An education in crisis communications

Jordan Estabrook
Thursday, March 26, 2020

In a matter of months, Jordan Estabrook ‘19 went from a communications student to crisis communicator, as she has helped UNC Charlotte’s Business Affairs Division navigate its response to COVID-19.

Estabrook, who earned a communications degree in December, worked as a student intern in Business Affairs prior to graduating. Her duties included proofreading, editing, feature writing, news writing, content design and photography. She is now a communications assistant in the office, working directly with Christy Jackson, director of communications for Business Affairs, and communications specialist Caitlin Mauk. Estabrook’s duties have expanded to include drafting communications materials such as website copy, writing and building targeted emails, assisting in compiling and maintaining content calendars, and building and updating databases and other lists.

“I’ve very much enjoyed my work and time here with the UNC Charlotte community,” Estabrook said. “I never thought my college journey would lead me to such amazing and dedicated people who care deeply for our campus community.”

Mauk said Estabrook has been an asset to the Business Affairs Division.

She is one of the hardest working young women I know, and she has been an invaluable addition to our Business Affairs team, especially during this crisis,” Mauk said. “She is quick on her feet, willing and eager to learn, and calm under pressure.”  

Estabrook discussed her experience working as a crisis communicator in Business Affairs:

How have you applied your communications degree in your current position as a communications assistant in Business Affairs?

In Business Affairs, I’ve applied strategy, tactics and audience knowledge to craft meaningful, precise messages that engage people. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interview amazing members of the UNC Charlotte community and also apply public relations writing to multiple types of content, like emails, articles, website content, etc. 

What has it been like being thrust into a crisis while you are still so new in your career?

It definitely took me by surprise, and I don’t think there was any way I could fully prepare for it. I know these circumstances surprised many people. The situation is so fluid and incredibly fast-paced, so not only is everyone trying to keep up, but they’re also trying to think and prepare multiple steps ahead, preparing for communication materials for several scenarios. As I was being thrust into this crisis, I knew that I was working with great people, as evident by how communication was planned and executed. I knew I was learning from some of the best. 

What's been the most challenging aspect of your job as you have helped UNC Charlotte respond to the COVID-19 crisis? The most rewarding and inspiring?

The most challenging aspect has probably been the sudden change in direction and keeping messaging consistent while working on a deadline that could move at any moment. Crisis communication isn’t predictable. But from what I know about the Business Affairs communications team and their handling of crises in the past, I could definitely predict that this issue was being well handled by our team and to the best of our ability. I’m genuinely so inspired by these incredibly talented women, and I’m humbled I have the opportunity to work with them and learn about crisis so early in my career.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from this experience?

There is no amount of textbooks that could prepare me as well as actually being in a crisis situation. In my college career, I was fortunate to have Christy Jackson as a teacher, and now I have the opportunity to work under her guidance. Christy directs and empowers her team to use the skills they have to handle the crisis at hand. Overall, this experience and this entire team have taught me that the trust, skill and leadership of a team on a normal day can make all the difference when turbulent, unpredictable circumstances occur.