An exploration of the role of communication during the in-crisis situation

16 August 2013

‘The critical component in crisis management is communication’, but somehow the vague concept of ‘communication‘ is always cited as a problem in in-crisis situations. Furthermore, available corporate communication literature mainly focuses on pre- and post-crisis reputational communication, relying only on following lists or a linear one-way push of information for the in-crisis stages. The exploratory method of reflective or interpretive action research of a hazardous material emergency desk-top simulation exercise was used to examine (1) what is meant by the term communication in the in-crisis situation, and (2) the contribution that corporate communication and the corporate communication practitioner can make during an in-crisis situation. This study found that there is confusion regarding the term communication, but even more, that each person involved also interpreted the term slightly differently, which could easily lead to confusion and/or the creation of an unclear common operating picture. The extent of the contribution that the corporate communication practitioner, as conduit of the corporate communication discipline, can make is also discussed. This paper comes to the conclusion that the contribution of corporate communication to the in-crisis situation will greatly add to the successful clearing up of an emergency situation.