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Crisis Communications: A Casebook Approach, Fourth Edition

Crisis Communications: A Casebook Approach, Fourth Edition. By Kathleen Fearn-Banks; published by Taylor & Francis Group/Routledge,; 388 pages; $59.95.

The original edition of this text was published in 1996, and since then updated editions have kept it a standard for use by students in communications and public relations programs. Its premise is that crisis communications—an organization’s dialogue with the public and key stakeholders before, during, and after a negative event—are a critical element of crisis management.

The book provides background information about public relations practices to persons outside of the field. Early chapters provide an overview of crisis communications and discuss the specific audiences an organization’s efforts should address. Author Kathleen Fearn-Banks examines crisis communications theory by reviewing general strategies used by practitioners. She promotes programs that engage the organization in a dialogue rather than a monologue. The latest edition recognizes that online social media are among the tools that can help achieve this.

The case studies at the heart of this book provide a guide of lessons learned. Grouped into nine sections, they range from cases involving rumors and cyber-crises to coverage of Tiger Woods’ marital woes. Security practitioners will find the chapters that review natural disasters, transportation crises, death and injury, and product failure and tampering of particular interest. Lessons include not only effective communications but accuracy and establishment of credibility. For security, this may include providing the organization’s spokesperson with background information about the company’s security program as well as information related to the specific incident.

The closing chapter of the book maps out the creation of a crisis communications plan. As with any risk-based pro­cess, this begins with an inventory of issues or incidents that may need to be addressed, ranging from employee issues to crimes. Fearn-Banks explains that a crisis communications plan can be part of a larger crisis management plan or a standalone document specifically for public relations practitioners. She provides three sample plans for large and small organizations in the appendices.

This book would be an excellent resource for security practitioners who are responsible for the development of crisis and emergency management plans. It is a well written and researched book worth including in your reference library.

Reviewer: George J. Okaty, CPP, is director of safety and security for Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia. His professional experience includes work at universities, a museum, and in the healthcare and retail sectors. He was an adjunct instructor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the Delaware County Community College in Media, Pennsylvania. He is a member of ASIS International’s Quarter Century Club.