UALR professor advancing crisis communication research

From fires to fraud, all organizations face potential public and internal crisis communication situations. Their responses can shape their identity for years to come.

Dr. Ryan Fuller, University of Arkansas at Little Rock assistant professor of speech communication, is helping organizations better prepare their communication plans before devastating events occur, thanks to a $2,000 grant from the C.R. Anderson Research Fund Board of the Association for Business Communication.

Centered on the communication readiness evaluation system Fuller designed, the project, titled “Readiness for Renewal: A Service-Learning Research Project in the Crisis Communication Course,” has two focuses. First, he will further refine the evaluation he created. Second, in the spring of 2016, he will lead UALR graduate and undergraduate students in service learning projects that implement the tool in local organizations.

The evaluation tool is research based and is targeted at meeting a critical need for companies, as most existing crisis management tools address how well a situation was handled after something occurs.

Fuller’s method is designed to help organizations make sure they are ready to respond honestly, think progressively, and communicate positively during and after a crisis. Organizations will be prompted to form communication plans that build crisis resilience rather than just survival.

The project is intended to not only benefit organizations, but also UALR students and the crisis management research field. Participation in service learning gives students hands-on professional experience with real clients, letting them practice the communication principles that Fuller teaches.

His students will work with an organization in the community, selected with the help of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, to identify its crisis management concerns, stakes, and current readiness level. They will then develop a personalized plan for crisis communication that takes into account that organization’s audience, mission, needs, and brand, while also prioritizing honesty and responsibility.

The C.R. Anderson Research Fund grant will enable Fuller to employ an undergraduate student to assist in the project work. By the end of the spring semester, Fuller hopes to create more self-reflective, crisis-ready organizations, as well as communication career-ready students.

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