Over the course of this academic year, I’ve been thinking about changing my major. Freshman year, I started out as a biomedical sciences major, wanting to go into the pharmaceutical business. When I almost failed out of Chem 115 and 116, I changed my major to health communications, thinking it could be the best of both worlds: being in a hospital setting, but never having to take another chemistry class again. Lately, with no rhyme or reason, I’ve been really wanting to be an elementary school teacher. It didn’t have anything to do with the classes that I’ve been taking (I swear, I’ve passed all my classes this year!), so I really have no explanation. So, I changed my major to integrated sciences for elementary education.
As annoying as a third major change is, the classes that I’ve taken this year haven’t been a total bust, especially this public relations class. One of the most important topics that we covered in this class has been the importance of crisis communication. According to an article by David Roos of How Stuff Works, “a crisis could be an accusation of corporate crime, a fire or flood at a manufacturing plant, or something as deeply tragic as a school shooting,” (2012). When the U.S. was shaken by the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, it’s sad to say that the school could have used a better crisis plan. Global crisis communicator Gerard Braud commented on this flaw by saying, “few if any schools or school systems will do anything to prepare for the day when they might have to communicate with parents and the media about a tragedy at their own school,” (2013).
As a *newly* aspiring elementary school teacher, I would hope that my employer would have a solid crisis communication plan, whether it be for a shooting, a disease or infection outbreak, severe weather, chemical spills, bus crashes, bomb threats, natural disasters, etc. Because anything is possible, that’s a huge reason to have a good crisis communication plan, as this class has taught me. An article about the crisis communication plan at Sandy Hook states that, “you must have a plan in place to effectively deal with a crisis. Without a plan, you will be scrambling for how you will respond during the exact time that you need to be responding,” (Gryp, 2012). It’s not only important to have a crisis plan in place, but it’s important for everyone involved to know the plan and how to react during the crisis itself. After all, “knowing what to do when faced with a crisis can be the difference between calm and chaos, between courage and fear, between life and death,” (U.S. Department of Education, 2007).
So, I may not be going into public relations or a field where I will be in direct need of public relations knowledge anymore, but I still feel like I will benefit from knowing the “fundamentals of public relations.” It’s essential for schools to have a good plan in the event of a crisis, and I know that learning all about PR and how it affects everyday life will give me a leg-up in my career. And…hopefully this is the last time I will change my major.
Braud, Gerard (2013, January 13). One Month After Sandy Hook: Effective Crisis Communication in Critical Times. CommPro. Retrieved from http://www.commpro.biz/public-relations/crisis-communications/in-the-wake-of-sandy-hook-elementary-effective-crisis-communications-in-critical-times/
Gyrp, Catherine (2012). Crisis Communication Lessons from the Tragedy at Sandy Hook. The Buzz Bin. Retrieved from http://www.buzzbinpadillacrt.com/crisis-communication-lessons-from-the-tragedy-at-sandy-hook/
Roos, David (2012). How Public Relations Works: Careers in Public Relations. How Stuff Works. Retrieved from http://money.howstuffworks.com/business-communications/how-public-relations-works6.htm
U.S. Department of Education (2007, January). Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities. Retrieved from http://rems.ed.gov/docs/PracticalInformationonCrisisPlanning.pdf