We have always known the importance of public relations methods, but many business schools are just catching on to the idea of incorporating them into their curriculum. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has been pushing for a collaborative MBA Business Initiative led by Anthony D’Angelo, co-chair of the effort, with funding from MWW Group, a well-known public relations firm. The initiative attempts to advocate the use of strategic communication and reputation management in MBA programs across the United States and emphasize the importance of these skills in business leadership. However, lest we not forget that it is equally important to acknowledge that the public relations industry may also need a refresher in developing a better understanding of their business program counterparts.
According to a survey conducted by PRSA in 2011, the practice of communication is a vital skill for successful business leaders in the modern world. Future business professionals who have a better understanding of PR, and PR professionals who better understand the fundamentals of business administration and strategy will ultimately make better decisions at the executive level. This overhaul is sorely needed as the results from the survey suggest that approximately 98 percent of business executives deem corporate communications and reputation management as essential to business strategy, and noted that 40 percent of newly hired MBA graduates are not as skilled as they could be in protecting company image and credibility. In addition, only 16 percent of MBA programs in the United States had taken courses related to the use of public relations, crisis communication, and brand management skills.
Inevitably, change was necessary. Fortunately, the push for PRSA’s initiative was successful, ultimately leading five MBA programs to decide to partake in pilot programs set forth by the organization. Paul Argenti, a professor in the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, developed the majority of the pilot programs that will be incorporated into the schools’ curriculums. Course material will be based on his textbook, Corporate Communications, which will be the basis for all of the programs. Other schools incorporating the pilot program set to begin in 2013 and 2014 include Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, Quinnipiac University’s School of Business, and the University of Texas at El-Paso’s College of Business Administration.
As admirable as this initiative is to the world of academics and the public relations industry, one has to question: why not incorporate methods taught in MBA programs into professional degrees offering advanced studies in PR? How do we develop public relations programs to better reflect the emerging professionals in our field? Shouldn’t a PR professional’s knowledge of budgeting, finances, and inventory be held to the same standards of their executive counterparts? Most importantly, if public relations skills are such an intrinsic part of business strategy, why not better educate both industries?