Commanding crisis communication control

The public relations tactics class at Harding had the unique opportunity to experience crisis communication in action on Wednesday, April 19.

For the last decade or so, officials at Harding University, in partnership with local agencies and organizations, have hosted a disaster drill on campus that tests the university’s and community’s preparedness for such a situation. In past years, drills have involved simulation of a pipe bomb, active shooter and dorm fire.

This year, the simulation tested preparedness for a bus accident carrying 60+ student-athletes in another state. The scene mimicked a car accident with two Harding vans and one Harding bus. Theater students acted as the injured students, nursing students practiced triage work and university officials practiced their readiness.

For our class, we watched from the sidelines as Harding’s Director of News Services Shelby Dias walked us through the communications and marketing office’s response.

The first response

According to Shelby, the first response comes within 30 minutes to an hour of the university’s knowledge of the crisis. The brief statement outlines what police and university officials know at the time. As a note of courtesy and professionalism, sometimes not all information is given due to sensitivity and notice to families. At this time, a script will go out to campus switchboard operators and office managers.

Hannah Owens, Harding’s director of digital media, added that control of the university’s social accounts is crucial in the first moments of the crisis. An email will go out to all social media managers letting them know of the situation and what to do with their social accounts.

The second response

The second response is more involved — more media and more information. Often times, police will give the initial statement due to the sensitivity of the crisis. Harding would give a follow-up statement regarding the university’s response, control and thoughts.

According to Jana Rucker, Harding’s vice president of communications and marketing, the more severe the crisis, the more important Harding’s spokesperson would be.

The basics of Crisis Communication 101

  • Never release information that is unknown or is sensitive (deaths, severe injuries, etc.) until proper channels (family, friends, etc.) have been notified.
  • Law enforcement should be the official source of casualty and injury count.
  • Social accounts related to the organization should be secured, and one account should be releasing information.
  • The crisis doesn’t end when everyone goes home. Be on alert for media and social mentions and develop a plan for restoring things back to normal post-crisis.
  • Control is everything. The more control you have on the message your brand is sending during the crisis, the better it gets handled. You never want to lose control and have multiple messages being dispersed.


Photo courtesy of Harding University


Blogging is important, duh.


Yep — that’s me. And you’re probably wondering how I got here. The internet, that is.

Well, I guess you could say I was born into it. While I sure remember the times when dial-up was still a thing (loud, cranky noise and slow internet gaming), I don’t remember a time when the internet wasn’t a thing. For some, that’s a blessing and others a curse. For me, it’s a blessing. Why? Because the internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, and the internet is the reason we have blogs.

Everybody loves a blog, right?

Who am I?

If you couldn’t tell by this site’s URL address or title, my name is Kaleb Turner. I grew up in Pangburn, Arkansas, (a town of 601 people) and now I go to Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, (just 20 minutes away) where I study public relations.

I’m the editor-in-chief of the Petit Jean yearbook at Harding. (It’s a national award-winning book, y’all). That’s where I spend most of my time. I’m also a resident assistant on campus, which basically means I make sure the 27 freshmen guys that live on my hall don’t burn down the dorm.

Why public relations?

Communication has always seemed like a natural fit for me. It’s always come easy and seemed like a thing I’d be good at. The fall semester of my freshman year I decided public relations was the right fit for me because of the people studying that field at Harding. I think that says something special — public relations is all about connections and people, and it’s connections and people that brought me to the field.

What do you do in your free time?

What’s free time? Haha! Funny joke. But, really.

If I do have any free time, you can find me in Armstrong 239 where I’m snoozing away or you can find me around town with my friends.

I also love to travel.


Who knows what post-undergrad holds? Really, though — who knows? Please tell me how to get into contact with them. Maybe it will find me in an agency, at a nonprofit or on the campaign trail. Those are just some possibilities.

Back to blogging

Like I said, everybody loves a blog. Well, probably not. But a big audience of people do, and utilizing a blog correctly can reap a big harvest.

For McDonald’s, blogging takes the corporate facade and translates it into the story of the thrid-generation McDonald’s owner/operator.

For St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a blog lets donors know where their money is going because they read the story of how the newly-purchased equipment found new treatment options.

For me personally, blogging is just a way to contain my conscious stream of thoughts. Spring break trip? Going on the blog. Christmas Day pictures? Going on the blog. 2016 year in review? On the blog, for sure.

No matter the purpose — blogging puts a voice on a subject or topic and tells a story. And at the end of the day, that’s what communication, in whatever form, is about. It’s about telling a story.

I hope you’ll continue to read as my story unfolds.