A Publicity Stunt That Could Backfire

It’s a director of admissions worst nightmare: You accept an business school applicant to your world famous MBA program and then he uses the invite as little more than a publicity stunt to enhance his business.

Shockingly, that’s what Mike Moradian is doing to the Harvard Business School.

The Californian was accepted to HBS in December for the upcoming fall term. But instead of packing his bags for the trip to Boston, he sent out a news release yesterday (Aug. 8) on PR Newswire under the provocative headline: “Should I go to Harvard? Social Media Vote Decides for CollegeBudget.com CEO.”

To gain attention for the launch of another business last week, Moradian set up a website to ask people to vote on whether he should attend Harvard or stay with his business. The newly launched business, CollegeBudget, is a Groupon-like deal idea for college students.

The publicity gimmick apparently worked. The story has been picked up by media outlets as varied as The Washington Post, TechCrunch, BostInnovation, and Business Insider. Of more than 25,000 votes cast as of Aug. 10, slightly more than half are urging Moradian to go to HBS.

Moradian denies it’s merely an attempt to gain attention for his business. “I don’t consider this to be a publicity stunt,” he says. “It has been a meaningful way to get feedback. This is a crowdsourcing concept. It’s an opportunity to highlight what I’m doing and have people give me advice on what they’d like me to do.”

Though Moradian concedes he did provide advance warning of the publicity campaign to Harvard’s admissions staff, he has since been in touch with the school and says it did not express any displeasure over his decision to seek attention.

Moradian graduated from UCLA in 2007, worked as an advisory associate for KPMG for less than two years before starting a social website called CampusBuddy.com in early 2008. He was accepted into Harvard last December, but contends he is still undecided about starting school there this fall.

“I’m willing to walk away from what could be a once in a lifetime educational opportunity, but only if I feel that other people share my vision for CollegeBudget and see the value in what we can do for college students,” Moradian said in the news release. “The choice is yours America, choose wisely.”

Well, yes and no. “I put down a deposit already,” Moradian says in an interview, “so clearly I have the intention to go.”

On his LinkedIn profile, Moradian had already claimed the Harvard Business School degree, indicating that he attended the school from 2010 to 2011 (see below). Most incoming students wouldn’t put the degree on the educational portions of their LinkedIn profiles. Instead, they would write “MBA Candidate, Class of 2013.”

After reading an earlier version of this story, however, Moradian corrected his LinkedIn profile, removing any mention of Harvard Business School at all. He says that it was “a default setting” by LinkedIn that led to the error.

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  • Bob Plotkin

    KPMG? how did he get into HBS anyway?

  • Jay

    Just another Lebron James wanabe

  • regina

    As can be said that of the question “should I go to Harvard or not” is obviously a “personal” choice as well.

  • Allie

    Apparently, this guy is in business and he can’t make his own decision about going to HBS? Who’s kidding who? I love Regina’s idea about a new poll for America—-Should Harvard throw out Moradian out? But, maybe they think this is very entrepreneurial of him.

  • Louis

    Sorry, I just don’t think it’s as big of a deal. I think whether Moradian should be thrown out is not ours to decide.

  • regina

    Sorry. Just need to add….I need to start a new poll “SHOULD HARVARD THROW MIKE MORADIAN OUT?”…..Trust me, that would really make your tough decision a lot easier.

  • regina

    I’d have to beg Harvard to please throw Mr.Moradian out. To poll America and ask a question that EVERYONE knows the answer to is absolutely ridiculous. Get publicity for all the right reasons,…feed the poor, do good deeds…Geez…for heavens sake…its like saying, “look at me, look at me….Here I am..I’m just too good for Harvard”. And it sucks because “superficially”, you had all the “right” credentials to get you in.

  • RocketMan

    Mr. Moradian is an idiot, end of story.
    That said, HBS Admissions should state why they admitted a person, though capable, who is not mature nor gentleman enough to hold an MBA title of such a remarkable institution. What he has done puts into serious questions his values too, and the kind of people HBS admits; considering the recent news, and the bad publicity it has become for Harvard, they shouldn’t be gambling with this! I think that’s the important story here.
    Ps: Mr. Moradian, what you have done is incredibly stupid. You should be humble enough to recognize this if you want to grow as a person.

  • I couldnt agree with Current MBA more. If Mr. Moradian believes in his business idea and the value proposition of his company, he doesn’t have to go to HBS. Even if he chooses to go, that is his and only his decision. To let America decide on what he should do and make such a statement is certainly an attempt at gaining publicity. While the intent might not have been there and this was just an attempt at getting a public poll, Mr. Morodian’s actions have certainly come across as an attempt to gain attention.

    If he got the HBS offer in December and conducted this poll the same day, just to gauge the public reaction on the HBS education, that would have been different. I think he got it wrong from a timing perspective as well. If I am undecided what to do in the days leading up to the start of the B-school, someone at HBS ADCOM should have serious word with him. If Mr. Moradian chooses to go HBS and then figure out if he is cut-out for 2 years of hard work, there is a fair probability that might bail out. While that may not affect him much, as he already has his own enterprise (and the attention of the public), he will certainly stand in the way of someone else getting that coveted admission.