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McNeese Instructor Engages Students in a Real Time Study of Crisis Communication

April 3, 2020 | McNeese Public Relations
Chris Hebert headshot

One McNeese State University instructor has turned the challenge of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic into a learning opportunity for his students. Chris Hebert, instructor of communication, is using the varied media, corporate and governmental responses to the pandemic as a jumping off point in teaching public relations, organization communication and social media.

“Case studies are a great way to teach concepts of strategic communication,” says Hebert. “The events unfolding each day provide us with a real-life case study of the principles of crisis, organizational and corporate communication and corporate social responsibility.”

Hebert’s classes are examining how the pandemic is impacting the brands students normally follow on social media and what brands are doing to remain connected to their internal and external stakeholders. They are also analyzing communication strategies and tactics from individuals, celebrities, corporations, non-profits and government organizations as it relates to the COVID-19 outbreak and how the information is disseminated to audiences and received by them.

He says students are then tasked with offering their own insights and discussing their peer’s ideas in online discussion boards.

“These kinds of discussions are important because communication professionals are charged with telling the stories that are connecting people to the brands they love. We’re looking at how these organizations are maintaining some form of normalcy, which has long-term economic and business continuity implications,” Hebert adds. “More importantly, communication professionals are connecting people with information that may very well mean the difference between life and death.”

Hebert emphasizes that his teaching is also meant to empower students to discuss what they are experiencing in isolation while remaining digitally and virtually connected to one another.

“These are trying times and we must remain aware of the potentially negative implications of information overload,” he says. “I have been encouraging my students to decompress with some self-care practices away from the screens. We have also had the opportunity to discuss the importance of maintaining both meaningful communication practices and maintaining relationships with our families and friends.”

A native of Lafayette, Hebert earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a Master of Science degree in integrated marketing communication from West Virginia University and is currently pursuing a doctorate in global leadership and change from Tiffin University in Ohio. He came to McNeese in 2016 after working in the fields of strategic business communication, media relations and marketing.