Why You Might Need an MBA for your PR Job

MBA PR Communications

This article is sponsored by EU Business School’s Communications and Public Relations MBA. Learn more.

In some fields, an MBA is an obvious advantage. Even as a handful of banks and brokerages shift towards on-the-job training for employees with bachelor’s degrees, finance MBAs still have an edge. In large corporate firms, earning an executive MBA can alter your career trajectory instantly because your education can be so quickly put to use.

For communications and public relations professionals, the advantages of an MBA are murkier. The degree will improve your team building and leadership skills, but some may question whether the time and money could be better used. Higher qualifications often lead to a higher-level job; many communications and PR pros pursue other types of master’s degree accordingly.

However there are certain advantages to pursuing an MBA instead of one of these options – indeed, it is the question of communication itself to which it boils down, namely that between corporate and creative. Between these two groups there is what you might call a language barrier, with neither side able to express their needs in a way the other can easily understand.

A communications and PR MBA will cultivate familiarity with both of these lexicons, allowing the barrier to be well and truly broken down by someone with one foot in both camps.

EU Business School offers one such program, aimed at professionals who have worked in PR and communications jobs.

What can an MBA do for those seeking PR jobs?

Competition for top PR jobs is fierce, particularly as, across the globe, many economies still struggle to emerge from the recession. Can an MBA make a difference? “If you plan to work on the agency side, an MBA means nothing,” claims Arik Hanson, of Minneapolis, Minnesota marketing consultancy ACH Communications. “I’m not saying the knowledge is useless – clearly, it is not. But, agencies don’t hire people because they have MBAs. They hire creative problem-solvers who can get stuff done – or bring in business. At least that’s what I see.”

Despite his negative view, even Hanson concedes that earning an MBA provides unparalleled networking opportunities. However, his point of view, although once prevalent, is losing credence today. In the quest for a top-level PR job, earning an MBA might not just be about climbing the corporate ladder; these days it can be a key factor in getting on the ladder in the first place.

“In today’s crazy competitive job market, the MBA credential can make you stand out from most of the other job candidates you're competing against,” explains David Reich, founder of New York City boutique PR firm Reich Communications. He remembers he got his second PR job, “specifically because I had an MBA and the folks who hired me felt I’d be better able to deal on an equal footing with the young MBA types who were in the clients’ marketing departments.” Because the language of business is a vital component for up-and-coming PR professionals, many with communications backgroundsare enrolling in MBA programs to consolidate their skills. 

Critical thinking skills, teamwork and your MBA

Obviously experience in communications jobs will have furnished you with written and spoken communication skills. As a EU Business School blog posting points out, having a communications degree also means you are armed with, “vital skills that are highly valued by any employer, such as critical thinking, team work, analysis and problem solving.” These talents will be honed in an MBA program. Yet, this is not all that you can hope to acquire.

When John A Byrne developed a business education website he called it ‘Poets and Quants,’ “Because it’s part of the language and culture of every MBA school. Poets are MBA candidates with liberal arts undergraduate degrees... they often struggle with the finance and statistics courses. Quants are students with business, financial or engineering backgrounds who are undaunted by spreadsheets and statistical analysis but may have some trouble writing a well-structured, smartly argued paper.”

As Bryne points out, MBA programs often combine these groups into teams so that they can complement each other. While one group may be stronger in critical thinking, others have different aptitudes. Everyone benefits from the teamwork.

EU Business School offers students the chance to study at any of its four campuses in Barcelona, Munich, Geneva or Montreux. The school’s MBA in Communications and Public Relations promises that, “Students not only learn the essentials of communication but gain the confidence and articulation necessary to become persuasive public speakers.”

Course offerings are designed to foster critical thinking and analysis, including ones tailor-made for ‘quants’ like finance and quantitative business methods. There are also seminars on negotiation and business law, all of which prepare students for careers working everywhere from corporations to nonprofits. As the EU blog article points out, “Although many graduates choose to work in publicity, journalism or public relations, their skills are also now invaluable in the business sectors, meaning that many graduates also go on to work in healthcare, financial services, information technology, community organizations, manufacturing, mining, government relations and many more!”           

For those who aspire to high-level careers as PR managers, David Reich believes the education is essential because it gives you a better understanding of business, economics and finance, strategic planning, ROI and many other things that marketers and c-level executives understand and deal with on a regular basis. Having some idea of what they're talking about – and what they need and why they need it – enables you to do a better job that contributes to an organization's overall objectives. As he points out, the job is, “about more than publicity and press clippings.”

Demonstrating your value as a PR manager

The communications and public relations industry is evolving with more and more organizations seeking PR managers with a grounding in business as well as field-specific experience. Finding people who meet these criteria is not always easy.

There is constant pressure for executives to convince higher-ups of the value of PR activities. According to PR News Online this means “PR managers and directors at both corporations and agencies are taking pains to be more business savvy and speak in a language (read: numbers) that the executives at the top of the company will appreciate. At the same time, the PR field still lacks executives who truly understand business imperatives and can demonstrate that expertise with, say, an MBA.”           

For those with a background in communications and PR, earning an MBA is one more way to convince the corporate suite of your value. Being able to express yourself clearly and make your point is an important attribute, but when you combine this with the ability to converse to an executive in business terms you've made yourself far more valuable to a company than someone who cannot.     

When it comes to being a PR manager, Hanson admits that while he’s not certain of the degree’s value on the agency side, “On the corporate side, it’s a completely different story. MBAs and higher education are often a qualifier for senior-level jobs like VP and director roles. I’ve seen that firsthand at several corporations I’ve worked for and with. So, if you want a senior job on the corporate side and that’s your primary goal, I might say yeah, an MBA might be a wise investment.”

Despite the many pros and cons, the truth is that it’s impossible to accurately quantify the degree’s value to an individual. The best argument is one Reich makes in his blog posting: “What you learn as you pursue an MBA may not always bring benefits that are readily apparent, such as a big jump in your pay check. But what you learn as you pursue your MBA (or any advanced degree, for that matter) will help you in ways you just can't imagine or anticipate now. Trust me on this.”

This article is sponsored by EU Business School’s Communications and Public Relations MBA.

Written by John Bankston

Content writer John began his career as an investigative reporter and is a prolific educational writer alongside his work for us, authoring over 100 nonfiction books for children and young adults since 2000.

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Thanks for sharing such great info and people who are thinking or confused about it then they must read this article. It will really help to reach to a correct decision. There are five reason PR should consider an MBA. 1. Finance 2. Accounting 3. Economics 4. Context 5. Credibility