Communication Major Shines in Crisis Management Career
December 14, 2018
By Rosemary Rys, MA, APR, assistant teaching professor of communication
After many years of teaching public relations, I can always spot those students I just know will become what I call “PR Stars.” That’s Ashley Flear. The recent communication graduate never bragged about her many skills, but I noticed how she efficiently developed a website for an ovarian-cancer awareness project, overachieved on every assignment, and then, created an amazing crisis communication magazine for her senior project...the list goes on and on.
It’s so very rewarding for teachers like myself to observe our charges strive to reach their full potential over several years, and then land exciting and challenging jobs in the communication field. Ashley earned her BS in communication with a public relations concentration in the spring of 2018 and is currently an associate at the public relations firm AKCG. She is also working to earn her MS in Public Communication here at Drexel. I asked Ashley to share her perspective on her Drexel experience.
Ashley Flear, BS Communication ’18
My interest in crisis communication developed in the very beginning of my journey as a Dragon. I transferred to Drexel in the spring of 2016 and found myself in a public relations writing course with Professor Rys. One day, she invited me to stick around and sit in on the guest speaker who was coming to lecture next. ‘I think you’ll really like him,’ was all she said to me.
Opting to stay truly changed my life.
Chris Lukach, APR, the president of AKCG, spoke to us about the importance of crisis communication and the challenges a company can face when it comes to preserving the goodwill they’ve worked to earn among their most important audiences. Though it wasn’t the first time I learned about this specialized area of public relations, it was the first time its importance resonated with me. Attending this lecture directly impacted the rest of my education.
From that day forward, I took advantage of every opportunity I had to tailor my assignments around the idea of crisis communication. I wrote case studies on organizational responses to crises; I did research to find data on how common it is for organizations to proactively prepare for potential threats to their reputation; and I went on informational interviews with local professionals in this specialty to learn more about their roles. Ultimately, I crafted my senior project around crisis communication by examining how two prominent corporations in Philadelphia prepare for and respond to crises.
I joined the AKCG team as an associate just a few weeks after completing my bachelor’s degree. The agency focuses on both proactive and crisis communication, but I work primarily with Chris Lukach and Mike Gross on the crisis side. As crisis communicators, organizations reach out to us to help them through the most pivotal moments in their history. I have the unique opportunity to write first drafts of letters that have the potential to shape the reputation of an organization for decades to come. The work is challenging, but Chris and Mike are extraordinary leaders in the industry, and having the chance to work with and learn from them is a privilege.
As I reflect on my time at Drexel, I can say that there is tremendous value in taking classes outside of your program to diversify your skill set. Ultimately, as students, it’s essential that we plan ahead and mold our education around the goals we set for ourselves. Research the positions you are interested in, see what specific skills they require, and register for classes accordingly.
For fellow transfer or first-generation students like myself, the best advice I can give is to simply keep going. Pursuing a degree is tough. For the first few years of undergrad, I worked full-time and went to school part-time, thanks to the flexibility of evening and online classes, but the chaos of a schedule like that can make it feel like the odds are stacked against you. It’s cliché, but it’s important to remember why you started and where you want to be to help you through some of the most pressing times.
Drexel University has changed my life, and I cannot wait to use my education from this institution to help shape the lives of future students. Long term, I yearn to become a professor and to teach aspiring PR practitioners. I dream of inspiring others the way my professors and colleagues continue to inspire me.
Ashley earned her BS in communication with a public relations concentration in the spring of 2018 and is currently an associate at the public relations firm AKCG. She is also working to earn her MS in Public Communication here at Drexel.