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How can business schools stay relevant in the digital age?

2019 EFMD Marcom, External and Alumni Relations conference

The recent bustling EFMD Marcom, External & Alumni Relations conference at Desautels Management School at McGill University in Montréal brought 90 participants together. One of them, Andrei Rydzkowski from the Alliance Manchester Business School, shares his insights from the event:

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the EFMD marketing conference in Montreal in which marketeers, communicators and representatives from business schools around the world gathered to ask the question: how can we stay relevant in the digital age?

I have come up with some of the key takeaways:

Utilising online communities

Mitch Joel said that he was “always learning whilst creating content.” How can you really stay relevant in a digital age? Listening to what online communities want. Solving problems that people want answers to can really provide some of the most engaging content and keep you relevant as an organisation in whatever sector you are in.

EFMD 2019 Marcom, External and Alumni relations conference

Keeping up to date with change

Olivier Marcil of Bombardier iterated how quickly a local problem can become global in the age of social media. The old ‘command and control’ method of organisations no longer works and they have to be wary of the information it sends out (one wrong tweet can have serious brand repercussions).

The key lesson? Over prepare. Know your company inside out. Talk to colleagues in other departments. Get their perspective on the organisation. Prepare for every eventuality, no matter how small the chances of that actually happening is.

Make your employees feel valued

In the digital age, it is easy to assume that the old fashioned networks are of less value. The keynote speakers at the EFMD conference suggested that to think like this would be damaging. Instead, they argued, build upon the relationships that have already been established and make those employees feel valued, whether that is through digital connections (social media, website, etc) or whether the more traditional mediums such as print. Employees that feel valued offline are much more likely to follow your journey into the digital sphere.

Sean Brown, Director of Communications at McKinsey believes that you can also increase the incentive and decrease the hurdles to include employees in the organisation’s digital transitional journey. Take research and make it applicable. Take the most willing researcher and celebrate it internally.

2019 EFMD Marcom, External and Alumni Relations conference

Learning from the ‘traditional’ age

There is still some ‘old-school’ advice that resonates with moving into the digital age. Mitch Joel summarised this well when he said “play to your strengths. It is crucial to laser-focus the types of content that work for your organisation, whether that is video, blog posts or podcasts.” Creating an approach which combines both digital and traditional will be most likely to succeed.

Embracing the digital age

Is digital transformation a priority or is it inevitable? Marie Josee Lamothe, Founder of Tandem International, issued a warning for those making the transformation. If you move too quickly then some consumers won’t be able to relate to your journey. Move too slowly, however, and you may get left behind by more innovative organisations.

What can we do to speed up digital transformation? A really diverse workforce working together can speed up the transformation by bringing different ideas to the table and challenging the status quo by questioning if we can do anything differently.

Lisa Kimmel of Edelman discussed the latest trust barometer findings of her organisation. The most difficult aspect was that trust in traditional media is still higher than that of social media. So keeping the information truthful in the digital age is a real challenge. People still look towards their organisation to be a trustworthy source of information about social issues and other important topics, especially compared to NGOs, business, government and the media.

Thanks to EFMD for organising the three-day conference. It is aimed at the International and External, PR, Marketing, Communication and Alumni relations representatives in business schools. Thanks also to Desautels Management School at McGill University for their wonderful hospitality.

Do you have anything to add to this list? We would love to hear from you and any suggestions that you have as to how organisations can stay relevant in the digital age.