Topic: College of Communication Information and Media

February 27, 2008

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) is putting its trust in Ball State University public relations students to develop its crisis communications.

Under the leadership of Robert Pritchard, an associate professor of journalism who directs the university's public relations program, a seven-member student team from Cardinal Communications is currently researching and assembling a crisis communications protocol for IDHS. Cardinal Communications is Ball State's full-service, student-run public relations and advertising firm.

The target date for completing the project is late April or early May after students finish contacting public information officers around the country to determine what is considered most successful in terms of crisis communication planning.

"Crisis communications is a critical area for public relations professionals," Pritchard said. "Every agency needs a solid protocol in hand in order to survive a crisis and prosper after the event.

"We also believe this is the first time a state department of homeland security will be working with a student group on developing a public relations protocol. I think it will provide our students with an outstanding immersive learning experience that should be a cornerstone for their future professional careers."

In addition to gaining experience in building a protocol, the members on the team are also creating excellent resume and portfolio pieces, said Leah Logan, a Ball State senior from Fort Wayne who is the executive director of Cardinal Communications.

"Working with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, in general, is a big deal," she said. "It says a lot about our university and the type of students we have here.

"This will impact my career because it will be something that sets me apart from other candidates in the field. Not only am I gaining experience in writing a crisis plan, but I'm on a team writing a protocol for the state of Indiana. Not many seniors in college get the opportunity to participate in a project like this."

Ball State previously worked with IDHS in 2007, when students majoring in telecommunications and journalism spent a semester writing, shooting and editing eight 30-second, black and white video segments designed to educate viewers on the precautionary steps to take before an emergency occurs.

The "Take Responsibility" messages continue to air on broadcast and cable television channels statewide. The spots will rotate throughout the year, depending on the focus of the message and how it correlates with the weather of a particular season.