Theorizing Crisis Communication
March 2013, ©2013, Wiley-Blackwell
Theorizing Crisis Communication presents a comprehensive review and critique of the broad range of theoretical frameworks designed to explain the role of communication in the development, management, and consequences of natural and man-made crises.
- Brings together the variety of theoretical approaches emerging in the study of crisis communication into one volume for the first time.
- Summarizes theories from such diverse perspectives as rhetoric, risk management, ethics, mass communication, social media, emergency response, crisis outcomes, and warning systems, while presenting clear examples of how the theory is applied in crisis communication research
- Presents theoretical frameworks generated by research from many disciplines including sociology, psychology, applied anthropology, public health, public relations, political science, organizational studies, and criminal justice
- An essential tool for a comprehensive understanding of the onset, management, response, resolution, and ultimate meaning of these devastating world events
Notes on Authors viii
1 Introduction to Crisis Communication Theory 1
Defining Crisis 4
Defining Communication 10
Plan for This Book 21
2 Theories of Communication and Crisis Development 25
Assumptions of Stage Models 27
Three-Stage Model 30
Fink’s Four-Stage Cycle 33
Turner’s Six-Stage Sequence of Failure in Foresight 37
Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication 40
3 Theories of Communication and Warning 49
Detection of Risks 50
Functional Approaches to Communication and Warning 51
Hear-Confirm-Understand-Decide-Respond Model 57
Protective Action Decision Model 60
Integrated Model of Food Recall 67
Emerging Warning Systems 71
4 Theories of Communication and Crisis Outcomes 76
Organizational Learning 77
Organizational Legitimacy 87
Situational Crisis Communication Theory 91
Discourse of Renewal 96
5 Theories of Communication and Emergency Response 105
Assumptions of Communication and Emergency Response 107
Chaos Theory and Emergent Self-Organization 108
Theories of Communication and Crisis Coordination 114
Communication and Community Resilience 122
Four-Channel Model of Communication 127
6 Theories of Communication and Mediated Crises 138
News Framing Theory 140
Focusing Events 143
Uses and Gratifications Theory 147
Crisis News Diffusion 151
Diffusion of Innovations 154
7 Theories of Influence and Crisis Communication 163
Image Repair 168
Narrative Theory 181
8 Theories of Communication and Risk Management 188
High Reliability Organizations 195
Precautionary Principle 200
Cultural Theory 204
Risk Communication as Argument 208
9 Theories of Crisis Communication and Ethics 217
Crisis Communication as an Ethical Domain 221
Responsible Communication 223
Significant Choice 225
The Ethic of Care 227
Virtue Ethics 229
Applications of Moral Theory to Crisis 232
10 Using Theories of Crisis Communication 239
Minimization of Communication in an All-Hazards Approach 240
The Practicality of Theory in Understanding Crisis Communication 242
The Pathway for Inspiring Meaningful Change 243
Successful Connections Linking Theory-Based Research and Practitioners 245
Promising New Lines of Research 250
Persistent Challenges 257
A Final Word 259
Timothy L. Sellnow is Professor of Communication and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in Communication at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Sellnow’s interdisciplinary research on risk and crisis communication appears in an array of refereed journals, handbooks, and edited volumes. He has also co-authored five books on risk and crisis communication. Dr. Sellnow frequently serves as a consultant for Fortune 500 companies in the food industry and government agencies such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on risk and crisis communication planning.
Matthew W. Seeger is Dean of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts and a Professor of Communication at Wayne State University in Detroit. His work on crisis, risk and communication has appeared in over 100 journal articles, book chapters, and conference proceedings. Seeger is the author or co-author of six books on organizational communication ethics and crisis and risk communication. Dr. Seeger also frequently serves as an advisor to the auto industry, manufacturing organizations and government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on topics related to crisis management.
“The glory of Theorizing Crisis Communicationis in its concise synthesis of multiple theoretical perspectives into overarching categories. Every major theory presented is accompanied by an insightful discussion of strengths and weaknesses. Sellnow and Seeger have crafted a text that should encourage researchers to examine crises from a variety of perspectives and inspire inquiry that ties research to practice.” (International Journal of Communication, 1 May 2014)
"This is not a handbook for a crisis practitioner, but a rich resource for those interested in the theoretical underpinnings of communication before, during, and after a crisis. Summing Up. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and research collections.” (Choice, 1 September 2013)
“Laudable in its reach, comprehensive in its scope, and
impressive in its implications, Sellnow and Seeger have made a
remarkable contribution to our understanding of crisis
communication as a theoretical construct.”
Keith Hearit, University of Western Michigan
“This book provides a successful distillation of the
disparate works on crisis communication into a coherent field of
study and practice. A must-read for scholars, practitioners, and
Dennis Mileti, University of Colorado
“Sellnow and Seeger have added another clear,
comprehensive, and useful statement on the foundations of crisis
communication. Of special importance, they ground their book on the
interconnections of crisis and risk which produces a powerful
marriage of two robust bodies of research, theory and practice of
communication and management.”
Robert Heath, University of Houston
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