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Theorizing Crisis Communication

March 2013, ©2013, Wiley-Blackwell
Theorizing Crisis Communication (EHEP002815) cover image


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
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Table of Contents

Notes on Authors viii

1 Introduction to Crisis Communication Theory 1

Defining Crisis 4

Defining Communication 10

Theory 15

Plan for This Book 21

Conclusion 22

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

Conclusion 45

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

Conclusion 72

4 Theories of Communication and Crisis Outcomes 76

Organizational Learning 77

Sensemaking 83

Organizational Legitimacy 87

Situational Crisis Communication Theory 91

Discourse of Renewal 96

Conclusion 100

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

Conclusion 132

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

Conclusion 158

7 Theories of Influence and Crisis Communication 163

Apologia 165

Image Repair 168

Kategoria 172

Dramatism 176

Narrative Theory 181

Conclusion 184

8 Theories of Communication and Risk Management 188

Mindfulness 190

High Reliability Organizations 195

Precautionary Principle 200

Cultural Theory 204

Risk Communication as Argument 208

Conclusion 212

9 Theories of Crisis Communication and Ethics 217

Ethics 218

Crisis Communication as an Ethical Domain 221

Responsible Communication 223

Significant Choice 225

The Ethic of Care 227

Virtue Ethics 229

Justice 230

Applications of Moral Theory to Crisis 232

Conclusion 235

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

Index 263

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Author Information

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.

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“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 students alike.”
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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Purchase Options
Theorizing Crisis Communication
ISBN : 978-1-118-48592-7
280 pages
January 2013
$36.99   BUY

Theorizing Crisis Communication
ISBN : 978-0-470-65930-4
280 pages
March 2013, ©2013
$45.95   BUY

Wiley E-Text   
Theorizing Crisis Communication
ISBN : 978-1-118-76762-7
280 pages
July 2013
$110.95   BUY

Theorizing Crisis Communication
ISBN : 978-0-470-65929-8
280 pages
March 2013
$110.95   BUY

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