June 15, 2021 msuproductions

Communication During a Pandemic

Leslie Gallagher Montclair State University

Written by: Leslie Gallagher

As the world transitions to being back in-person, we find that we have adapted to this new way of life. Everyone we talk to is through a screen; everyone we meet only has an upper half to their body; everyone we know is two-dimensional. Through this pandemic, I have especially learned that communication is essential, especially when others don’t pick up the phone, speak, or show their face online. In these odd times, we can hide behind our computers and phones. It is up to the leaders and communicators of the world to keep things running, especially in an ever-changing field like public relations.

Through my school’s student-run public relations program, Hawk Communications, I worked for the Monarchs, a special needs hockey organization to help children of all ages learn new athletic and social skills, and for Montclair State University’s School of Communication and Media social media team. Both of these organizations allowed me to utilize different modes of communication with different personality types, giving me an outlook to my future.

Even though the pandemic is ongoing, I was comfortable with going to the first Learn to Skate event held at Montclair State University Ice Arena in the beginning of the semester. I have been ice skating since I was six years old, so I felt joyful being a part of an organization where children could skate for the first time. Just like the children pushed themselves to learn a new skill that day, I did the same. In one day, I learned a lot about event planning, social media, content creation, and of course, communication. When we wanted to interview someone or capture photographs, we had to be persistent and assertive while respecting others’ time. As a more introverted person, I had to put my discomfort aside and think about what was best for our team. I knew we needed to gather lots of photos and videos to personalize our social media, so I made sure we did throughout the day. Prior to the event, I asked our client, Brad Meyers, if it would be possible to borrow one of his GoPro cameras to film on the ice. He was ecstatic to hear I knew how to skate, since most people in our group didn’t. It was by far the most challenging yet fun part of my day: skating and filming at the same time.

Using the footage I filmed on the ice, I edited a 30-second video to post as an Instagram Reel. With my research, I was able to utilize certain tools in the social media program to gain over 1,500 views, which is incredible for a small, new account. I would have liked to continue making more content like this, but I deliberately signed up for the research and planning team because I wanted to explore a new side of public relations. I learned more about surveys, outreach, and planning overall. I worked closely with another student to perfect a survey to better understand our stakeholders, giving our clients a look inside their customers’ minds through anonymous questions and answers. Ultimately, I completed a few different projects for the team, utilizing skills I already had while learning new ones.

Even though I already knew a lot about social media, the School of Communication team gave me new challenges. Since the Monarchs did not have Instagram or Tiktok pages before our Hawk Communications team came in, we had a fresh start with how we wanted it to look. For SCM, it was the opposite. They already had a theme clearly established. Creating graphics for them was a new challenge for me, since I have created many posts for social media before (including Montclair State University’s college radio station WMSC), but I have never had to fit a specific theme. Since I was limited to specific design elements, I had to use my creativity in a way that my posts would fit the established theme but also stand out among other posts. It was a challenge at first, but over time it became easier.

Despite all of the struggles this semester has thrown at us, I am most proud of how I’ve grown with my communication skills. When we can’t see each other in person, we have to go the extra mile to communicate, whether it’s a simple team update or whether we are struggling with an assignment. Working with a lot of different types of people has given me a new understanding of what it means to be a team player. Everyone works differently, but in public relations we need to work together. Having brilliant and organized graduate students pave the path for us helped me understand more about communication, as well as working with fellow Hawk Communications students in the Monarchs team.

I am grateful I took a chance on the Hawk Communications class, since I was nervous I would not be able to meet the challenges. It was an unforgettable experience working in a professional environment amongst other bright students. Thank you to Professor Green for his unwavering commitment to guiding us throughout the semester.