The state of strategic organizational crisis communication research in the context of global and digital communication


Since the mid 1990s the field of crisis communication research has grown substantially as a topic of international communication studies. Especially in public relations journals a growth of the publication output has been observed recently, whereas broader communication journals still publish scarcely on crisis communication (An & Cheng, 2012; Ha & Boynton, 2014). The increasing number of conferences and specialized working groups at major academic communication associations such as the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) and the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) as well as the publication of specialized journals such as the Journal of International Crisis and Risk Communication indicate the ongoing institutionalization of the field (Schwarz, Seeger, & Auer, 2016a). Moreover, an increasing number of academic and public research centers, primarily at American and European universities, point to the rapid growth and societal relevance of the field (Palenchar, 2010). 

Within the field of public relations and strategic communication research the management of crisis communication already counts as a vital sub-discipline (Coombs, 2012b). This gain in importance can also be explained by the numerous devastating crisis events which do not only have tremendous social, political, ecological, and economic impact, but also reveal in many cases the complexity and limitations of managing crisis communication as practiced by organizations in various fields of society. This complexity and scope of crises go along with the interdisciplinarity and multiperspectivity of the research field, which in most cases lacks reciprocal reference (Coombs, 2012a; Löffelholz & Schwarz, 2008).