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Media Training for MBA Students?

Ken Gaebler

Ken Gaebler

It’s a fact, wouldn’t you agree?

The top MBA programs in the country don’t offer their students any formal instruction on how to make the most of an interview with a journalist.

For some reason, MBA programs believe that a student must be able to thoroughly dissect a balance sheet and calculate obscure formulas for things like economic order quantities, but that it’s not important to do well in an interview when, say, a BusinessWeek reporter calls or Bloomberg wants the future executive to appear as a guest to discuss the economy.

As a graduate of a top MBA program myself (Boola Boola!) and a serial entrepreneur, I know firsthand that giving students access to media training would offer a huge value-add to the MBA class.

The startup I co-founded after finishing my MBA at Yale benefited hugely from PR. We were written up in the Wall Street Journal on a Tuesday. The next day, the phone rang off the hook with business opportunities. Within one week of the article hitting newsstands, we closed $300,000 worth of business on those PR-generated leads. For our bootstrapped startup, that was incredible.

I quickly realized that my MBA program, as excellent as it was, had given me knowledge of finance, operations and the like, but it had left me woefully unprepared to thrive in a world where the media plays such a huge role in defining our interests and our behavior.

During that first startup and in subsequent companies I was involved with, I diligently worked to hone my abilities to get conversations going with members of the media and make the most of each opportunity.

Those skills have been a gift that keeps on giving, and they’ve been much more valuable to me than the many other things I studied during my MBA program.

So why don’t MBA programs start offering their students media training courses?

Today, at Walker Sands, we regularly offer half-day or one-day media training courses to our clients. We transform them from media relations neophytes to PR pros.

Top MBA programs should hire a firm like Walker Sands or one of our peer firms (there are plenty of excellent media training companies) to teach MBA students the essentials of PR, including such topics as how the media operates and how to make the most of a media interview.

I’m not talking about overhauling the MBA program’s curriculum. This could be an optional half-day session offered on a Saturday. Costs would be completely reasonable, and the ROI would be astronomic.

For me, knowledge of how to get interviews and make the most of them has been a strategic weapon that has been very beneficial to me, to my companies and to the investors who backed us.

In the years to come, I expect that progressive MBA programs will buy into the power of PR and start taking steps to incorporate PR training into their MBA experiences.

Do you agree that MBA programs should do more to teach students about PR, media relations, media training, crisis PR and related topics? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear what you’ve got to say.