On day 3 of ICON 2020, I attended a session titled “Crisis Communications in the World of COVID-19: How To Handle It, What We’ve Learned and What We Should Do Going Forward?” with Gerard Braud, founder of Braud Communications and SituationHub.com. He discussed what crisis communication is, its importance, and how it was used in the Hurricane Katrina and COVID-19 crises.


He began with a comparison: “Crisis communication is like an umbrella, you don’t buy an umbrella because you hope it rains today, you buy it in case you need it.” This really stuck with me. It’s so important to have a crisis communication plan in place, since it’s better to have one and not need to use it than to not have one when it’s necessary. With a crisis communication plan, it’s important to have a pre-written statement ready to go in case something goes wrong. This is a template for what a crisis communicator should say, and is edited to fit the unique situation.


Braud also talked about what it means to be a good leader during a crisis. He said, “A title doesn’t make you a leader. Your behavior in your darkest hour and in your darkest need makes you a leader.” I think this really speaks volumes about what is going on during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just because our government is considered to be comprised of “leaders,” it doesn’t mean that they match the title. They are being reactive rather than proactive; they didn’t prepare for the issue and are reacting rather than working towards fixing it.


This seems to be deja vu of what happened during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Braud mentioned how the mayor of New Orleans at the time didn’t tell anyone in one section of the county to evacuate, which caused thousands of people to drown. A similar situation is occurring now with the U.S. government. Our government didn’t take any action in the beginning of the pandemic besides close the economy. They didn’t mandate masks or issue a stay-at-home order: they left that all up to individual states to do. This caused over 220,000 people to die of COVID-19.


Overall, this session with Gerald Braud was very informative and insightful. He brought a new perspective of COVID-19 and compared it to another crisis that could have been handled a lot better.


This blog post was written by Secretary and Interim Vice President, Christina Billie.


From Monday, October 26 to Thursday, October 29, I was lucky enough to attend the Public Relations Student Society of America’s (PRSSA) national conference, ICON. I represented the Temple PRSSA chapter as the Director of Public Relations, and PRowl Public Relations, Temple’s student-run public relations firm. ICON was an exciting event meant for leaders, professional communicators, students, and educators of all backgrounds to come together and share their expertise. Although the conference was supposed to take place in-person and in Nashville, Tennessee, for PRSA’s first time hosting the conference digitally, it was an absolute success!


One of the webinars I attended at the conference that really stood out to me was “The Future is Now: Recruiting, Retaining and Developing Future PR Leaders From Millennials to Gen Z.” The webinar was hosted by the Communications Coordinator at Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, Landis Tindell, and Associate Public Relations Professor at Wichita State University in Kansas, Eric Wilson. Their presentation was designed to teach employers how to engage with young employees. Specifically, those who are millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and those who are Generation Z (born between 1996 and ?). The question mark in the age range for Generation Z represents an unknown end to the generation.


As defined by Tindell and Wilson’s research and presentation, the following are some characteristics that Millennials and Generation Z are looking for in a professional setting from their higher-ups and advisors:


  • Communicators are creative and surprising

  • Appreciate good design

  • Embrace innovation and flexibility

  • Embrace innovation and flexibility

  • Visual multi-media and “snackable” bits of information at a time

  • Exclusive experiences


If you identify as a Millennial or a part of Gen Z, do you agree or disagree?


As someone who is a part of Generation Z, I feel these statements are accurate. As I develop the start of my professional career in public relations, I hope to continue to learn, and lead the way working in innovative and flexible environments. I am proud to identify with Generation Z.


Thank you ICON for allowing me to experience such a wonderful week with great professionals in the world of communications!


This blog post was written by Director of Public Relations, Alexis Levant.

  • Temple PRSSA

Every year, PRSA hosts an international conference where students from every chapter are invited to learn about the industry and network with other members and PRSA professionals. This conference usually takes place in one of America’s major cities but was virtual this year due to COVID-19. Even though we weren’t able to travel to Nashville this year, the planning committee still brought us an experience and conference packed with engaging content. ICON was held from October 26 through October 29 and included breakouts, keynotes, lounge events, and expo halls.


The Virtual Set-up


As our chapter’s current Conference Coordinator, one of the benefits of attending ICON was gaining insight on how to potentially plan our virtual conference. The conference was held on a platform called 6Connex. Using this platform allowed ICON’s planning committee to attach a conference portal to their website, where attendees could use their PRSSA login information to gain access. Upon entry, attendees landed on a homepage called the “lobby” where they could attend general sessions, breakouts, social events, the expo hall, and the membership hub.



When attending a general session, we clicked into the general sessions tab in the lobby that then prompted us to select a day. Once we chose the day, we were given a list of all the general sessions that were scheduled and their times, along with a button to access them. When entering a general session, we were taken to a live zoom link where only the speaker’s screens were visible, and the attendees had access to a chat and Q&A. Throughout the presentation, we had the opportunity to submit questions and comments.


I enjoyed this set up because it allowed attendees to engage with one another during the presentation in a respectful way. If the conference was in person, attendees would not be able to discuss their thoughts until after the presentation. Now, attendees had the opportunity to discuss their thoughts about the presentation as the speaker offered new information. This was really helpful because it allowed me to think about the topic from various perspectives.


The breakout sessions were pre-recorded sessions instead of live zoom sessions. When attending a breakout, we were presented with a video that looked a lot like one of our professors sharing their screens during class.


Since the speakers already gave the presentation while they were recording the video, they were able to focus all of their attention on answering our questions in the chat in real time. This allowed attendees to obtain answers to their questions minutes after asking them.


I also enjoyed this pre-recorded model because it made attending a virtual conference easier. Instead of having to worry about being at your computer for the entire live session, we had the opportunity to pause the video and come back to it.


The conference also offered social events, the membership hub, and a daily expo hall. These features offered chat rooms and other features where attendees could network and socialize.


Sessions


My favorite keynote session was on the last day with Laurie Garret. During her live zoom presentation, she talked about the dangers of spreading misinformation and focused specifically on Donald Trump’s messaging around the coronavirus and the election. Her presentation was so engaging to me because she walked us through everything that happened this year. Instead of filling her slides with bullet points and written information, she focused more on comics, pictures, and screenshots of news headlines. I enjoyed this format because it reflected what we were being exposed to during these events. We weren’t given a summary on a slide of how Donald Trump lied about when he found out about the virus; instead, we were exposed to a CNN article shared on Instagram. I also enjoyed reading the chat while she gave her presentation. Many of the attendees were healthcare professionals or postal workers, and they had a lot of valuable information to add.





Another session I really enjoyed was the breakout on the Census. It was one of the first sessions of the conference and was by far one of the most engaging to me. During the first half of the semester, I worked as an enumerator for the 2020 Census. In this role, I was tasked with going door to door asking people to fill out the survey with me. Since I already had a connection with the operation, hearing about the research, PR, and advertising sides of it was really rewarding to me.


Maria Olmedo-Malagon, a program manager for the 2020 Census Communication Campaign, went into detail about the phases of the campaign and the tactics that went into each of them. She discussed how the Census divided the country into segments based on types of areas and developed specific communications campaigns for each area. For instance, people living in rural areas could expect more radio ads compared to those living in the city, who were exposed to more signage. She also discussed how the campaigns were forced to shift because of the pandemic.


The last session was a breakout on artificial intelligence (AI). Last year I was one of the Assistant Conference Coordinators for PRogress Through Tech, which focused on the role technology has in shaping the PR industry. One of our keynote presentations was set to be an AI simulation game, so it was interesting to attend an AI-focused keynote. During the presentation, Eric Koefoot, CEO of PublicRelay, discussed how far AI has come along and the timeline for future advancements. He stated that while outsiders to the technology industry think AI is very sophisticated now, it is still quite limited.


Currently, AI can only operate from logic-based learning and training, and it has not mastered any human functions. While debunking the misconceptions on how smart our AI actually is, the presenter also detailed what industries should expect of a significant AI presence. Thankfully, he assured that because public relations requires such a large human element, we as PR professionals never have to worry about AI taking our jobs. Instead, AI will just be added to make our jobs easier.


This blog post was written by Conference Coordinator, Amelia Wilt.


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