For me, doing an MBA is like deciding to move to another country. It pushes you outside of your comfort zone and challenges your thinking beyond what is familiar.
I’ve lived and worked in four countries and every experience helped me to build up a new aspect of my personality and arsenal of knowledge. Completing my Executive MBA at London Business School this July marked the end of another transformational journey that I believe has made me a better communications professional.
There are many things that the MBA programme taught me. From NPVs to ratio analysis, from workflow control to decision trees, from cluster analysis to brand audits – I truly feel that the programme lifted my field of vision, and helped me to think laterally, beyond my professional industry affiliation.
And today this lateral thinking, I believe, is crucial for being successful in any profession, and especially in communications.
We live in interesting times of social, economic and political turmoil. From a business point of view, the disruptions brought by new media and technology are slowly changing industries, including our own. Amidst this, our clients are facing new challenges and their expectations of the value we should provide as communications practitioners are also changing.
Beyond Sermelo’s clients I could see a proof of this in my interactions with my MBA classmates. Coming from all walks of life and career backgrounds, they all understood and appreciated the value of PR as a discipline. However, knowing the changing dynamics of today, they challenged its traditional roots and favoured a much more integrated approach to communications across owned, paid and earned platforms where direct and data-driven engagement with key stakeholders groups, internal and external, is key for business success.
Having worked in PR for some time, I’ve heard this line of thinking discussed before. In fact, I’ve had the pleasure to work with PR practitioners who have successfully implemented this kind of approach. This is how I know that in order to truly be able to continue providing value as communication consultants to the business leaders of tomorrow, we need to equip ourselves with new skills. Apart from understanding the principles of good communications, we also need to ensure that we know what makes a business tick by being a little bit of marketers, strategists, statisticians, financial accountants and corporate psychologists.
Do we all need to get an MBA to achieve this? Not necessarily. Everyone has their own way in acquiring the skillset needed to be successful in one’s career. It is necessary, however, to recognise that the expectations of our profession and the dynamics of our industry are changing. Surely to address these changes, we first must be aware of them and understand them, but also be able to improve on our professional toolkit. It is only by doing this and being able to understand the priorities of senior management that we, as PR professionals, will keep our seat at the executive table and continue to add real value through the support and counsel needed and expected from us.
Maria Shopova (neé Stefanova) is an associate partner at London-based consultancy Sermelo. After two years of study, she recently completed an Executive MBA from London Business School.
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