In 2010, the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Canada decided to break free of Quebec’s taxation-funded model in order to self-fund, and significantly raised its MBA tuition fees. The government did not like this and not only fined the school $2million but also forced it to sacrifice a further $1.2million in subsidies. Peter Todd, the school’s Dean at the time (now at HEC Paris), had to come forward and deal with the inevitable press queries, and did so with some aplomb. In almost every piece of coverage he came across as thoughtful, understanding and having the school’s best interests at heart.
Here are our top three tips we have learned from Todd to help you deal with bad media coverage:
To defend your position you have to be visible. There will be plenty of people willing to fill the void if you’re not present – and you can’t control what they say. Commentators from the government along with the education and private sectors were lining up for their say on the McGill issue, but Todd always made himself available to give his side of the story and thus featured majorly.
The MBA fee rise was a controversial decision, with both sides of the debate feeding their opinions vigorously. Todd was adamant throughout that the ends justified the means, in order to remain ‘world class’ and ‘internationally competitive’ it was imperative the school changed the way it was funded. He did not budge on his stance even slightly or give in to pressure from the media or government, rather justifying the decision at every opportunity.
Todd’s advantage was the significant upsides that raising fees provided. Students would receive better facilities whilst the school could compete for the best faculty and invest in world class research. Furthermore it helped the school jump 38 places in the annual Financial Times MBA rankings, which Todd highlighted as often as possible. After all, why turn down such a good opportunity?
So, the phrase there is no such thing as bad publicity rings true even in this instance, it is not a case of the nature of the attention you are receiving, but it is how you confront and deal with that attention. Using these tips can turn bad media coverage into valuable publicity for your school and help boost your reputation.