Paul Argenti

Professor of Corporate Communication at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University, US

“Argenti: Knowledge, network among EMScom’s key USPs”

EMScom can give communication professionals an extra edge for successfully navigating both a sea of disciplines specific to their industry and the current global financial crisis, says corporate communication expert Paul A. Argenti, an EMScom lecturer and a Professor of Corporate Communication at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

Argenti, who brings over 30 years of experience in higher education consulting and research to the EMScom Crisis Management seminar he teaches, believes now is the time for communication professions to hone their skills and shore up their professional networks.

EMScom offers more than a diploma
“Any edge you can have in the current economic environment is valuable. EMScom, in addition to providing students with skills, allows them to create networks with professional peers they might otherwise never meet,” said Argenti, who has provided management and corporate communication consulting and training to more than 50 corporations and non-profit organizations worldwide. “EMScom is providing not just knowledge and a diploma, but a lot of potential to network and get jobs.”

With a career he describes as “one-third teaching, one-third consulting and one-third research,” Argenti explained that each of those components inform one another.

“I love teaching. It’s the Number 1 thing that I wanted to do in my career. In terms of informing my teaching, research allows you to codify what you’ve learned, what you can pass on to students and practitioners,” he said. “Consulting allows a researcher to test theories in the real world, and teaching allows me to explain the research well enough to write about it. For me, teaching, consulting and research work beautifully together. It’s a very good balance.”

Argenti says there are significant differences between his graduate students at the Tuck School and the communication managers he teaches at EMScom, and he designs his courses accordingly. “I take very different approaches to EMScom and Tuck students. My Tuck students are MBA candidiates; their interest in communications is, ‘What do I need to know about communications in order to get my job done?” EMScom students are communication professionals and their interest in the topic is deeper and broader. It’s really apples vs. oranges to compare them. It’s content vs. breadth of understanding.”

Diverse backgrounds yield great discussions
In addition to his teaching roles with Tuck and EMScom, he has taught at Harvard Business School and the Columbia Business School, and has been a visiting professor at Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management in The Netherlands, International University of Japan, Helsinki School of Economics and Singapore Management University.

“I think the depth of varied experiences that EMScom participants bring to the table is very high. They’re from NGOs, consulting firms and corporations, and this brings something unique to discussions of communication topics,” he said. “For example, the students at a business school will have varied experience across many industries, but in EMScom, it’s communications. This can lead to some great discussions. When we talk in the EMScom classroom about specific companies, there’s someone in the class who works in communications with Google or Médecins Sans Frontières, for example. There’s a very high level of engagement and so many things to discuss in a setting like EMScom, whose participants seem to put more time into the experience than I normally see with executives.”

EMScom ‘something very special’
Also unusual about EMScom is the physical environment: state-of-the-art facilities accommodating lectures, breakout sessions for exchanges between participants, accessibility to participants’ workplaces via wireless internet, and the physical experience of various classes interacting.

“EMScom’s organizers have created something very special. It is an extraordinary program and, as a result, it is forging new ground in terms of what communications can do and be about,” Argenti said. “Ten or 15 years ago, Rotterdam School of Management was the only world class program; I think EMScom has an opportunity to step up to the next level. It’s been a wonderful addition to my portfolio.”

Think strategically
What does Argenti want his EMScom students to glean from his Crisis Management course?

“First, with regard to crisis management, you shouldn’t be getting into trouble in the first place; that has implications for you when you set the value system for your organization. Second, even if you have the best intentions, there can be trouble lurking. You must have a robust reputational risk assessment system set up,” he said. “Once you’ve identified potential problem areas, don’t wait for problems to happen. Create opportunities to enhance your organization’s reputation. For example, McDonald’s knew smoking in restaurants wouldn’t last forever, and they got rid of smoking in their restaurants a decade before the laws changed. This is a good example of how an organization can enhance its performance in terms of money and community stature; people see them in a more positive light and they don’t get into trouble.”

Finally, Argenti wants EMScom students to recognize the importance of thinking more strategically about communication in general.

“Know your key audiences and think strategically in terms of delivering messages,” he said, underscoring the importance of communicating early and often, both internally and externally; sending cohesive messages; and keeping values and character center-stage.