Diary of a PR student: Sarah Whyte

Supporting fledging Communications and PR professionals is extremely important and I’m in touch with and supporting various students to encourage them and help showcase their opinions and insights. The post below is written by Sarah Whyte who is studying the use of social media particularly for crisis communication. Please do share your thoughts with her, Rachel.

Hello, my name is Sarah Whyte and I am a final year PR student at Bournemouth University. I had the pleasure of working with Rachel while on my placement year at Tube Lines and she has been kind enough to allow me to write for her blog.

While studying at the PR degree at Bournemouth I have been fortunate enough to get involved in numerous “real life” scenarios which include, producing a live campaign for a South West PR company, developing a working website , designing a magazine spread and most recently co-writing an article for Behind the Spin.

The article, which focuses on the public perception of Gordon Brown, was developed out of an assignment for our politics module and was co-written by another student and myself. Have a look at the very topical Politics issue of Behind the Spin and feel free to express your views on all the published articles.

Now as I am in my final year I have to submit a dissertation as part of my degree. Like many PR students up and down the country, I have chosen to do mine on the growing use of social media with a focus on the use of social media and crisis communications.

While online crisis communications has been practised and analysed for a few years now, the use of social media as a tool for disseminating information in a crisis has not been extensively explored. What I propose to do is look at the advantages and disadvantages of using social media in times of crisis. Through this dissertation I would like to gain a more thorough understanding of how social media can be used within crisis communications.

Best practice crisis communication
One crisis that, as PR students, we are taught is an example of best practise is the 1982 Tylenol recall.  The fast, controlled and honest response shown by Johnson and Johnson managed to save a potentially company ruining incident from permanently tarnishing Johnson and Johnson. In crisis management speed has always played an essential part, but should speed be the most important aspect of crisis management or are there more important features that need to be considered? With so many people online and a growing amount stating that it is the place where they first find out about issues, are the organisations that don’t use social media leaving key stakeholders in the lurch or are they being responsible by using more traditional methods of communication?

What do you think?
I would love to hear some professional views so if you have any comments or insights about the use of social media and crisis communications then please contact me at sarahj.whyte@yahoo.co.uk.  I also have a blog which I will use to update people on the progress of my dissertation and share my general musings about PR.

Post author: Sarah Whyte

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