Networking Matters: Understanding the Importance of Crisis Communication

Networking Matters: Understanding the Importance of Crisis Communication

The School of Communication at American University has hosted its first meet-and-greet event for participants in the online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication program. The event, on April 9 at the school’s Mary Graydon Center, was an opportunity for online students to meet faculty members, administration and other students face-to-face — mostly for the first time — as well as to tour the campus.

By the end, the event became not only a networking occasion, but a lesson in the value of communication and relationship building.

Main speaker B.J. Talley, a Professorial Lecturer at American University, spoke on “Crisis Communication: How Not Having a Plan Might Be Your Best Plan,” addressing some of the issues that students, some of whom are about to graduate, discuss in their classes.

With nearly 15 years of experience in managing and teaching strategic communications for government agencies, international private firms and Fortune 500 publicly traded organizations, Talley’s primary areas of focus are crisis response, reputation management and employee engagement communications. Most recently, he served as the director of corporate communications for Exelis, a $5 billion aerospace and technology company in Virginia.

In addition, Talley handled crisis communication for the oyears2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama merchant ship, a headline-making story that was dramatized in the 2013 movie “Captain Phillips.”

A Process, Not a Crisis Plan

Talley explained the need to build a crisis process, not just specific plans, and the value of networking and communication before a crisis situation occurs. Borrowing freely from his own experiences, Talley spoke about the need to build rapport with legal teams, keep media skills sharp, be detail oriented, be ready to evaluate and adjust, and have outside resources ready.1

Talley said afterward he found the event a great opportunity for students to develop their own narratives as communicators.

“As an online instructor, it was wonderful to have a chance to interact with so many of our students face to face and to talk through the origins of the crisis communication methodology that they've learned about in my class,” Talley said. “The great turnout from students, faculty and administrators really demonstrated the commitment AU and the School of Communication have to the online program."

Other faculty members attending the event included Scott Talan, an expert in social media; Pallavi Kumar, a public relations expert; Paula Weisman, an expert in consumer research; and Wendy Melillo, an expert in public service advertising.

Online students said they found the opportunity of networking with these experts at this event to be transformative.

Rachel Balsley, a marketing and communications associate, said, “I was very pleased to meet multiple students and professors that had been in my courses throughout the program.” She added, “The program's biggest strength is scheduling. Each student can work at their own pace and schedule every week, making it very flexible and doable for a full-time professional.”

Real-World Applications

When asked to describe the American University - Master of Arts in Strategic Communication Program, students said they felt the courses reinforced real-world applications. Sarah Bursey, a program analyst, said, “I was recently promoted at work. This program helped me really tie in what I talk about at work with what I talk about in my classes.”

The commitment and drive American University faculty and students have to improving communications made the event memorable.

The Master of Arts in Strategic Communication, offered through American University’s School of Communication is the longest-standing program of its kind in Washington, D.C.

Graduates have learned the importance of effective communication within the public and global forum, and they leave the online master’s program with working knowledge of the intersection between political science, public service, and traditional communication and public relations.

A strategic communication degree from American University’s School of Communication will allow you to advance your career in many fields, combining the foundational theories of effective communication with practical application to make an impact in a constantly changing media landscape.

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