Western students to produce free crisis communication plans

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University students enrolled in a “Crisis Communication” course during the upcoming spring semester will create free crisis communication plans for a select number of businesses, agencies and organizations.

The students will work in groups of two or more to produce action plans that can be referred to during a crisis – a valuable resource for any business, organization or agency, said Michael Caudill, a business consultant who also teaches as an adjunct professor in Western’s department of communication, theatre and dance.

A crisis communication plan is a set of procedures and agreements that detail the key messages an organization would want to communicate in the event of a crisis, Caudill said.

The plans also establish who the official spokesperson would be in the event of a crisis and the entities that would be contacted, as well as include strategies for the mostly likely crisis scenarios to strike a particular organization, he said.

The students, all juniors and seniors at Western, will be ready to begin work on the plans in February. They will visit the clients’ offices and work directly with a liaison from each of the participating organizations.

Caudill said the process of creating the crisis communication plans will provide good practical experience for the students, but it also will be a “self-education process” for the clients involved as they consider all the possible crisis scenarios that could occur.

Managers of local businesses, agencies and organizations who would like to participate in the project should contact Caudill at (828) 227-2468 or by e-mail at mcaudill@email.wcu.edu. Clients will be selected based on student needs, with priority given to local clients. Organizations that cannot be included in the project during the upcoming spring semester will remain on the list for consideration next fall, Caudill said.