Crisis communication

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Crisis communication is a sub-specialty of the public relations profession that is designed to protect and defend an individual, company, or organization facing a public challenge to its reputation.[1] Communication scholars define crisis communication as "the perception of an unpredictable event that threatens important expectancies of stakeholders and can seriously impact an organization's performance and generate negative outcomes."[2]

Meaning is socially constructed;[3] because of this, the way that the stakeholders of an organization view an event (positively, neutrally, or negatively) is a major contributing factor to whether the event will become a crisis.[4] Additionally, it is important to separate a true crisis situation from an incident.[5] The term crisis “should be reserved for serious events that require careful attention from management.”[4]

Crisis management has been defined as "a set of factors designed to combat crises and to lessen the actual damages inflicted."[6] Crisis management should not merely be reactionary; it should also consist of preventative measures and preparation in anticipation of potential crises. Effective crisis management has the potential to greatly reduce the amount of damage the organization receives as a result of the crisis, and may even prevent an incident from ever developing into a crisis.[4]

Categories of crisis management[edit]

Coombs identifies three phases of crisis management.[2]

  1. Pre-crisis: preparing ahead of time for crisis management in an effort to prevent a future crisis from occurring.[2] This category is also sometimes called the prodromal crisis stage.[7]
  2. Crisis: the response to an actual crisis event.[2]
  3. Post-crisis: occurs after the crisis has been resolved; the efforts by the crisis management team to understand why the crisis occurred and to learn from the event.[2]

Inside the management step, Bodeau-Ostermann identifies 6 successive phases: - reaction, where the group behaves on first sight, - extension, because the crisis dilutes itself and touches neighbours, - means (material and human), which constitutes an overview of success/failures of emergency reaction, - focus, stands as a concrete action or event on which the team leaders concentrate to fight crisis, - retraction, is the moment where the group diminishes means involved, in accordance with its aims, - rehabilitation, where, as a last step, result is, for the group, emergence of new values, stronger than the older. Article published on RIMS (Risk Management), New-York, May 2004.

Crisis communication tactics[edit]

Crisis communication tactics during the pre-crisis stage may include the following: researching and collecting information about crisis risks specific to the organization; creating a crisis management plan that includes making decisions ahead of time about who will handle specific aspects of a crisis if and when it occurs; preparing press release templates for the organization’s public relations team in the event of a crisis; and the chain of command that all employees will follow in the dissemination of information to all publics during a crisis situation.[8] A rapid response crisis communications team should be organized during the pre-crisis stage [9] and all individuals who will help with the actual crisis communication response should be trained.[10]

Crisis communication tactics during the crisis stage may include the following: the identification of the incident as a crisis by the organization’s crisis management team; the collection and processing of pertinent information to the crisis management team for decision making; and also the dissemination of crisis messages to both internal and external publics of the organization.[10]

Crisis communication tactics during the post-crisis stage may include the following: reviewing and dissecting the successes and failures of the crisis management team in order to make any necessary changes to the organization, its employees, practices, or procedures; and providing follow-up crisis messages as necessary.[10]

Landmark crisis communication case studies[edit]


  1. ^ Barrera, Andria. "When Public Scrutiny Requires Crisis Communications". Gutenberg Communications. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Coombs 2007.
  3. ^ Maines, David R. (2000). "The Social Construction of Meaning". Contemporary Sociology 29 (4): 577. doi:10.2307/2654557. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Coombs 2012, p. 19.
  5. ^ Coombs, W. Timothy (2004). "Impact of past crises on current crisis communications: Insights from: Situational crisis communication theory". Journal of Business Communication 41: 265–289. doi:10.1177/0021943604265607. 
  6. ^ Coombs 2007, p. 5.
  7. ^ Finks 1986, p. 21.
  8. ^ Coombs 2012, p. 20.
  9. ^ Alfonso, González-Herrero; Smith, Suzanne (2008). "Crisis Communications Management on the Web: How Internet-Based Technologies are Changing the Way Public Relations Professionals Handle Business Crises". Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 16 (3): 143–153. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5973.2008.00543.x. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c Coombs 2012, pp. 20-21.
  11. ^ Benson, James A. (1988). "Crisis revisited: An analysis of strategies used by Tylenol in the second tampering episode". Central States Speech Journal 39 (1): 49–66. doi:10.1080/10510978809363234. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Stockmyer 1996.
  13. ^ Benoit, William L. (1997). "Image repair discourse and crisis communication". Public Relations Review 23 (2): 177–186. doi:10.1016/s0363-8111(97)90023-0. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  14. ^ Williams, David E.; Treadaway, Glenda (1992). "Exxon and the Valdez accident: A failure in crisis communication". Communication Studies 43 (1): 56–64. doi:10.1080/10510979209368359. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  15. ^ Blaney, Joseph R.; Benoit, William L.; Brazeal, LeAnn M. (2002). "Blowout!: Firestone’s image restoration campaign". Public Relations Review 28 (4): 379–392. doi:10.1016/s0363-8111(02)00163-7. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  16. ^ Sherowski, Elizabeth (1996). "Hot Coffee, Cold Cash: Making the Most of Alternative Dispute Resolution in High-Stakes Personal Injury Lawsuits". J. on Disp. Resol 521. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  17. ^ Jacques, Amy. "Domino’s delivers during crisis: The company’s step-by-step response after a vulgar video goes viral". The Strategist. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  18. ^ Veil, Shari R.; Sellnow, Timothy L.; Petrun, Elizabeth L. (2012). "Hoaxes and the Paradoxical Challenges of Restoring Legitimacy: Dominos’ Response to Its YouTube Crisis". Management Communication Quarterly 26 (2): 322–345. doi:10.1177/0893318911426685. 
  19. ^ York, Emily Bryson. "What Domino's Did Right -- and Wrong -- in Squelching Hubbub over YouTube Video". AdAge. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  20. ^ De Wolf, Daniel; Mejri, Mohamed (2013). "Crisis communication failures: The BP Case Study". International Journal of Advances in Management and Economics 2 (2): 48–56. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  21. ^ Chen, Stephanie (2010). "Crisis management 101: What can BP CEO Hayward's mistakes teach us?". CNN. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  22. ^ McCarthy, Elizabeth. "Crisis Management Case Study: BP Oil Spill". The PR Code. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 

References and external links[edit]