Seeing Double: Being a Crisis Communication Student During a Crisis and Learning from the Parallelism
by: Sarah McRae
The COVID-19 global pandemic, an unruly and divisive political climate, and day-to-day uncertainty has been the norm in 2020. I’m a fourth-year public relations student with a minor in global health at the University of Georgia (UGA) amid a global crisis. This semester has looked much different than any other before. I’m learning from Dr. Yan Jin, the Georgia Athletic Association Professor and Assistant Department Head of Advertising and Public Relations in Grady College, in her ADPR 5120: Crisis Communications course, as well as being her intern for the UGA Crisis Communication Think Tank. Being a crisis communication student during a crisis brought opportunity to learn from the parallels of life and academia.
Each Crisis Communication class brings new insight into how we can manage uncertainty for organizations and plan for potential crises. Dr. Jin’s cool, calm and collected presence permeates the room. Despite the stressful topics discussed in class, there is always a reminder of learning, redemption, and a better future.
While the class discusses how businesses respond to crisis, I learned that these lessons relate to my own life and the overarching crisis we are all undergoing. Here are three takeaways I’ve learned from being a crisis communication student during a crisis:
- Stay calm: Calm is contagious, and uncertainty is inevitable. It’s easier said than done, but Dr. Jin taught us that staying calm changes the air in a room during a crisis. Embracing the natural unpredictability that life brings is the best way to get a grasp on the things we can control. Everyone has faced difficulties during the transition from normalcy to living in a pandemic because life hasn’t stopped. There’s still relationship drama, family struggles, financial stresses, and workplace pressure. Whether you can be the calm energy to yourself or others, it may be more of a necessity than you may think.
- Remember your values: On the first day of lecture, Dr. Jin shared with us Ernest Hemingway’s definition of a code hero: “a man who lives correctly, following the ideals of honor, courage and endurance in a world that is sometimes chaotic, often stressful, and always painful.” When faced with difficulties, it can be challenging to not be reactionary but try to take a step back and remind yourself of your core values and purpose. Handling life’s struggles with mindfulness and intention makes for a more authentic version of you that carries over into professional and personal life.
- Believe in the future: Good crisis leaders believe that any organization can emerge stronger after a crisis. While this may be a seemingly optimistic approach in the midst of a serious crisis, there is truth to the statement. If we can take the difficult events in our lives, respond to them the best we can and learn from it, we will emerge stronger and more equipped for challenges in the future.
When we wrapped up our final Zoom lecture, I reflected on this semester and what I learned from Dr. Jin’s course. Despite feeling unsure at the beginning of the semester of how the rest of 2020 was going to pan out, it’s nice to look back and see, with clearer vision, how we persevered, learned from the parallels and turned this unprecedented time into a season of growth.
December 15, 2020