Top Crisis Specialists Share Their Expertise with Rowan Students
Two national experts on school-crisis communication traveled to the Rowan campus in March to offer a master class to public relations students. Some 50 students attended the lecture, led by Rick Kaufman (Executive Director of Community Relations and Emergency Management; Bloomington Public Schools; Bloomington, Minn.) and Rich Bagin (Executive Director; National School Public Relations Association; Rockville, Md.)
Kaufman, as the Executive Director of Public Engagement and Communications for Jeffco Public Schools in Littleton, Colorado, led the Crisis Response Team and became a familiar face and voice in national media coverage of the Columbine High School tragedy. He has since worked with school systems and government agencies nationally on crisis-response issues. Kaufman is the author of The Complete Crisis Communication Management Manual.
Bagin, a graduate of Rowan’s M.A. in P.R. program, has worked with hundreds of school systems in the U.S. and Canada on crisis and other communications issues. He started his career as a school public relations administrator and also served as the public relations director of the Council of Chief State School Officers in Washington, D.C. Bagin is the author of Making Parent Communication Effective and Easy.
Rowan students peppered the two award-winning practitioners with questions throughout the class. Students quizzed the experts on crisis-communication planning, the role of social media in crises, training employees as spokespersons, making the right decision in the heat of a breaking crisis, and more.
Kaufman noted that planning for crisis communication has grown increasingly sophisticated in the 11 years since the Columbine tragedy. It is uncommon today, he noted, to find any school system or college that does not have a formal crisis-communication plan. But, he stressed, having a plan is not enough. The execution of the plan needs to be constantly rehearsed and plans need to be continually updated to meet changing communication needs.
Bagin, who said his organization hears from local school officials facing some type of crisis almost daily, discussed the new roles social media now play in crisis communication. While traditional media continue to play a key part disseminating information during a crisis, social media outlets now are often the first place people turn for immediate information on a breaking crisis. Traditional media too frequently turn to social media for details, comments, and images of breaking crises.
Turning to careers in communication, the speakers stressed to students the need to develop outstanding writing skills and to remain active in acquiring knowledge and perfecting skills after leaving the classroom. They urged students to get active in professional associations, participate in industry meetings and seminars, keep up with the latest scholarly journals, and enthusiastically network with other practitioners.
Master classes such as this are just one way that programs in the College of Communication help their students link classroom experiences and with real-world practice. This master class as offered in conjunction with Professor Edward Moore’s graduate course, School Public Relations. To learn more about Rowan’s M.A. in P.R. program visit www.rowan.edu/mapr.