Society & Culture

‘Crisis Communications Week’ puts spotlight on managing, responding to crisis scenarios

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication will be hosting its first “Crisis Communications Week” beginning March 26, spotlighting how communications professionals respond to crisis scenarios and how students can prepare themselves for such events in future career roles.

The week will feature Peter Macias, the director of communications for the Service to the Armed Forces division of the American Red Cross, and Jonathan Aiken, the organization’s senior officer for video services.

Crisis Communications week at Grady will commence with a summit March 26 from noon-1:30 p.m. in the Journalism Building’s Drewry Room featuring a host of public relations industry leaders and Grady College faculty, as well as Macias and Aiken. The college will honor alumnus and public relations expert C. Richard “Dick” Yarbrough that day at a reception open to the public in the Drewry Room at Grady College.

Yarbrough has spent more than 40 years working in corporate public relations, working as a vice president with BellSouth. He was a managing director for the Atlanta Committee for the 1996 Olympic Games, where he helped manage communications during the aftermath of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing.

“Teaching our students the complexity of responding to and ultimately managing unforeseen crisis situations in the corporate world, particularly in this ever-evolving communications landscape, is one of our greatest academic challenges,” said E. Culpepper Clark, dean of the Grady College. “But we will transform this challenge into an opportunity if we adequately prepare our students for what lies ahead.

“By bringing in experienced leaders who can provide practical and effective guidance and conducting the exercises, teachings and discussions that will arise as part of this week, we will be upholding our promise to equip the next generation of communicators,” he said.

On March 28, Macias and Aiken will participate in a noon luncheon discussion in the Journalism Building’s Drewry Room, entitled “Tips and Insights from the American Red Cross.” The two will share their stories and counsel with UGA public relations professionals, local hospital communications staffs and other representatives from the Athens-Clarke and Oconee health departments. Registration for this event is requested by March 22 to

Also as part of “Crisis Communications Week,” Macias and Aiken will facilitate a pair of crisis communication simulations for Grady College students. These exercises will give students the opportunity to respond to and report on real-world crisis scenarios they likely will face in their professional careers. These sessions are open to the public and take place on March 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Room 171 of the Miller Learning Center, and on March 27 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 248 of the Miller Learning Center.

Macias and Aiken also will serve as guest lecturers during their time at the Grady College. They will deliver guest lectures in several classes throughout the week, as well as meet individually with interested students on March 27.

Macias is responsible for message development, media relations, crisis communications, and capacity building for approximately 600 American Red Cross offices across the U.S. and on military installations around the world. He also acts as a liaison responsible for maintaining relationships with governmental and nongovernmental organizations that are focused on military issues.

An accomplished public relations practitioner with 20 years of experience, Macias took a leave of absence from his consulting firm during the 9/11 crisis to volunteer as the American Red Cross Public Affairs spokesperson at the Pentagon. He has provided counsel to clients on critical environmental issues related to the Indoor Air Quality at Ground Zero in New York City after 9/11 and assisted in the launch of a national electronics recycling campaign for the EPA. He also provided guidance to clients on emergency management issues and national public awareness campaigns, and conducted media training.

With the American Red Cross, his communication skills are often utilized during disaster relief operations across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. In his role servicing the military community, Macias provides onsite public affairs support for Red Cross offices in the Far East, Europe and the Middle East.

Aiken spent more than 30 years in broadcast journalism, including more than 10 years with CNN where he won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Coverage of the 9/11 attacks and 2001 Anthrax scare. An accomplished columnist for The Scotsman, Scotland’s national daily newspaper, Aiken also has moderated business conferences in the U.S. and Europe, interviewing prominent business leaders including former GE CEO Jack Welch, politicians including former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, diplomats including the father of the Kyoto Climate accords, Jan Pronk, and various heads of state, including the late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Macias and Aiken’s visits are made possible by the Hearst Foundations Visiting Professionals Fund at Grady which brings top-tier executives to the college for time with students and faculty.

UGA Grady College
Established in 1915, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication offers undergraduate majors in advertising, public relations, journalism, digital and broadcast journalism, and mass media arts. The college offers two graduate degrees and is home to the Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism and the Peabody Awards, internationally recognized as one of the most prestigious prizes for excellence in electronic media. For more information, see or follow the Grady College on Facebook and @UGAGrady on Twitter.