University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture
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Abstract

Crises impacting agriculture cost the nation billions of dollars in expenses and lost revenues annually. Organizations and governmental agencies continue to refocus energies on improving crisis communication plans in an effort to lessen economic impacts of unanticipated events. This study brought together an advisory team of agricultural communications professionals to gather perceptions of crisis communications educational needs for new professionals and to identify the best practices for using Second Life© (SL), a 3-D virtual world, simulations for training. Advisory team members represented the human, crop, animal, and environmental sectors of the agricultural industry. Perceptions were gathered during a roundtable, open-ended discussion using questioning techniques that progressed from comfortable, easy-to-answer questions to those that required analytical thought. Participants’ comments and discussion remarks were analyzed using a technique to compress similar words into like categories and identify emergent themes. Four emergent themes were noted: 1) Pre-Planning; 2) During Crisis Communications / Actions; 3) Post-Crisis Communications / Actions; and 4) Individual Competencies Needed. Furthermore, multiple scenarios including environmental and product/food safety for SL simulations were noted. Findings from this study were used to identify educational objectives for training professionals in agricultural communications dealing with potential crisis situations.

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