WCU students who developed a crisis communications plan for O.Henry’s of Asheville – (from left) Shine Thao, Garrett Readling, Kasey Mathis, Dane Wagner and Allison Hubbard – meet with owner and client Derick Boyd.

Four businesses and one nonprofit organization will start 2019 better prepared to manage crises, thanks to the work of Western Carolina University students enrolled in a course in “Crisis Communications” during the fall semester.

Over a period of three months, five student teams collaborated with regional clients to develop crisis communications plans, which are designed to help organizations identify, plan for and respond to potential crises.  While the plans may identify several possible crisis situations an organization may experience, the WCU student teams tailored each of their plans to one crisis scenario chosen by their clients.

The plans identify who should be part of the crisis team, who should serve as media spokesperson(s), and the priority audiences and preferred channels for reaching audience members. They also identify key messages, and provide drafts of materials such as website updates, internal emails and social media posts written in anticipation of the chosen crisis scenario. The plans also remind employees of the organization’s social media policy and the expectations for employee engagement on social media during a crisis.

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Originally published Dec. 12, 2019.

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