MBAs are much maligned. People say you don’t need one to start/fix/manage a wildly successful business. They’re right. People also contend that MBAs think in a box and lack creativity. They’re right, too. Sometimes.
Few PR people have MBAs. This makes some sense, because our craft involves a fairly specific range of tasks that are best learned by doing. But as an MBA holder myself (I graduated from the Executive MBA program at Concordia in Montreal in 2009) I can say without reservation that the notion the degree holds great value for PR pros is worth considering.
Here are five ways that getting an MBA can help a PR pro:
1. It focuses your thinking on business goals. As PR professionals, we are rightly accused of lacking understanding about business goals. We yell and scream about press hits, retweets, influence scores, content marketing, etc., but often demonstrate a lack of knowledge about how these things tie to the bottom line. An MBA drills business goals into you. It trained me to think beyond the usual metrics of my craft and about the broader picture. When others see this line of thinking from a PR person, they are impressed—especially clients.
2. An MBA teaches you the “dialect of the tribe.” Business leaders—C-suite types—speak a certain language. Good or bad, this is likely to remain the case, which means PR pros need to speak it, too. An MBA, as I told Justin the other night, teaches you to “speak the dialect of the tribe.” More than that, an MBA with a generalist approach (such as the EMBA I pursued) puts you in a position to converse with people in other functional areas in a given business. So, though I am not an expert on derivatives, I definitely understand what net present value is, and I can converse somewhat intelligently with the finance department about the concept. Again, this ability makes a PR pro stand out and gain credibility and respect.
3. The degree gives you tools to run your own shop. Many PR pros have at least entertained the notion of running their own consultancy or agency one day. This involves a whole array of things that have little to do with the craft of PR. You need to know how to read a balance sheet, practice sound HR, manage change, and keep operating costs low. No doubt you can learn this stuff without an MBA, but having the attendant knowledge doesn’t hurt.
4. It pays. Even though the MBA is much maligned, it does still pay—in a dollars sense —to get one. There is ample evidence to support this. My own experience is that salary rises once the degree is awarded.
5. It grows your network. Arguably the biggest benefit of an MBA, especially an EMBA, is the network you get. You go through war with your classmates, and the bond becomes tight. No doubt zillions of non-MBA folks have huge networks, but an MBA does help. My MBA network has led to PR-specific business opportunities that would not have arisen otherwise.
If you have thoughts on this, please weigh in.