Businessweek: PR Belongs in B-School Studies

From Warren Buffet attempting to explain away insider trading at Berkshire Hathaway to Tony Hayward, formerly of BP, complaining about getting his life back, the litany of gaffes certainly changes public perceptions and corporate reputation—along with company valuations and career trajectories. Why then, aren't even the highest-ranked MBA programs doing better at preparing graduates for eventual responsibilities in reputation management?

Last month, Anthony D'Angelo, co-chair of the Public Relations Society of America's effort to influence MBA programs to add strategic communications content to their curricula noted in a column in Businessweek that few MBA programs bother to teach reputation management.

D'Angelo has a great point—one that the Opus College of Business has already taken to heart. At the core of his position lies ethical behavior. The cornerstone of our curriculum. From the start, principled business leaders who consider the long-range picture are less likely to run into many communications crises. (Though crises can always arise—and the way they are handled operationally is deeply intertwined with how they are communicated.)

D'Angelo argues that organizational leaders do not understand that the way they operate a business is inseparable from the way they communicate about the business, inside and outside the organization. This disconnect has led to a broad distrust of businesses, from many stakeholders—"customers, shareowners, government officials, activist groups, community residents, employees, the news media, and so forth."

A number of electives in the UST MBA and the Master of Business Communication program directly address these challenges and help business leaders to communicate effectively. For example:

Public Relations Practice considers public relations principles and practice in the business world. The class describes how employee, investor, community, government and organizational public relations practices differ from each other, yet are used together to communicate a consistent organizational message. Case histories focus on public relations programs and how research, planning, communication and measurement are applied.

Corporate Communication Management focuses on the overall communication function in a large organization. The course is presented from the perspective of a director of communication and emphasizes the integration of corporate communication objectives, plans and activities.

Our goal in the College of Business is to encourage ethical development in the context of sound policies and practices. We affirm the legitimacy and centrality of moral values in business decision making (and communication) because without them, business relationships and strong communities are impossible.