‘Communicating in crisis:’ Public relations society hosts webinar on COVID-19

Public relations professor Carolyn Kim reminds students that transparency and trust are vital during this time.


Lacey Patrick, News Editor

This afternoon, the Public Relations Student Society of America hosted a webinar to provide PR students with tools regarding how to respond to a crisis such as COVID-19. Led by Director of Public Relations Programs Carolyn Kim, 20 participants were reminded of the importance of fostering trust between brands and people. 

“Firstly, we really wanted to provide our members with an opportunity to connect and be in community with each other during this challenging time,” said Amanda Pappalardo, PRSSA’s president, in an email. “Secondly, we try to prepare our members as much as possible to go out into the world and be working professionals and we thought this would be a great way to educate our members, help give them tools to be successful in the future, and use the awful situation we find ourselves in for good.” 


For Kim, communicating with the public during crises is about trust, transparency and humanity. PR professionals have a duty to inform the public through their brand about the situation in a way that mitigates the damage, according to Kim, and it is essential to focus on the well-being of consumers rather than money.

“This is not the time to capitalize on a crisis, it is not the time to try to get benefit out of the crisis, but it is the time to show your humanity,” Kim explained during the webinar. “If we are doing something solely because we think it’s going to make us money in the end, that’s a really good way to tell if you’re off base.”

Providing accurate information is essential, and Kim urged students to communicate the crisis to the public with care to avoid invoking fear. Additionally, Kim warned students about spreading fake news, as well as becoming “tone deaf” to the crisis, which means not recognizing the severity of the situation.

“Truth is really hard during crisis communication,” Kim said. “It’s a tricky line between knowing how much to disclose, not wanting to incite fear and anxiety, but wanting to give enough information to where people make good decisions.”


Faith plays an integral part in communicating to consumers during a crisis, Kim said. It can be difficult to work in PR during a crisis because it can be tiring and cost you sleep, she explained, so self-sacrificial love is a significant part of the job.

“As we seek to maintain and restore faith and trust, as we seek to give hope, our capacity to do that through love is going to be huge,” Kim said. 

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