Is An MBA Worth It For PR Professionals?
In public relations, MBA may as well stand for “My Bachelor’s Adequate.” Let’s face it: Most people get into public relations for the chance to be creative. They love the variety that comes with conceptualizing, writing, presenting, and meeting new people. No day is ever the same. And these creative types thrive on darting between tight deadlines and ambiguous expectations.
Sure, they grouse about the rejection, watered-down ideas, and all-hands-on-deck surprises. Amid this glorious chaos, do they really want to learn how to establish consistent models or worry about “dull” topics like cash flow or depreciation? Do they really want to give up two years to sit in cramped quarters digesting arcane case studies and complete projects that will never be publicized?
This week, Arik Hanson, the principal of ACH Communications in Minneapolis, asks the question on the minds of many public relations professionals: Is an MBA worth it? Although Hanson hasn’t earned an MBA himself, he does spark an interesting discussion with his readers.
First, Hanson believes PR people enter MBA programs for three reasons: 1) They’re bored; 2) They’re seeking a high-ranking position; or 3) They haven’t figured out what to do with their lives. Personally, Hanson believes MBAs will help PR professionals hoping to land coveted senior leadership roles. Otherwise, he considers investing the time and money into an MBA to be a risky proposition.
In the end, Hanson offers the usual advice for going to business school, such as developing a strong network and enrolling while you’re young (and free from family obligations). However, his readers mounted a much stronger defense of the MBA. Here is a sample of their thoughts:
“[An] MBA gives you a language of business that you can always use. It is much easier to learn this when you are just focusing on the MBA curriculum.”
– Jay Oza
“While I don’t work in PR anymore, my undergraduate degree was in “strategic communications” and led me very naturally down that path. However, as I grew in my career, I realized that business decisions in the marketing/PR department are largely impacted by other areas of the business – of which I knew nothing about. And that was my primary motivation for getting an MBA.”
– Kristin Lenander
“For many of us working in organizations (vs. a firm), part of our job entails working with our communities during the messy stuff. We would be stronger and better and more trusted strategic advisors if, when the icky things happen, we were more grounded in risk management and litigation. We would know better the places to help attorneys develop more comfort with speaking to media if litigation is threatened, we’d know the limits, we’d be better able to offer the transparency we desire because we could explain, first-hand, the reasons we couldn’t say more.”
– Steff Weiss
“…There are many things we learn on the job that you simply can’t get in an academic setting. However, there were some skills I wasn’t picking up on my journey (financial acumen, strategy development, global perspective, etc.) I wanted to develop as a leader and felt the skills previously mentioned would be necessary for future growth.”
– B. Vincent
“First and foremost, to be able to speak the language of business in finance. PR pros continuously see this as a major complaint. Do I need to discount cash flow or understand that the cash flow statement links the income statement to a balance sheet? Maybe or maybe not…But it sure makes a difference understanding the time value of money when discussing strategy, including PR, for a new product running a subscription model, or being able to articulate to a reporter the valuation of a startup, or being able to help someone pull together slides for a VC pitch. And because an MBA teaches you to do those things, you have credibility (which can be kept or lost). There’s a standard set of classes — and hence skills — an employer or a client knows what they are getting when you walk in the door.”
– Frank Strong
So is an MBA worth it? That’s really for professionals to decide for themselves. Fact is, an MBA may not help you in your day-to-day…at first. But it only takes that one big moment – when your teammates are shaken and the hurdles just seem “too big” – when those old lessons kick in. And it’s during these times when your schooling gives you the confidence and know-how to stand apart (and make a lot of money in the process).
Source: Arik Hanson