Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

George Pullman - Chair

Second Advisor

Tom McHaney

Third Advisor

Baotong Gu


ABSTRACT Eighty per cent of small companies without a comprehensive crisis plan vanish within two years of suffering a major disaster—a remarkable and ominous statistic. Crises are occurring more often in all organizations, and when they occur, they are leaving a wake of financial, operational, and reputational damage. Why this trend, now? There are five important reasons: 1) a more volatile workplace involving financial, legal, or management issues within the organization; 2) an extreme production mentality often obscuring the conditions under which crises might otherwise be recognized, addressed, or mitigated; 3) enhanced technological platforms for information delivery, such as the Internet, generating a revolving information door thus promoting organizational stress and crisis; 4) fast-paced and invasive journalism practices that eliminate invisibility for decisionmaking or reaction; and, 5) lack of strategic planning for crisis. There is an increasing body of evidence suggesting that crises in an organizational environment, whether created by act-of-God or manmade circumstances, have defined and predictable characteristics often relating to communication problems in the discourse community. It is also evident that solutions exist to reduce the incidence and the intensity of crisis within this discourse community. Approaches include organizational vulnerability assessments, messaging strategies, forensic media tactics, and dedicated efforts to build relationships with important stakeholders. Each of these has as its foundation a vigorous strategic communication plan. Crisis plans are necessary in today’s business environment, and effective communication is an essential element of any crisis plan. This dissertation will focus on communication methodology as a means of crisis avoidance and crisis mitigation.