Crisis

Prevention, preparation, crisis intervention and post-crisis care are the cornerstones of careful handling before, in and during acute crises.

In my research project »Community Communication in the 21st In the 19th century at the FH-Vorarlberg, we mainly deal with media communication. Crisis communication is a special case in which both media and media communication skills are in demand. More information about the research project can be found at: gemeindekommunikation.labs.fhv.at.

Murder, flooding, avalanche, mass carjacking. When a major accident happens, in small communities a mayor must suddenly not only coordinate all the aid workers, but also give interviews for the press, radio and TV.

Communicating honestly and authentically is the premise. Because poor crisis communication can negatively affect the confidence of the population. This is the only way to achieve credibility. Contradictory statements would become an additional burden in times of crisis.

The German Federal Ministry of the Interior publishes a revealing guide to crisis communication. This can be requested by post under publikationen@bundesregierung.de or downloaded in PDF form under Crisis Communication Guide. 

The following is an overview of the main points it contains.

Definition of
crisisA crisis can be triggered by a natural event, a technical or human error or terrorism, crime and also war. A crisis is recorded in several dimensions:

  1. as a real event with concrete hazards and/or damage
  2. the way in which the crisis is management
  3. public perception of crisis management

How those responsible deal with the crisis and what actions are taken to deal with the crisis has a decisive influence on the public perception of the crisis. Regular analysis of the potential dangers, as well as ongoing training, are important components of crisis prevention, especially when it is not a slow-moving crisis (latent crisis), but the crisis suddenly becomes "acute".

Crisis managemen
tCrisis management covers the areas of preparedness, preparation, crisis management and follow-up. Described in the Crisis Manual the responsibilities, functions, processes and structures, accessibility and behaviors.

If a crisis becomes acute, alerting the emergency services is the first step. A crisis unit is convened, authorities and aid organisations exchange information, but their own organisation must also be activated and informed. The sooner the alarm is raised, the shorter the often chaotic first phase can be maintained.

The accompanying documentation of the action is important for the follow-up of the crisis, when everyday life begins again and the evaluation of the crisis begins. The crisis manual shall specify the person responsible for follow-up.

The crisis organisat
ionThe Crisis Manual sets out how the organisation is set up for the duration of the crisis. This will allow the appointment of the emergency team and/or coordination staff. The cooperation of all those involved in crisis management must be prepared and practiced.

Risk communication and crisis communic
ationRisk and crisis communication must be distinguished in that risk communication is the basis for good crisis communication. Risk communication is the exchange of information and opinions on risks. Risk communication prepares the population for the crisis and points out dangers and risks. It should take place on an ongoing basis. Crisis communication, on the other hand, is limited in time and serves to bring the exceptional situation back to normal.

In both cases, the following principles apply: openness, transparency, credibility and dialogue orientation. Communication must be permeable in both directions. In addition to traditional media, social media is also used. This is important precisely because this is the only way to counter the rumour kitchen on social networks. The open dialogue engages the population in the process. This leads to trust and builds acceptance and credibility. Preventive risk communication enables the population to know what to do in the event of a crisis.

Good crisis communication requires coordination with other authorities and organisational levels in order to ensure that the line of communication remains uniform. The aim is to maintain credibility and confidence in the crisis. Presence and sovereignty of opinion are just as important. This is achieved through open and honest handling of the situation. The aim is to lead the discussion in public.

In addition, communication nee
ds to be carried out in a target group-oriented manner. Staff, citizens and the crisis management involved must be adequately informed. Monitoring social media channels is very important. Important feedback from the population on the concrete situation is possible via this route. For transparent citizen-oriented communication on social networks, correspondingly marked (yet) uneven information can be shared. It is important to have labelling and a simultaneous presence. This in turn creates trust and closeness.

The crisis communication pla
nThe development of a crisis communication plan makes it possible to be prepared in the event of a case and thus to be able to react quickly. The crisis communication plan is at the heart of successful crisis communication. It includes prepared content, special regulations in press and public relations, as well as elaborated communication strategies for different crisis scenarios. 


The development of a crisis communication plan makes it possible to be prepared in the event of a case and thus to be able to react quickly. The crisis communication plan is at the heart of successful crisis communication. It includes prepared content, special regulations in press and public relations, as well as elaborated communication strategies for different crisis scenarios. 

Crisis Communication Guide – German Federal Ministry of the Interior

Katwarn – Civil Protection App

Austrian Civil Protection Association


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