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Crisis communications for business schools during the coronavirus pandemic

I think it would be fair to say that right now we are faced with the one of the greatest issues of our generation: COVID-19.

The coronavirus has swept across the globe, with hundreds of thousands of cases worldwide. It’s successfully brought life as we know it to a standstill.

More worryingly, in spite of this standstill, and the measures that people are putting in place to actively stem the spread of the virus, every day we are hearing about the ever-increasing number of people becoming sick thanks to COVID-19.

Needless to say, it’s a pretty scary time we’re living in…

So, on that note, I’d like to start by saying that, on behalf of the BlueSky Education team, I’d like to wish everyone reading this well. Stay safe, stay strong, we’ll get through this.

Business schools and coronavirus

For many business schools, COVID-19 has brought closures to campuses, significantly altering the way in which students are being taught.

Many institutions were faced with the dilemma of quickly finding new ways of teaching that didn’t require attendance. However, as always, these schools were quick to adapt to the inhospitable climate.

However, alongside this need for improvisation and innovation thanks to the closure of campuses, business schools and universities have also been faced with the equally challenging issue of achieving media coverage in a time when the attention has been solely focused on COVID-19.

How are schools expected to achieve those column inches in the Financial Times or Poets&Quants, if all the media wants to talk about is coronavirus-related stories?

It’s in times like this, when faced with what seem to be insurmountable challenges, that the mettle of a business school is really tested.

Those that can adapt to the testing situation they find themselves in, ensure that their students still receive the highest standard of education, and achieve the media coverage they want, could find that, even in the darkest of times, they can still thrive.

So, how can we still achieve media attention during the pandemic?

Well, for starters, tell the world what you’re doing to overcome the barriers your school is facing.

Online learning stories

Take POLIMI Graduate School of Management who, due to being in Northern Italy, have been hit pretty hard by COVID-19, with mass illness, campus closures, and then a city-wide lockdown.

Despite being faced with some seriously debilitating measures, POLIMI Graduate School of Management didn’t let that stop them functioning as normal, moving all of their classes on to their online learning platform.

Alongside this, POLIMI Graduate School of Management acknowledged the clear focus the media has on COVID-19 at the moment, and so were keen to share how they were making the best of it with the press.

They shared their story with the Financial Times in an article around the increasing switch in business education to online MBAs.

Harnessing available technologies, POLIMI Graduate School of Management has not only been able to find an effective alternative to face-to-face classes, but has been able to utilise the media frenzy around COVID-19 to find a way to share their story with the media, with their coronavirus measures being featured in another FT article, as well as in an article for BusinessBecause.


Another bit of advice for achieving coverage during the COVID-19 media frenzy is to make sure your business school is utilising the expertise it has at its disposal.

Journalists aren’t simply writing about the virus for the sake of it. They’re talking about it in the context of their particular sector. So, schools should be utilising their faculty’s expertise to discuss COVID-19 in relation to their sector.

For example, Durham University Business School’s associate professor of marketing, Mariann Hardey, recently shared her expertise on how ‘self-isolation’ – a common measure imposed by people who know, or least suspect, that they could be suffering with the coronavirus – could drastically change the way we view remote and home working with Open Access Government.

Using the expert opinion that their faculty has, and harnessing the media’s fixation with COVID-19, Durham University Business School were able to achieve coverage on a really widely-read platform.

Other examples include, ESCP Business School, who featured on ITV News Wales through one of their faculty members who offered their take on how the virus who impact the global economy; and LSE IDEAS whose faculty have offered numerous analyses on the impact of COVID-19, both for the UK, and for China.


We’re living in uncertain times. COVID-19 has shaken the world to its core, and has brought many elements of our lives to a halt. But, for business schools, the coronavirus doesn’t have to stop to them fulfilling their commitments to students, or maintaining a strong media presence. It just requires a bit of innovation, and some out-of-the-box thinking.

If you’d like communications support during this challenging time, contact the  BlueSky Education team today.

Author: Jonny Stone

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