Cool in a Crisis – Preparing Future Professionals for the World of Crisis Communications

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In an ever-evolving communications landscape where stories can spiral out from under a client in the matter of a few tweets (X’es?), it’s more important than ever that up-and-coming communications professionals are prepared for the day they have to handle a crisis.

Since 2022, the Glen Echo Group has partnered with Bowie State University (BSU)’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) Chapter, which sits within the university’s Communications Department, to foster professional connections and career development opportunities for BSU’s PR and communications students. As a part of this collaboration with Maryland’s oldest Historically Black College and University (HBCU), GEG focuses on enhancing students' academic learning with unique opportunities to interact with professionals and gain experience with the real-life problems they experience in their careers.

This November, we hosted a crisis communications workshop with students where we presented a scenario of an influencer marketing campaign for a viral beauty product “gone wrong.” Senior Director Andrea O’Neal, alongside Vice President Brad Williamson, Director Kelsey Besterman and Senior Associate Tiffany Garcia, walked students through a fast-paced simulation where things went from bad to worse (imagine John Oliver smearing your product on his latest segment), testing their instincts for problem-solving and helping drive the group towards a solution.

“Crisis communications is all about thinking on your feet and advising a client in what can be one of their worst-case scenarios or circumstances,” described Andrea. “You have to have empathy for your client or whoever is impacted by the situation, but also mitigate risk and manage the external conversations happening.”

The BSU students approached this crisis challenge with excitement and curiosity. “Students were practically bursting with excitement over the course of the workshop,” Kelsey observed. “We had gasps of realization, jumping up from chairs and students even cheering each other on and celebrating each other’s questions.” When recounting the workshop, Andrea said she was happy to see how engaged students were from the get-go, asking questions and leading interactions fearlessly.

The workshop participants received a classic crisis communications experience – everything from the initial strategizing to the “ah ha!” moment. “When we think about engaging students to become communications experts, it’s important to remember that immersing them in the joys of our professions is one of the best ways to help them see themselves in our field,” said Kelsey. Most importantly, students learned how central teamwork is within a communications firm.

“I can’t say this enough – Glen Echo’s Crisis Communications Workshop is invaluable for my students. Organizations need PR pros who can help them communicate well during crises,” said Dr. Rochelle Daniel, BSU Communications Department Professor and PRSSA Chapter Advisor.

Glen Echo Group is dedicated to investing in the next generation of communications and public affairs professionals, while also demonstrating the high standard to which students can hold their future workplaces.

Our work with BSU is one of the many community-focused initiatives Glen Echo Group prides itself on. For more information on how Glen Echo Group handles unique and intriguing communications challenges, check out our case studies!