve their desired results,” says Professor McCullough.

In the Art of Negotiation course, McCullough often uses real-life business deal points, drawn from her own client experiences, to underscore the stark reality that difficult personalities are inevitable in many, if not most, business negotiations — and how vital it is to develop a skill set to address the human side of the deal, in business and in life.

 

“We are proud to offer The Art of Negotiation to our marketing students and feel honored to have industry experts teaching through real-world experiences,” said Wendy Bendoni, Chair of Marketing & Fashion Marketing Department at Woodbury University.“ Through the request of our entertainment industry alumni and McCullough, this is the first of many industry-led courses.”

For the course, McCullough wrote a hypothetical to teach both the substantive and practical side of a fashion/entertainment negotiation situation. She brought the hypothetical to life by inviting two seasoned industry professionals to role-play.

One was stylist and costume designer Brenda Cooper, the Emmy-award winning costume designer for popular TV show “The Nanny” and co-host of E’s “Fashion Emergency,” who is intimately familiar with both the business and creative issues the hypothetical raised. The other was Harvard-educated actress and former lawyer Inger Tudor (“Goliath,” “The Trial,” “Voodoo Macbeth,” and “The Social Network”), who dramatically and authentically role-played a difficult and self-interested TV studio executive.

“Our negotiation exercise was a three-sided affair, involving a TV show costume designer, a clothing line interested in making a capsule collection based on show’s costumes, and the show’s studio executives, all with some overlapping interests and some conflicting interests,” said McCullough.

In order to practice as negotiators on each side of the imagined bargaining scenario, students had been instructed on how to prepare for their roles, both on their own and with the “real life” personalities for whom they were bargaining. The remaining class members were tasked with observing closely which negotiation techniques were effective, which were not, and why.

“Many students, and our other guests that evening, were quite surprised to learn at the end that our actor-guest was not really the demanding studio exec she had portrayed,” McCullough says. “The mock business situation placed a premium on adept, quick-thinking negotiation tactics in an environment dominated by intense, emotional personalities.”

Presenting negotiation styles from integrative (the “win/win: approach) to distributive (the “win/lose” approach) to shades in between, Art of Negotiation instructs how modes of communication (face to face, virtual, verbal/non-verbal), emotion/perception (psychological intangibles), differences in personal style, gender, and culture, and number of participants (one-on-one vs. multiparty contexts) shape the outcome of negotiations.

Student comments in the wake of the first Art of Negotiation seven-week course were revealing, variously offering insightful indicators of increasing student confidence in their own bargaining styles and effectiveness, and their sense of being able to deploy these skills in both personal and business negotiation contexts.

As a law student, McCullough had taken Harvard Law School’s Negotiation seminar, taught by a founder of the school’s noted Harvard Negotiation Project, closely affiliated with the law school’s current Program on Negotiation, a leading negotiation and dispute resolution institute that has trained thousands of professionals around the world.

Bendoni approved McCullough licensing some of Harvard’s time-tested negotiation training materials for Woodbury’s course, to supplement the other course curriculum. That experimental first course was a success in Spring 2019, leading to its return this Spring, with 15 very enthusiastic students enrolled, a mix of fashion marketing and marketing undergraduates.

“I believe that students leave the class with a “tool kit” of negotiation tactical skills, plus confidence in how to deploy these proficiently, in business and in life, including those necessary to handle effectively conflicts, disputes, and difficult opposing parties,” said McCullough.