Crisis Communications

R. Zimmerman
SAGE Encyclopedia of Crisis Management, edited by K. B. Penuel, M. Statler, and R. Hagen, Sage Publishers, pp. 188-193

Although now a growing and respectable research field, crisis management—as a formal area of study—is relatively young, having emerged since the 1980s following a succession of such calamities as the Bhopal gas leak, Chernobyl nuclear accident, Space Shuttle Challenger loss, and Exxon Valdez oil spill. Analysis of organizational failures that caused such events helped drive the emerging field of crisis management. Simultaneously, the world has experienced a number of devastating natural disasters: Hurricane Katrina, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, etc. From such crises, both human-induced and natural, we have learned our modern, tightly interconnected and interdependent society is simply more vulnerable to disruption than in the past. This interconnectedness is made possible in part by crisis management and increases our reliance upon it. As such, crisis management is as beneficial and crucial today as information technology has become over the last few decades.

Crisis is varied and unavoidable. While the examples highlighted above were extreme, we see crisis every day within organizations, governments, businesses and the economy. A true crisis differs from a “routine” emergency, such as a water pipe bursting in the kitchen. Per one definition, “it is associated with urgent, high-stakes challenges in which the outcomes can vary widely (and are very negative at one end of the spectrum) and will depend on the actions taken by those involved.” Successfully engaging, dealing with, and working through a crisis requires an understanding of options and tools for individual and joint decision making. Our Encyclopedia of Crisis Management comprehensively overviews concepts and techniques for effectively assessing, analyzing, managing, and resolving crises, whether they be organizational, business, community, or political. From general theories and concepts exploring the meaning and causes of crisis to practical strategies and techniques relevant to crises of specific types, crisis management is thoroughly explored.

Wagner Faculty