Friday, June 3, 2011

Why PR, Crisis Communications Belong in Business Schools

The value of a company is closely linked to its reputation. Why, then, do so many executives fail so spectacularly at protecting their companies’ reputations in times of trouble?

Columnist Anthony D’Angelo in Bloomberg BusinessWeek cites a lack of communications studies in MBA programs as one key reason:

“So glaring is this omission that it's typical for MBA-holding executives to assume ‘reputation management’ or ‘public relations’ is the black art of spinning an alternative version of reality, as though that works in today's wide-open, relentlessly scrutinized, electron-speed information environment.”

Well put, Anthony.

And so we continue to witness CEOs from the likes of BP, Toyota and a parade of financial institutions take an evasive or no-comment approach, instead of being as transparent and responsive as they need to be in a crisis. It takes plenty of practice to think carefully, act quickly and communicate clearly—all with the empathy, care and urgency that a delicate situation demands.

These skills are fundamental to great business leadership. They should be emphasized, not just for MBA candidates but for undergrads as well. And if you don’t have crisis communications know-how in your company, consider seeking a strategic partner who can help you prepare.