Defining crisis communication
Communication during a crisis requires a rhetorical skill set focused on establishing communicator credibility to the affected public as well as understanding the audience. Crises are events that create large amounts of uncertainty and stress. These events are often unexpected, disrupting and confusing (Littlefield & Quenette, 2007, p. 29). From a public relations standpoint, risk communication is how an organization prepares for a potential crisis. Crisis communication occurs after the onset of an issue and has much to do with reputation management. While risk communication tries to anticipate crises and warn an audience of risks, crisis communication takes place during or after an event (Seeger, 2006, p. 234).
Credibility and pathos in crisis communication
It is important to have immediate communication when any kind of crisis occurs. For example, in a business setting, customers will want to be notified how the emergency will impact them. In a community setting, the local government needs to notify its residents. Each kind of audience needs to be informed of a crisis so they can create a strategic plan. Communication within the environment helps not only avoid a crisis, but help get through it. -FEMA. (2012). Retrieved: http://www.ready.gov/business/implementation/crisis
To effectively communicate with stressed audiences, organizations must have an empathetic rhetorical strategy that also portrays a trustworthy spokesperson, such as a public relations professional. Several case studies highlight this type of communication. These case studies illustrate that for effective communication in a crisis situation, organizations must establish credibility. This is often accomplished through honesty, accuracy, and use of trustworthy media, all of which appeal to audiences through pathos. To communicate effectively before, during, and after a crisis, public relations practitioners (or spokespeople elected by an organization) should always be transparent. Communicating honestly with the public through the media prevents any future confusion or mistrust. Establishing such pathos, or developing trust with an audience allows them to understand the problem and anticipate a solution.
Effective Steps of Crisis Communication
Once a crisis situation occurs it is important to communicate with ones team. The team can then take the right course of action. In most cases there are more than one possible solution, but not every solution is a good solution without consequences. Being able to make the right decisions in crisis situations can be key in avoiding disasters, and any further damages. Every team should have its own individual game plan to use in case of a crisis. Having a game plan before a crisis can make communication easier, this way, there could be stronger collaboration within the team. -Bell, Leeanne M. (2011).Crisis Communication. Review of Communication.
(1) never deny the crisis
(2) avoid a defensive stance
(3) identify decision alternatives
(4) analyze factors underlying the crisis
(5) react to crises quickly
(6) develop procedures to prevent the crisis from recurring
Examples of Crisis in Health Situations
For a person struggling with an alcohol addiction, AA would be an appropriate form of risk communication to help resolve the issue. Food safety is a issue that's dealt with carefully by the FDA using Risk Communication strategies. With foods many health issues can surface such as Ebola, and salmonella. Successful risk communication is necessary to handle these outbreaks to the public. Health issues such as these can cause panic in the public, and must be handled carefully- FDA. (2012). Strategic plan for Risk Communication. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov.