Video above by Jamie Caniglia

“We are a worldwide brand, so ‘All-American’ doesn’t mean just for America; it is more of an ideal rather than a set chunk of the population of the world.” Legal counsel representative of Abercrombie & Fitch, Marist senior Jen Schumann, spoke from her hypothetical position in a mock press conference in the upstairs of Lowell Thomas last Thursday.

She stood, accompanied by her black blazer and a folder of notes atop the podium, carrying extensive preparation of corporate communication planning—while having to face a series of pressing questions from a student press group stationed in the back of the room.

“We want that to represent a sense of individuality and confidence in making sure that your ingenuity is celebrated—the term, we are trying to move from the term and expand it to fit everybody,” she continued, standing before a room full of media students—in a mock setting of their incoming work fields in various sectors of communication.

A group of five communication students stood beside a large television screen, projecting the logo of American clothing brand Abercrombie & Fitch in a mock press conference on Thursday, Apr. 20. The group spoke about their hypothetical process of rebranding the company after an offensive language crisis in 2006.

Her group faced this crisis situation after longtime Abercrombie & Fitch CEO, Mike Jeffries, claimed that his brand was solely aimed towards “cool kids…the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends,” as he told Salon in a 2006 article, “The Man Behind Abercrombie & Fitch.”

Crisis Communications (COM 318) is a special topics class on crisis relations in communication, being taught for the first time ever at Marist College this semester. As according to their website, the course is centered around teaching communication and public relations students conducting plans for crisis simulation through media training and six mock press conferences.

A student press group.

A student press group.

The Converged Media Practicum (COM 108) class appeared in both Thursday conferences, standing in the back of the room with cameras and tripods—facing each team with detailed questions and researched facts about their company’s past relations and plans to move forward. The press conferences were open to all communication and journalism students, who were encouraged to bring recording equipment and to formulate pressing questions in order to fully complete the simulation.

“As a journalism student it was really eye-opening on how these press releases play out and gave us a nice taste of the real world—it challenged me to come up with questions that were really insightful and how to think more as a journalist,” said Alexandria Watts, Marist freshman, who appeared at both Thursday conferences.

“It was also interesting to get a glimpse into how PR agencies deal with reporters and their relationship. I thought it was a really rewarding experience and I hope to do something like it again,” Watts continued.

Six groups of upper-level communication students spent their semesters developing a plan for a company crisis with pre-crisis planning and preparation, with forming Crisis Management Teams (CMTs) and writing Crisis Management Plans (CMPs). Aside from a Fashion CMT, the press conference series also offers conference appearances from advertising, journalism, political communication, sports communication and entertainment specialized CMTs.

The "Entertainment" Crisis Management Team on Thursday, April 27.

The “Entertainment” Crisis Management Team on Thursday, April 27.

The Advertising CMT focused on combatting the crisis of racist advertising, as they represented German skin care company, Nivea, in their struggle with moving forward from a racist deodorant advertisement featuring the slogan “White is Purity” in 2017.

Each group member further facilitated such an understanding of branding, re-branding and holding a company accountable for its large-scale mishaps. This Crisis Communication initiative aimed to help Marist students to deeply simulate corporate communication issues, potentially resulting in learning how to take unprepared questions and directly face company hardships.

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