This interview was conducted by current Ball State University public relations graduate student Claire Morrell. The following article is based on that interview with Matt Kelly.

Crisis communication has become an integral skill for public relations professionals. Matt Kelly, the deputy market leader at BCW and a graduate of Ball State University’s master’s in public relations, laid out lessons from his most successful crisis communication cases.

It’s more about a crisis manager’s mindset than tactics itself – “Enraged to Engaged”

Matt Kelly has worked on many high-profile crisis cases throughout his career. Most recognizably, Kelly provided his professional assistance in cases such as the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010. When asked how a professional communicator could best manage and orchestrate crisis communication efforts in the ever-changing digital and social media environment, Mr. Kelly took a personal approach. He shared an antidote from his experience working with BP during this crisis.

When working on this particularly challenging crisis, Kelly reminded himself that the people on the other side of the screen were just that: people. They each have different lives that they lead and different passions and aspirations. The same could be said for the corporation members on the other end of the crisis. Even with everything they were facing, their career is just one aspect of their identity. In this situation, Kelly took a page from Apple TV character Ted Lasso’s book. He created a motto that he and his team of community managers could use as a goal through the crisis, “Enraged to Engaged.”

He acknowledged that it was going to be nearly impossible to change the public’s mind about the corporation he was working with. Instead, they needed to focus their efforts on creating an environment with people who have constructive or positive insights to contribute. His team would create a welcoming environment to encourage dialogue rather than an argument. By doing this, they were gaining back control over the crisis and were able to start repairing the relationship between the corporation and the public. Mr. Kelly emphasized that it is important as communicators to remember that the job of a public relations expert is to be the conscience of the client while providing sufficient information to all parties involved to make a more educated, controlled decision.

During Matt Kelly’s time at Ball State, he was well prepared for the atmosphere of crisis communication where critical thinking, research, and problem-solving are demanded. He mentioned that he benefited most from Ball State’s public relations graduate program that focuses on strategic communications, market research, project planning, and development. Kelly’s experience with Ball State’s master’s in public relations master’s gave him a glimpse into the public relations practitioner’s lifestyle and helped to better prepare him for the rigors of the career environment.

More about the Interviewee: Matt Kelly is a digital/social leader and connections strategist. He has worked with top brands like State Farm, McDonald’s, VF Corporation, Discover Card, BP, Dow Chemical, SC Johnson, Conagra Brands, and others to improve their reputation and advance business objectives through smart strategy and creativity. He bridges the gap between creativity and strategy to ensure the brief doesn’t only produce content but moves people toward an objective. He’s a design thinker, brainstorm leader, connections strategist, and channel planner.

More about Ball State’s master’s in public relations: If you are looking to further your education and gain experience on the topic, consider pursuing your master’s degree. Ball State University’s public relations graduate program is entirely online, allowing you to further your education while simultaneously continuing your professional experience. During your time at Ball State, you will gain valuable knowledge that can actively be applied in your career environment. If you are interested in Ball State’s public relations master’s program, you can apply today.