Examining a crisis communication void

Candace White (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Publication date: 8 May 2009



The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of information context in crisis communication. Previous studies have examined the effectiveness of types of message strategies used during different periods of a crisis. The crisis presented in this case is unusual in that there were no crisis communication strategies used to mitigate it. There was a void where a crisis communication strategy should have been, allowing for critique of what happens when crisis communication is not proactive and strategic.


This is a case study of crisis response developed through participant observation and interviews with key informants, verified through quantitative content analysis of newspaper coverage.


The study found that when issues reported by the media are not tempered by explanation of context from the organization, increasingly negative media frames result, therefore elevating the salience of the issues and the perceived severity of the crisis. When issues are not proactively managed, people outside the organization begin to identify with the side of the issue presented in the media.

Practical implications

The study provides insights into effective crisis communication management by examining the importance of proactive communication for managing public opinion.


The paper describes what happens when proactive communication is not used during a crisis and therefore shows what happens in the absence of effective public relations, when the crisis response is no response at all.



White, C. (2009), "Examining a crisis communication void", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 176-190. https://doi.org/10.1108/13632540910951777

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