Com 562
Crisis Communication

Course Instructor: Dr. Erin Tomson

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Text and Resources:

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No required text to purchase for this course. All course readings are 'open source' resources and listed per week, as listed in the course schedule.


Course Overview

In a world increasingly defined with risks and crises, the work of public information and public communication officers is becoming both more important and complex. Even the issues faced by small, local organizations contain national and global components. Handled poorly, these situations can quickly spin out of control. Handled well, crisis circumstances are mitigated and harm to the public reduced. Through Crisis Communication, student develop public information skills and build a crisis communication plan.


Course Goals

For the semester, students will choose an real organization for which they have permission or create a 'fake' organization -- the organization should mirror a real organization of interest but not name that specific organization. For example, students in my class have developed plans for a nationally prominent, multi-faceted kid-oriented adventure park (aka, Disney). The group develops portions of the crisis communication plan through a series of writing products developed in lessons 1-8 (see below).

Students will succeed in this course if they can demonstrate individual knowledge and practice through the following activities...

  • Demonstrate expertise in crisis communication literature, issues, and concepts. Specifics: Risk vs. Crisis, Transparency in media, legal constraints both causing and complicating crisis communication.
  • Ability to adapt best practices and develop a crisis communication plan. Specifics: common components of a plan, differentiating public safety from brand management crises, familiarity with ICS and how to integrate a communication team.
  • Ability to develop and execute crisis messaging and media managemen. Specifics: Messaging = timing and type of messaging expected at 15 minutes and one hour post-crisis, need for communication to demonstrate Empathy, Contrition (and when it is appropriate), Candor, etc. Media management = needs of traditional media, JICs and JITs, considerations of where to locate a public information post, dangers of social media, integration of traditional and social media into plan

Course Work

The course will be taught to address best practices of crisis communication. The entire course is designed around the production of a well-edited and implementable crisis communication plan. The crisis communication plan you create in this course should prepare you for immediate application and implementation in your organization, and serve as featured pieces in your professional portfolio.

The course is structured by "Lessons" including course-assigned readings and lecture materials, as well as student-generated reading assignments. Each lesson lasts one-to-two weeks and constitutes a significant component of your crisis communication plan. Lessons break the course content into smaller, more manageable units in the course-long goal of developing a Crisis Communication Plan.

Each lesson is guided by and includes

  1. Instructor generated content including topic overview, reading, lectures and video resources;
  2. Student generated content including professionally relevant readings and videos professionally oriented examples; and
  3. A draft or final version of the associated writing product (the associated component of your crisis communication plan).

Resources: Our weekly resources help us explore various aspects of crisis communication: components of a crisis communication plan, types of crisis, messaging strategies, and so forth.

Research Activity involves each student, individually finding and posting resources relevant to the week's Lesson. As a general rule, each student is required to find and post two articles (e.g., articles or examples) of relevant to that week's topic. For example, for Research Activity 1, post two articles/examples of crisis communication plan. (5 times in the semester).  Students are also required to respond to at least two of their classmates' posts for each Research Activity. In your response, you can discuss why you thought the example was useful, bring in your own examples, experiences etc. 

*Research Activities are due by Tuesday at 11:59 pm Pacific Time of the week they are on the schedule.

Writing Product involves submitting drafts of several components for your crisis communication plan. These components are intended to help all members of class successfully complete the final assignment: a polished crisis communication plan.

*Writing Products are due by Sunday at 11:59 pm Pacific Time of the week they are on the schedule. 

Final Crisis Communication Plan is the final report put together with the help of the 7 writing products.

Our weekly schedule (please pay close attention to due dates and times)
Monday-Tuesday: View Resources

Tuesday: Post Research Activity (if one is assigned that week) by 11:59 pm Pacific Time

Wednesday - Friday: Commentary and discussion on Research Activity (by 11:59 pm on Friday)

Sunday: submit Writing Product by 11:59 PM Pacific Time (if one is assigned that week)

We have no traditional tests. In this course, it is more valuable for you to practice what you are learning than testing your ability to memorize. Instead, you will be assigned weekly tasks and challenges related to topics covered that week that provide an opportunity to test new skills, practice what has been learned and challenge yourself in implementing the acquired concepts and tools.

Although subject to change, the following topics will be covered:

  1. Crisis communication plan - standard components and outline of content
  2. Organizational vision, mission, identity and image
  3. Types of threats and crises
  4. Stakeholder management
  5. Crisis Management vs. Crisis Communication
  6. Joint Information Systems & Joint Information Center structure
  7. Crisis messaging strategies
  8. Media management
  9. Social media platforms: hazards and opportunities

Instructor Interaction

The instructor will make every effort to respond to email inquiries in a timely manner. Generally this means within 24 hours or less during the week. Replies over the weekend are likely to take longer. You are advised to email with questions about your writing assignments before Friday afternoon to ensure a response before the due date on Sunday night. 


Late Work Policy

As this course mirrors a professional work environment, deadlines are firm.  Work turned in after that time will lose ALL points for the assignment.


Graded Material

It is my goal in this course to avoid busy work and focus your energies on producing and practicing with the industry standards and contemporary tools used by today's practitioners. For the curriculum I have created a mix of practice activities, interactive tasks, knowledge challenges and writing assignments to get you to the ultimate goal of improving confidence as a professional in the workplace - no matter what the challenge.

Course Work Notes # of Posts Points Total Pts
Intro Discussion Post

Your initial introduction and interaction with classmates is important to the success of our class!

1 15 15
Research Activity

Four opportunities to contribute to group capacities and comprehension by posting readings relevant to that lesson.

4 15 60
Writing Product

An opportunity to draft sections of your crisis communication plan in preparation for your final project

7 25 175
Final CCP Final crisis communication plan 1 75 75
CCP Pitch Recorded and posted pitch 1 50 50
Total       375



Grade Assessment

Writing Products 1-7 will be graded with the Writing Product Rubric - Completeness of material, professional organization, and grammar. 

 

1 Point

3 Points

5 Points

7 Points

8 Points

1 Point

Completeness

CCP Section is significantly lacking in the literature. The section misses multiple issues addressed in the readings.

CCP Section is somewhat lacking in the literature.  The section misses some issues addressed in the readings.

CCP Section is acceptable but there are still areas needing improvement. The section misses a few issues addressed in the readings.

CCP Section is good with a few points needing some attention. The section incorporates the majority of issues addressed in the readings.

CCP Section is very good with only a few, minor points needing some attention.

 

Organization of Writing 

Organization of section significantly lacking and inconsistent with professional mission of CCP.

Organization of section lacking and somewhat disrupts professional mission of CCP.

 

Organization of section acceptable and neither disrupts nor supports the professional mission of CCP.

Organization of section is good and moderately supports the professional mission of CCP.

Organization is very strong and supports professional mission of CCP.

 

 

 

Grammar of Writing

Significant grammatical  errors

Substantial grammatical errors

 

Moderate grammatical errors

Few grammatical errors

No grammatical errors

 

Misc.

 

 

 

 

 

Your assignment should use 12 point Times Roman font, double-spaced. Your assignment should be labeled correctly before submission via Blackboard; SMITH_WRITING-PRODUCT1 (your lastname and the name of the assignment).


Research Activity
1-4 are all graded using the following guidelines. For each research activity you are responsible for briefly explaining in 3-6 lines

(i) the relevance of the materials to this week's subject (e.g., the shared reading offers input from a different agency sector),

(ii) specifically how those materials advance our understanding of the subject (e.g., does the reading or example provide an example, counter-example, or different approach than our shared reading), and/or how you or others might use the materials in the upcoming Writing Product, and 

(iii) your responses and interaction with classmates' posts. You are required to post a minimum of 2 comments to meet the basic criteria for the assignment. Posting more than 2 comments, particularly if they are thoughtful and engaging, will earn a "completed exceptionally" grade in this category. 

Each of the attributes above will be graded on a 1-5 scale where 1 = absent, 2 = present but poorly completed, 3 = present and moderately completed, 4 = present and completed well, 5 = completed exceptionally.

Grade Assignment

Grade Percent Grade Percent
A 93-100% C 73-77%
A- 90-92% C- 70-72%
B+ 88-89% D+ 68-69%
B 83-87% D 63-67%
B- 80-82% D- 60-62%
C+ 78-79% F

0-59%


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