Media Crisis 2015

By Molly Georgia

After attending a few meetings of PRSSA, I heard about the Media Crisis Competition and decided to sign up. Going into this past Saturday, I didn’t know anyone, and I had absolutely no experience in public relations. I knew the event was definitely going to be a learning opportunity for me.

One of first speakers, Megan Jasin, talked about her experiences in the job market after graduating from Iowa. I found this extremely eye-opening, because in her various employment positions, she had benefited from a background in marketing and advertising, as well as journalism and communications. When I was considering my options within the major at the beginning of the semester, my advisor had pointed out as well that public relations often interweaves aspects of business or communications, and that was not something that I would’ve known for myself. It gave me some insight into the classes I might consider taking to develop a well-rounded skill set in subjects besides just writing.

After being assigned our role in the crisis scenario, I got my first chance at drafting a press release, which sounded a lot more intimidating than it actually was. I realized it involved a lot of formal diction and concise writing. Along with that, as representatives of the University of Iowa, we learned that in order to protect the organization’s reputation, it is often necessary to completely take the blame, rather than trying to distance your organization from the issue by putting the blame on someone else. This may seem counterintuitive at first, but it shows that we were willing to be accountable for our actions, and that helps those who benefit from the University’s services maintain their trust in our name.

We later answered questions from our journalism counterparts, who were willing to ask any question to reveal the story behind our crisis scenario. This process helped us as the public relations representatives understand how to think on our feet and be ready to deliver statements that would best maintain the image of our organization.

Our final task was to construct social media messages that would address our role in the media crisis. Using different platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, we had to figure out how to best convey our message to audiences through these mediums. Facebook could handle a more formal tone, yet Twitter required a concise statement that could be more casual. This opened our eyes to how audiences perceive organizations through their media usage and delivery, and the relevance of social media in reaching audiences in any scenario today.

From first being assigned my teammate and scenario, to standing before the audience during the presentation of our press release, to collaborating with my teammate to produce responses to social media surrounding our event, I gained so much from the day of competition.

Admittedly, I was nervous, because I didn’t think I was nearly as qualified in participating as other students. However, I realized that with a strong writing background and a willingness to cooperate with others, I could tackle the tasks set before us just like anyone else.

Overall, I had a great experience, and I was able to make connections with some incredible people throughout the day. I would totally do this event next year, as well as recommend it to anyone with an interest in public relations or journalism as a way to get hands-on experience through a student-led campus event.