Table of Contents

Handbook of Research on Crisis Leadership in Organizations

Handbook of Research on Crisis Leadership in Organizations

Elgar original reference

Edited by Andrew J. DuBrin

With contributions from many of the leading researchers in the field, the Handbook of Research on Crisis Leadership in Organizations summarizes much of the theory, research, and opinion about various facets of crisis leadership in order to advance this emerging field. It recognizes that crises have become an almost inevitable part of organizational life, and describes how leaders can facilitate people getting through the crisis.

Chapter 12: Communicating risk and crisis communication to multiple publics

Robert S. Littlefield

Subjects: business and management, organisational behaviour, politics and public policy, leadership


Leaders and decision-makers manage communication in times of risk and crisis. In fact, organizational management of risk and crisis communication has been the focus of considerable study (Sellnow, Ulmer, Seeger, and Littlefield, 2009). Typically, research centers on how organizations and groups respond to crises through the media and public relations channels offering best practices (Covello, 2003; Sandman and Lanard, 2004; Seeger, 2006), image restoration techniques (Benoit, 1995a, 1995b; Coombs, 1998; Hearit, 1994), or model examples (Seeger and Ulmer, 2002; Ulmer, Sellnow, and Seeger, 2011) from which decision-makers can prepare responses, craft messages, and learn vicariously. Often lost in this endeavor are the viewpoints of multiple publics and their perceptions of risk and crisis (Waymer and Heath, 2007). These underrepresented publics are those most affected by crisis events and considered the most vulnerable (Graumann et al., 2005; Perry, Lindell, and Green, 1982). The problem for crisis and emergency risk communicators is that not all people respond as spokespeople wish them to (Spence, Lachlan, and Griffin, 2007). There are numerous economic, social, political, and cultural reasons why people do not respond as directed. Often, the failure of a cultural group to identify with particular spokespeople and follow their directives is based upon having different value systems, lacking trust in the authority bringing the message, being in disbelief that they might be at risk, or having faith in their ability to be self-sufficient in times of crisis.

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