Gateway to better leadership – Adding Strategic Communications studies to MBA & non-traditional programmes


In April 2018 got an opportunity to be a part of The Bridge Conference, organised by the Institute for PR, Washington DC. IPR Bridge aimed to bring together the academia and the profession of public relations and strategic communications. I found this particularly fascinating for two reasons.

  1. A lot remains to be done in this space to get the academics to collaborate with the profession to address knowledge and skill gaps, especially compared to mainstream domains such as business management
  2. Our own institute of PR – SCoRe is an outcome of such need and such collaboration. We envisioned ourselves to become a fountain of world class research and talent in PR, and we have been made able to make it possible thanks to over forty PR firms and their members coming together in various forms; particularly through Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI)

Highlights of the IPR Bridge, 2018, Washington DC

One panel discussed the manifestation of such collaborations – making strategic communications a part of curricula that create business leaders. Panellists were Kathleen Rennie, Associate Professor, New Jersey City University, Kristie Byrum, Assistant Professor, University Of Pennsylvania, Lynn P. Costantini, Manager Cybersecurity Compliance and Oversight, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and the discussion was moderated by Reed Bolton Byrum, Chairman, Byrum Innovation Group

“The Compelling Need”

It was insightful to learn the starkly different was the importance of strategic communications for curriculum designers and recruiters. In a study published in the Journal of Management Studies, Dr. Kathleen Rennie, revealed this “compelling need”, and some fascinating realities of strategic communications education:

  • Only 6% MBA programme address strategic communications
  • 98% corporations don’t think MBA programme cover these adequately
  • Most limit their coverage to interpersonal and speaking communications skills
  • There is an inclination towards more ‘attractive’ curriculum components as it attracts more student attention and interest

And it isn’t just corporations who miss such training imparted to their hires. Management graduates themselves feel the need for training in strategic communications and reputation management as an integral to a successful career. Loosely quoting Dr. Rennie:

“One of the reasons why MBA students want to learn more about Press Releases is the concern that someday they might be quoted in one”

A Possible Solutions to Curr

Even while there is agreement on its necessity, embedding strategic communications into curricula, it is difficult to make it happen. Particularly in well-established institutions, there needs to be consensus and support with the leadership. A few tips emerged from how PRSA partners with MBA and other non-traditional graduate degree programmes to experiment injection of strategic communications curriculum components:

  • Approach deans and other heads of programmes before faculty
  • Find a sponsor – An innovative leader who can see value in such
  • Educate them the need for it, especially with this research of the kind created by Dr. Rennie
  • Show examples of other institutes doing it
About IPR Bridge

The conference itself was the first of its kind organised by IPR. The two day conference hosted at the Georgetown University, School of Continuing Studies, and was a success in my opinion. It brought a range of cutting edge ideas from academia and practice and I had the opportunity to meet some incredible people from both spheres, including some students from University of Florida who were helping put this event together. My congratulations go to Tina McCorkindale, Sarab Kochhar, Sarah Jackson and team for putting this together.

I have highlighted some of the fascinating ideas I discovered at the conference through some tweets, do check them out.

– Hemant Gaule

Hemant is the Deputy Dean and Co-founder of School of Communications and Reputation (SCoRe). He is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad, and has counselled brands in the private and political space. He writes a column on Political Communications and can be found at @HemantGaule on Twitter and as Hemant Gaule on LinkedIn



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