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Organizational Crises, Communication in

Timothy L. Sellnow


Advancing technology, global connectivity, and ethical lapses have resulted in an escalation in the frequency and intensity of organizational crises over the past two decades. Commensurate with the increase in crisis events, academic research in crisis communication has expanded, focusing predominantly on the role of communication in predicting, managing, and resolving crisis events (→  Disasters and Communication ). Common types of crises are natural disasters, malevolence, product failure, human error, terrorism, financial loss, ethical violations, economic malfeasance, and hoaxes or widespread rumors. Hermann (1963) established that, to reach the level of a crisis, a negative event must have three essential components : surprise, threat, and short response time. Surprise indicates that the organization could not or did not prepare adequately for the magnitude of the crisis. Threat suggests that the organization's future is at risk. Short response time requires an organization to take immediate action to avoid further intensification of the crisis. Coombs (2007) addresses the interconnectivity of these three elements in his working definition: “A crisis can be defined as an event that is an unpredictable, major threat that can have a negative effect on the organization, industry, or stakeholders if handled improperly.” Crises evolve in three general stages : pre-crisis, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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