Not a week seems to pass without headlines about a corporate executive mishandling a crisis that snowballed into a PR disaster. Take Tony Hayward and the BP oil spill, or Warren Buffet trying to explain insider trading activity at Berkshire-Hathaway – despite outstanding credentials and accomplished careers, many CEOs find themselves looking foolish after responding poorly to unexpected events. Corporate crises are inevitable, but luckily, America’s future CEOs might be better prepared to handle them.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has launched a pilot project at five MBA business schools to teach
students crucial PR practices. As of this year, only 18 percent of U.S. MBA programs offer a single course in public relations, and those who do likely offer them only as an elective. Now, PRSA is roping in execs at the very beginning of their careers to establish an understanding of reputation management accompanied by new set of PR skills. For the first time in the United States, these MBA business schools will require the teaching of strategic communications practices, tailored to CEO personalities.
Five schools are participating in the pilot project, including Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Quinnipiac University’s School of Business and University of Texas at El Paso’s College of Business Administration.
Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year, these MBA students will have the opportunity to learn how to use PR practices in tackling every day issues. Course topics will range from establishing a brand, to social responsibility and using new media.
I’ve always wondered why there wasn’t a more seamless integration of some PR skill into the study of business administration. Having a PR-proficient executive seated at the management table seems like a no-brainer when it’s so fundamental that companies know how to communicate with staff, the community, and investors about a whole range of issues. So, why are these courses only being offered now?
The drive to improve PR education in business schools is coming at a time when there is a projected 21 percent increase in the number of PR jobs from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Businesses in this era must learn how to respond quickly to news and information that is moving faster given today’s Internet and new media environment, which might explain an above average growth rate in the PR job market.
It will be interesting to see how these courses are received by non-communications students, and whether other universities will decide to jump onto similar course offerings. Do you think providing mandatory PR education to up and coming business executives is worthwhile?