Crisis Communication

COM 367

Crisis Communication is a 300-level, undergraduate course with an average class size is 15-20 students. The course is primarily discussion based, is held for four hours per week, and emphasizes small group work.

Course Description

Crisis Management is an integral part of the overall communication plan in any organization. However, it is often overlooked due to a lack of resources. This is especially true for non-profit organizations that are often understaffed and primarily focused on the day-to-day demands of the organization. This course is designed to assist these organizations in the development of a crisis communication plan.

The course is divided into three sections. In the first section, students study rhetorical theory as it applies to the public relations function of crisis management. The discussion in this section focuses on material covered in class lecture and from the text. In the second section, students reflect on the theory by writing short reflection papers and taking quizzes that allow them to demonstrate their understanding of theory and how it can be applied through various examples. Finally, students execute their knowledge through the creation of a crisis communication plan for a non-profit organization. Students conduct a series of interviews and mini-presentations with their client focusing on organizational needs, training staff on media relations, and the execution of the plan. Students develop a relationship with their community partners over the course of the semester and beyond by functioning as a consultant if there is a continued need to help with communication planning.

Crisis Plan Project

Students utilize course learning of rhetorical and organizational theory to create a Crisis Management Plan for a local non-profit organization. The assignment culminates in the delivery of a hard copy of the plan and a presentation of the plan to the community partner at the end of the semester. For the project, students will work in teams of 4 or 5 to create an effective plan that meets the needs and desires of their partner organization. Students complete a series of interviews and mini-presentations with their partner clients, including a needs assessment, a training session on media relations and a fact-finding consultation. The plan is written in a series of section drafts that are revised based on feedback from the professor and clients. In class presentations include a walk-through of the client presentation with classmates, the formal presentation, and an in-class debriefing of the client presentation.

Based on a full draft, students receive feedback on the final plan prior to the client presentation. The client presentation is a formal presentation of the information. For this part of the management plan, students schedule, set up conference space, and obtain or provide additional technology resources to present to their client. This presentation is no longer than 30 minutes with 10 minutes of Q & A to follow. Students also complete an evaluation of their plan presentation orally to the rest of the class recapping what they did (description), how well it went (evaluation), and what they would do differently in the future (learning).

View a sample project here.