Crisis Communication in a Digital Era: Dr. Kara Alaimo Holds Guest Lecture at St. John’s University

kara-2By Camilla Biscarini, Master’s student at St. John’s International Communication program. 

Fake news, hacking, and the Presidency of Donald Trump are topics of great concern for media, the public and also the corporate world.

What are the best strategies on how to respond in case a corporation becomes the target of a hacker? What are the dangers of fake news and fake followers on social media? On Tuesday, February 7th, 2017 Dr. Kara Alaimo, expert on Crisis Communication and author of the book “Pitch, Tweet, or Engage On the Street” held an engaging seminar with students of St. John’s University seeking answers to the following central question: What strategies can communication professionals recommend to businesses in typical cases of crises of today’s digital “post-truth” era?

We live in an age in which social media pose, in a communicative sphere, concerns of major importance on regular basis. Dr. Alaimo showed students how President Donald Trump, for instance, initiated a continuous conversation on social media and she also talked about governance of the country through social media. The seminar then moved on to examine the negative implications that fake news have on political discourse in society. “People tend to want to believe the news uncritically”, said Dr. Alaimo, when questioned if the distribution of fake news and the spread of false facts and stories is due to superficial news consumption. This question was based on the assumption that many people might not make the effort of checking sources of information they read before sharing it. In Dr. Alaimo’s opinion, “it is the duty of Facebook to change algorithms” to make newsfeeds more balanced. However, she pointed out that now, it is the citizens’ – our – responsibility to demand this change. The seminar further guided students through other available options of reacting to hacker attacks; Alaimo closed the lecture with suggestions how to respond when attacked on social media in the form of negative or critical postings by users with a vast reach and large number of followers. A current example of this would be the negative comment on Department Store Company Nordstrom tweeted by president Trump:

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Thanks to the expertise of keynote speaker Dr. Kara Alaimo, students had an opportunity to see the theory of Crisis Communication put in practice: “To me, this seminar combined theory and praxis in a wonderful way”, said Dr. Minna Aslama Horowitz, co-organizer of the event and professor of Mass Communication at St. John’s University. “In the Crisis Communication course, we study guidelines and ‘solve’ case studies. When faced with the situation in real life, we can analyze the issues immediately and find the appropriate solution rapidly”.

St. John’s University students found the seminar productive and they appreciated the expertise of Dr. Alaimo. “I think that the most important thing is that you see how essential it is to really understand the perspective of companies and what they are thinking about and also what their fears and hopes are. They act as a single body just like a human being does”, said JohnAnthony Di Maria ’17 CPS.

This seminar helped the students to broaden their knowledge on current challenges for corporate communication resulting from the dangers of hacking and manipulating information through the misuse of communication technology. Realizing that today, any organization as well as private person can become the target of social media or hacker attacks certainly provoked much serious thinking about the use of media.

Besides this guest lecture, the Institute for International Communication offers plenty of learning and engaging opportunities that open the door to many career paths: “As a graduate student of International Communication at St. John’s, I think that the benefit of events like this helps us to get an inside look into what we will be facing when we enter the business world and start our first job” says Alexa Schuck ’16 CPS ’18 CPS. Events like this seminar, hosted by the Institute for International Communication, are always well attended and students who are eager for knowledge as well as critically thinking create an inspiring learning atmosphere.

See live tweets covering the event: #posttruthPR

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