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Turning a crisis into valuable media coverage

The knowledge of how to navigate a PR crisis is unquestionably a tool that every communications department wants to be armed with. So here it is - we’re giving you gold dust, as our recent edition of Wildfire features three key pieces of advice on how to turn a difficult political situation into a valuable piece of media coverage for your business school. The expert giving the insight is the current Dean at HEC Paris, and the former Dean of Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Canada, Peter Todd.


In 2010 Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University faced a delicate challenge in deciding to break free of Quebec’s taxation-funded model in order to self-fund and raise its MBA tuition fees. The government retaliated with a $2 million fine and the school were forced to sacrifice $1.2 million in subsidies.


Peter Todd had to step in to deal with the inevitable press enquires – both from local media, and international influencers such as the Financial Times. And he carried it off with some aplomb. Todd came across as thoughtful, understanding and having the school’s best interests at heart. Here are three lessons we have learned from Dean Todd’s approach:


  1. Make yourself available: If you want to defend your position, you have to be visible. There will be plenty of people willing to fill the void if you are not present – and you can’t control what they say. Commentators from government, the education sector and even the private sector were lining up to have their say on the McGill issue – but Todd always made himself available to give his side of the story and featured heavily as a result.
  2. Stick to your guns: The MBA fee hike was a controversial decision – with apparently robust arguments on each side of the debate. Todd was adamant throughout that the ends justified the means. In order to remain ‘world class’ and ‘internationally competitive’ it was imperative that the school changed how it was funded.
  3. Focus on the positives: Todd’s ace in the hole was that there were significant upsides to the school increasing its fees. Students would get better facilities and the school would be able to compete for the best faculty while investing in world class research. It also helped that the school had recently jumped 38 places in the annual Financial Times MBA rankings – something Todd made sure to mention as often as possible. After all, why turn down a good opportunity?


Find out more HERE in the latest issue of Wildfire and enjoy the most up-to-date insights from BlueSky in the world of business education.

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