A study commissioned by the PRSA revealed that only 16 percent of our nation's top MBA programs offer ANY sort of public relations course at all. The finding is both absurd and perfectly understandable.
It's absurd since the movers and shakers who create B-school curricula have yet to grasp the instantaneous impact a negative image and reputation can have on an organization. Have they been asleep at the wheel as leaders and their organizations have flamed out on nightly newscasts for the past 15 years or so? To bring them up to speed, I'd start my lecture with a case study of the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky tale, mix in some Dennis Kozlowski and Jeff Skilling anecdotes and finish with a flourish that includes a cocktail of Tony Hayward, the Governator and Anthony Weiner.
On the other hand, I completely understand why MBA programs WOULD overlook PR. Like everyone else, B-school types see PR as little more than celebrity party planning managed by gum-chewing, language-mangling morons, 'Um, like, I'm so hoping Jay-Z shows up at, like, our Lotus party tonight.'
Until, and unless, the various PR trade organizations band together to present a correct, and cohesive, portrait of PR's vital role in the success of any CEO or organization, MBA programs will continue to dismiss it as a soft skill unworthy of their attention. Oh, and until and unless, undergraduate PR academics FORCE their students to take an economics elective or two, executives will continue to believe we don't understand the business of their business.
The PRSA study paints a bleak picture of the future and should serve as a clarion call to all of us in positions of power to do something about it now (i.e. The Arthur W. Page Society has a special committee whose charge is to interact with B-schools. What's their plan of action in light of this disturbing report? The Council of PR Firms provides superb workshops that are often led by B-school professors. But, what's their strategy for inserting PR into an MBA student's coursework?).
Meanwhile, PR trade publications are positively glowing in their profiles of chief communications officers who've earned a seat at the table and are making decisions that have real, bottom-line impact. But, like our nation's politicians, I think the trade media are losing sight of the future by focusing on the here and now.
If we don't act to change the 16 percent factor now, I'm less than sanguine about PR's EVER gaining a permanent seat at the table.
So, who's up for creating a cross-organizational initiative to educate the educators? Someone needs to pay attention to PR's fate 25 years down the road. And, that someone should be you (and me).