The Business Case for Public Relations

This summer, the Public Relations Society of America asked me to do a piece for their series on the business case for public relations. It seemed particularly relevant to share with you now as we reflect on 2011 and the communications challenges individuals, companies and universities have faced over the past year. This piece originally appeared here in July. The rest of the series is great, and definitely worth a read.

Paul Argenti is professor of corporate communication at Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business, where he has been a faculty member since 1981. He previously taught at the Columbia Business School and the Harvard Business School. He currently serves as faculty director for Tuck’s Leadership and Strategic Impact Program and Tuck’s executive program for Novartis. Argenti has written several books and numerous articles for academic publications and practitioner journals.

His most recent book — co-authored with Courtney Barnes — is titled “Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications” (McGraw Hill). Argenti is a Fulbright Scholar and has consulted and run training programs for hundred of companies. (Twitter: @paulargenti)

Name:  Paul Argenti

Childhood ambition:
To be a heart surgeon — I was pre-med until junior year in college

Current livelihood:
Professor of corporate communication at the Tuck School of Business

What changed (i.e., how you became interested in public relations):
I couldn’t stand the sight of blood! I changed my college major at Columbia University from biology to English and went into a Ph.D. program at Brandeis University to become an English professor. Jobs for English professors were hard to come by in the late 1970s — I was blessed to find a two-year appointment teaching “Written and Oral Communication” at the Harvard Business School. I needed more education in business, and went back to Columbia to get my M.B.A. in marketing. The two combined made for a good foundation to start my career.

First public relations job:
Assistant professor of communication at the Tuck School

What you know now that you wish you’d known then:
How fast time goes by — the secret of life is learning to enjoy the passage of time

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received:
My mentor in graduate school told me to forget about being an English professor — that was definitely the right choice for me.

Greatest professional accomplishment:
Getting a Fulbright Scholarship early in my career and my textbook, “Corporate Communication” — out in its sixth edition next year

If you weren’t in public relations, you would be:
A jazz pianist — I love music

Desired legacy:
That I helped my students think about changing the world rather than moving another widget out the door

Make a “business case” for public relations:
Communication is the only way to execute strategy. You can’t execute it if you can’t communicate it. If more senior executives thought about that, then they might do things differently.

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