Strategic Intent andCrisis Communication

The Emergence of a Field

Authored by: W. Timothy Coombs , Sherry J. Holladay

The Routledge Handbook of Strategic Communication

Print publication date:  November  2014
Online publication date:  November  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415530019
eBook ISBN: 9780203094440
Adobe ISBN: 9781136207129


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Crisis communication is a relatively new applied communication field of study, with its origins traced to the 1980s. In the early days the field reflected a strong tactical focus in efforts to redress the problems created by crises. A crisis can be defined 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” (Coombs, 2012, p. 2). As its theories developed and matured, crisis communication research evolved from a tactical to a strategic focus. Crisis communication research emphasizes solving the problems organizations such as corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) face in a crisis. This chapter reflects the organizational-centric focus by examining the ways managers intentionally utilize crisis communication to prevent or to reduce the problems generated by a crisis. Crisis communication refers to a variety of communicative interventions that are utilized as part of the crisis management process and employed during all three phases of crisis management:

pre-crisis (prevention and preparation),

crisis response, and

post-crisis (learning and recovering) (Coombs, 2009).

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