The Social Media for Crisis Response class is being offered next Fall semester for Plattsburgh State students.  

The class only runs once every three semesters and is being offered again for the Fall 2019 semester, while the Public Relations department is undergoing changes in its curriculum.

Michelle Marasch Ouellette is a Public Relations professor who teaches the class,.

“What the class does is it looks at crisis communication theory, and it looks at it through a social media lens,” Ouellette said. “So, what’s happening on social media, where are the crises, how are people responding to them.”  

This class delves into the crisis response on social media in concerns to when extreme weather events happen or when there is breaking news concerning public health, the government and much more.  This class has come into fruition because of the rise of social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and many more in our modern society.  Crises that have been happening around the world are now blasted on social media.  Because of this, people are entering lines of work that specifically help people who are in need.  Victims are able to receive help through voicing their need for help on social media.

Lisa Scivolette is a PSUC alumna.  She has taken this class that deals with crisis response with Michelle Ouellette and has expressed her gratitude for having taken the class, as well as what she has learned from it too.

“Learning on your own, taking what people tell you, and then doing your own research, I think that’s kind of a life lesson really,” Scivolette said.  

Scivolette describes on having previously worked on crisis response concerning the outbreak of the Zika virus in this class.  She explains that people on social media had a lot of questions voicing their concerns.  The World Health Organization had first released a public statement that was not effective in answering people’s questions and addressing their concerns, and Scivolette clarifies the dangers of not releasing crucial information to the public.  

“In the first post it was very simple, it was so basic that it didn’t answer any of those questions and how there were no messages.  All it basically said was Zika exists, this is a thing, this is spreading.  But then people are like well what else, what is the other information that you are not telling us,” Scivolette said.

Students will get the opportunity to understand how communication works on a deeper level.  With this deeper level of understanding crises through social media, students will also learn how to analyze the different players in crisis response on social media.  

“Students seem to be interested in us, it stretches them, it’s a challenge in ways,” Ouellette said.

The last time the class was offered was the Fall semester of 2017, and during this time, Hurricane Harvey and Maria were happening and students got the opportunity to help with the emergency response for those hurricanes.

Ouellette has explained that during Hurricane Harvey, students were involved with the emergency response and were involved with an outside group to help them find people who were stranded through social media.

“What I hope they take away from it is a deeper understanding of how communication works and just some of the basics when you’re handling high stress situations.  There are more and more high stress situations out there created by social media, so being able to navigate through that as a communicator is really critical.  Also, just an understanding of the power of social media and the power of what’s happening, the importance of it in our current society.  As well as some of the tools, the knowledge of some of the tools or some of the techniques to be able to do this work,” Ouellette said. 

Although social media continues to grow and change everyday, we still don’t know whether crisis response on social media will have as big as an effect in the future as it has currently.

Brandon Gyawu is an Individual International Health major.

“The smallest things nowadays are able to just pop off and become like one of the biggest trending things on the internet now.  So if it’s a big deal, it will become a big issue,” Gyawu said.

Students who are interested in helping those in high stress situations through social media are encouraged to take this class.  Not only is it about learning how to help others, but it is about increasing one’s awareness of the power of social media and how it can be navigated to help others in crisis situations. Signing up for the class requires the permission from the department, so students who are interested have to contact Ouellette. 

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