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PRSA Leads US Charge to Improve Public Relations: New MBA course to give leaders essential skills for reputation and crisis management

June 20, 2012


The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is leading an industry-wide charge in the United States to create an MBA-level public relations course that will give future business leaders the strategic communication and reputation management skills they need to manage modern-day corporate challenges and crises.


Currently, many American business leaders view recent MBA graduates as being under-prepared in these areas, according to the findings of a Kelton Research study, commissioned by PRSA and funded by MWW Group.


One reason why, says Joseph Cohen, APR, a PRSA director and chair of the organization’s MBA Initiative Committee, is that MBA programs are “notoriously lacking” in their reputation and corporate communication curricula.


To help address this lack of training, PRSA has created a turn-key program based on course curricula developed over three decades by Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communications at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, ranked by The Economist as the world’s best MBA program.


Tuck, in addition to 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 the University of Texas at El Paso’s College of Business Administration, will be taking part in a PRSA pilot program for the 2012-2013 academic year, through which the schools will formally integrate the public relations course into their MBA programs. PRSA set a timeline to launch the initiative with MBA programs nationwide in the 2013-2014 academic year.



PRSA Study Underscores Evolving Reputational Challenges


The PRSA study, conducted in October 2011, was intended to gauge the organizational value that U.S. business executives place on corporate communications and reputation management, and on senior managers having advanced skills in those areas. The responses received from 204 American business leaders (vice president and above) underscore the evolving reputational challenges businesses face.


According to the survey, a large majority of C-suite business executives believe that MBA programs lack sufficient emphasis on communications strategy and related leadership skills.


Moreover, 93 percent of survey respondents indicated that public relations is just as important to their companies as other forms of communication, including advertising and marketing. A further 9-in-10 business leaders surveyed admitted that executives at their companies need greater training in core communication disciplines, such as reputation management and corporate communication.


Survey respondents also dismissed the view that only corporate public relations departments and agencies need advanced communications acumen. Nearly all business leaders surveyed think CEOs should understand the role of corporate reputation management (97 percent), and that it is important for C-level executives to have a working knowledge of basic public relations skills (98 percent).


Other key findings of the research include:


  • Nearly all executives (98%) believe that business schools should incorporate instruction on corporate communications and reputation management strategy into MBA curricula.
  • While 59% of business leaders say their companies have hired recent MBA graduates within the last three years, only 4 in 10 find the skill sets of these graduates to be extremely strong in building and protecting the company’s reputation (41%) and credibility (40%).


  • Nearly every executive (97%) says it is important for CEOs to have a well-developed understanding of the role of corporate reputation management. A similar number (98%) say executives at any level should have such an understanding.
  • Nearly all business leaders (98%) believe it will be important in the future for corporations to have senior managers with a working knowledge of building and protecting a company’s credibility. And 96% say it will also be important for these individuals to have a working knowledge of building and protecting a company’s reputation.



PRSA’s MBA initiative is a multi-year, collaborative effort to advocate the value of including foundational communications strategy in MBA programs. Ultimately, the program is intended to give MBA candidates a better appreciation of public relations’ strategic value and help them understand the communications skills required for success in the future.


More information on the PRSA MBA Initiative is available by contacting Cohen directly at