PRSA MBA Program Drives Collaboration Through Research

PRSA’s MBA/Business School Program Committee supports collaboration among program faculty to facilitate shared understanding the impact of current trends on reputation management through webinars and research.

“PRSA’s MBA initiative is continuing to help business leaders understand reputation management. As a committee, we are continuing to focus on retaining and recruiting schools while also researching ongoing trends to keep the program fresh,” said Kathleen D. Rennie, APR, co-chair of PRSA’s MBA Committee.

In a recent webinar, faculty addressed the core problem that led to the creation and ongoing importance of the MBA Program. There is a broken process today for MBA students to understand strategic communications. PRSA has taken an active approach to remedy the problem and help position students in marketing and management roles.

The Journal of Management Education recently published an article from MBA Committee members with research showing that there is a need for an interdisciplinary approach to strategic communications.

As a result, participating schools are teaching courses that are focusing on strategy and management, relating everything to real-world issues. The courses provide a link between corporate performance and communication, eliminating preconceived notions, and defining strategic communications and clarifying its role in business.

One of the schools that has successfully implemented this approach is Virginia Tech where three different MBA programs have integrated two courses focusing on corporate communications and reputation management. Douglas Cannon, professor of practice at the College of Liberal Arts &Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, discussed the program coursework at the school.

Students at Virginia Tech had to audit their own corporate reputations and analyzed various public relations cases. Students learned how communications impacts business and gets put into action.

“The students find the presentation of the topics authentic and the class has rated very well,” said Cannon. Since the integration of the program in 2016, the program, focused mostly on campuses in the capital region near Washington D.C., Cannon said that it has been a popular offering with incredible takeaways.

In order for the reputation management courses to stay relevant with what is going on in the world, it is important to integrate real world examples. Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communication at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, discussed how organizations need to assess and respond to social issues, based on if they align with their larger strategies, visions and values.

Argenti unveiled a Risk-Strategy Framework to align organizations’ strategic values with risk and communications.

“To determine a proper response strategy, an organization has to know who they are, how relevant the issue is to their values and who they are, the risk of providing a response to an issue, and the urgency in how quickly a response should be generated. Then they can assess if and how they should respond,” said Argenti.

Understanding how a communication strategy aligns with the larger strategy, vision, and values of an organization is at the core of teaching reputation management to MBA students. Keeping MBA courses up-to-date with pressing current issues is critical for the courses to have an impact on students.

To learn more about becoming a member of the PRSA MBA Business School Program, please visit this link.

Giuseppe Barone is a member of PRSA’s MBA Committee. He is the manager of public relations and communications at IMA (Institute of Management Accountants) and has worked in corporate communications for a decade. Reach him by email at

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