PRSSA-UD’s General Meeting Recap: Crisis Communication

Jumping into the spring semester, PRSSA-UD wasted no time getting down to business at their official second meeting on Monday, March 2.

The meeting began with two speakers talking to the organization about SPPA (School of Public Policy and Administration) and its potential to help members who decide they want to join and apply. From there, a quick re-cap of general information was discussed, such as the benefits of becoming a dues paying member and the organization’s mentor-mentee program, the PRSA Delaware award that members can apply for, and a Hunter PR Fellowship opportunity that is being offered. Also introduced were things to look out for this semester, such as the headshot fundraiser April 15 with discounts for dues paying members and the first PRSSA-UD Skill Slam of the semester, entitled “Break Through the Interview” on March 23.

Once the basics were covered, members had the opportunity to use their own skills and brainstorm. In a PR-strategy workshop, members were asked to handle an example crisis. The workshop included a scenario that actually occurred in real life; when a link between a local E.coli outbreak and Odwealla’s fresh, unpasteurized apple juice was discovered, in which one child died and more than 60 people became sick. This situation prompted more than 20 lawsuits and members were asked to use their PR knowledge and split into groups, visualizing themselves as the head of PR to determine how they would handle the situation, who their audience was, and how they would go about creating awareness whilst changing attitudes and behavior.

Each group came up with their own unique spins on how to handle the crisis, including press conferences where high-ranking company officials would present. Members stated that in the conferences representatives should use total transparency and apologize, make it clear to consumers of the drink that the company valued buyers’ trust, and should additionally state what changes the team would make to their processes in order to keep said trust. Also mentioned was compensation for the one child who passed away and those who became sick because of the apple juice product and to put a FAQ sheet online of commonly asked questions and their answers about the product and the companies’ procedures.

After the exercise members got the chance to read how the company handled the crisis in real-life. Astonishingly enough, it was almost identical to what members came up with… PRSSA-UD really knows how to train students for the future field they are considering. The meeting concluded with a quick hot chocolate social where mentors and their mentees got a chance to connect after the long UD winter break. Although cut short by an incoming class, the atmosphere was relaxed, yet informative, helping all members to feel at ease and prepared for the upcoming semester of events to come.

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By: Brittany O’Connell

Brittany O’Connell is a freshman communications interest that is passionate about art and social media. She is a Social Media Ambassador for UD on her Twitter account @BlueHenBrittany, and hopes to broaden her horizons, step out of her comfort zone and help many throughout her next three years at UD.

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