Any MBA program is incomplete unless it gives its students a holistic perspective about the economy and the corporate world, and equips them to deal with it. It must prepare students with the required conceptual and interpersonal skills for managerial decision-making,
At its core, public relations revolve around the fact that people act based upon their perception of facts. By managing or influencing people’s perceptions, PR professionals initiate a sequence of behaviours that enables a organisation to achieve its objectives through media.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has launched a pilot project at five US business schools to teach MBA students how to handle crises and preserve corporate reputations. Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, 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 are participating in the pilot project. These institutes understand the need for teaching students effective communication skills, because “CEOs have made egregious mistakes in transparency and governance,” said Gerard Corbett, chairman and CEO of the public relations group.
“The initiative is to get executives at the beginning of their careers and understand the nature and purpose of good reputation management,” he continued. This program intends to develop a model course offering lessons on establishing a brand, social responsibility, using the media and other subjects that will be part of a course adopted by business schools across the U.S.
This decision to imbue crisis and reputation management at educational level needs to be replicated globally for better execution of entrepreneurship.
1. PR helps brands make relationships with consumers – Companies must ensure that the public’s faith in their product and brand, because a company’s reputation can make it or break it. In order to establish and maintain this faith, companies ought to engage with their target audiences in such a way that they create trust – and trust requires open and credible communication at all times. It is accurate flow and careful manipulation of the information released to the public via press or social media. This communication is very critical and requires PR expertise.
2. PR is now the new brand awareness – Communication technology has its pros and cons. News goes viral in a flash. Companies must be ready to respond to disasters swiftly and decisively, using all platforms to communicate with the public. Companies that fail to engage or respond appropriately can also suffer severely at the hands of social media users. Companies keeping their finger on the social media pulse will be able to connect, anticipate, respond and re-align strategies effectively.
In 2007, research revealed that Americans saw up to 5000 ads a day. Over the years, consumers have evolved, and will continue to filter out conventional advertising. PR will not only finds new channels to communicate the same information more effectively but also encourages positive response. This is something future business leaders need to know.
3. Ads bring consumers, PR builds loyal fans – While advertising can be effective in attracting new and potential clients, the attraction is short-lived. It doesn’t establish trust. A news article on the other hand holds credibility.
As Prema Sagar, Principal and Founder of Genesis Burson-Marsteller, said “Advertising is paid for, whereas PR is about influencing and creating preference and choice for a product or service. It’s a completely different way of communicating.”
She continued “You would not buy a product today without checking its review on Google, and looking at what people are saying about it… nobody is going to say I bought it because I saw it in the newspaper. An ad doesn’t tell you anything anymore. That is the area where it makes a big impact.”
Another crucial fact remains that PR is more cost effective than advertising – re-emphasizing why tomorrow’s business leaders need to be PR savvy.
The former, combined with increased consumer rights awareness heightens the probability further.
Mass production, globalization enables a damaged product touching a larger number of people, quickly, amplifying the scale of PR damage via a product crisis. An entrepreneur just can’t buy his/her way out of a crisis.
BP’s handling of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, deaths in Chicago caused by Tylenol tampering in 1982 and Union Carbide’s lethal gas leak in Bhopal, India, in 1984 are not merely case studies, they are a constant reminder of what can happen.
Companies as grand as Time Warner lost $54.2 billion in Q1 ’02, Merrill Lynch lost $9.8 billion in Q4 ’07, BP lost $17 billion in Q2 ’10, Nortel Networks lost $19.4 billion in Q2 ’01, and Fannie Mae lost $19.8 billion in Q3 ’09, some of which could be prevented by effective communication.
5. PR is now part of the product cycle – Corporate communications is not one-sided anymore. People have become active participants and companies have altered their products and services to suit their consumer’s satisfaction.
Public relations can help resurrect and sustain companies. Toyota’s recall fiasco (2010), JetBlue’s week-long operational breakdown (2007) , cases as lethal as Cadbury’s worm infested candy bars (2003), Odwalla Foods’ apple juice E.coli outbreak (1996), PepsiCo’s can tampering rumors (1993), Johnson & Johnson’s cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules (1982) have been brought under control only through effective and systematic communication between the company and its consumers.
In the lack of an efficient PR mechanism within an organization, bankruptcy is an open pit at the turn of the smallest accident, waiting to engulf years of managerial efforts and expertise.
Written by Chaahat Madaan for Image Management.