Saturday, January 31, 2009

Real World Speakers Make a Difference

This semester I have had the opportunity to teach a course I call Crisis Communication and Media Relations. This is a course that explains some of the very real-world problems that arise when communication is not handled well in crisis situations. It is also a course that discusses the very specific public relations skill of working with and establishing relationships with the media. This is a course that includes many communication majors though it is being taught in the evening schedule as a way to provide a different elective for other majors.

The past two Thursdays the class has had the opportunity to hear from speakers who are working daily with the concepts of both media relations and crisis communication. Before the end of the term, we will have two additional speakers from this "real world." From the response papers the students have submitted, there is no question that the anecdotes, examples and lessons offered by these speakers is both making an impression and giving them a firm grasp of the concepts, theories and actions we are discussing in the class. Lynwood Eppes was our first outside speaker. He happens to be a Coker graduate, and he works with Darlington County Emergency Medical Services and is also the Public Information Officer for the Emergency Preparedness operation for the county. He provided a variety of ideas and the students were very interested in the concept of an Emergency Operations Center, something they really have not thought of in previous discussions. Then, this past Thursday Audrey Childers, the chief communication person for the Darlington County School District, talked with the class both about the importance of media in telling the stories of heroes in the school district and the intricacies of of managing communications when something bad happens with schools. Both speakers had the full attention of the students and both provided those real-world examples that help make the book-learning relevant.

As an instructor, I really appreciate the willingness of outside speakers to share their time, talent and experience with our Coker students. I remember when I was on the outside it was something I enjoyed doing. It may have even been the spark that made me want to become a college professor.

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