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A Better MBA: Why Business Schools Should Teach PR

Recently, Bloomberg Businessweek published a story announcing an important initiative spearheaded by PRSA and MWW Group to bring public relations into the fold at more top business schools.

This is an important effort that our industry should rally around. Every day public relations professionals help companies communicate their value to customers, investors, the media and other stakeholders, navigating clients toward higher sales and greater brand awareness. Yet, as an industry, we often don’t practice what we preach. We’re doing a poor job communicating the value of public relations to the C-suite that we serve.

Sure, business leaders understand the benefit of public relations expertise when it gets them out of a crisis, but communications experts should not only be brought to the table when it’s time to clean up. Rather, public relations should be as intrinsic to a business strategy as the advertising budget, finances or the inventory, and it should be taught in MBA programs right up there with accounting and talent management.

Business schools have the opportunity and a responsibility to graduate well-rounded leaders, who have all the tools in their toolbox, including a core set of public relations skills. Yet, according to a recent survey conducted by PRSA and Kelton Research, and funded by MWW Group, 98 percent of business leaders agree that MBA programs aren’t doing enough to instruct future leaders on corporate communications and reputation management strategy. As a result, business school academia is failing to prepare future business leaders for the modern reputational and communications challenges they will face.

PRSA is modeling its initiative on a successful class developed by Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communications at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. PRSA’s model will offer a number of different formats that can be tailored by individual programs to fit the needs and aspirations of their students.

The goal of PRSA’s MBA Initiative is not to train business executives to do their own public relations. But by grounding future executives in the principles of reputation management, crisis control and other critical actions, the C-suite will be able to build more productive relationships with the communications counsel they employ. (Read more about what the initiative is and what it isn’t from PRSA Board Member Joe Cohen, APR, a senior vice president at MWW Group.)

The need for these skills has never been greater. With social media driving the conversation, what used to be considered a small setback can now turn into a major PR disaster in a matter of minutes. Upper management should understand the function and value of strong public relations not only to mitigate crises that have already happened, but to prevent crises from unfolding in the future.

The MBA Initiative isn’t just a win for the public relations industry; it’s a win for all industry. At its core, this effort is about advancing better business practices that will benefit the bottom line, investors and the overall economy. It’s about time the business community and the public relations industry got together to do more than communicate value — it’s time we created value together.

A version of this post originally ran in the MWW Straight Talk blog.

Michael Kempner is president and chief executive officer of MWW Group.

2 Comments

  • It is extremely important that leaders of any organization understand the importance of good Public Relations.  The first main step is an education as to what Public Relations is.  I see many job postings for receptionist positions that list “public relations” as a skill, when they are trying to define being friendly and courteous with the public.  Many think of public relations when they are in a crisis situation and they want their reputations to be rescued as best as possible and want a public relations professional to magically make the tough questions and bad light to go away.  Being in public relations for more than 10 years, and dealing mainly with crisis communications, I have come to learn that the successful conclusion of a crisis has to do with not only the actions taken during a crisis, but everyday.  Your reputation is always under construction.  Good daily public relations helps ensure that your foundation is solid.  Even with good public relations, crisis may happen, and damage could destroy a floor or two of your reputation skyscraper, but with your solid foundation you can rebuild and continue to build up. 

    Javier Sambrano
    Menton Harbor Creative

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