Texas Tech Expert Discovers Importance of Crisis Preparation

Planning ahead is the most important part of minimizing a crisis situation.

Written by Kelly Kleinsteuber

From devastating oil spills wiping out entire species to racial slurs from public figures, crisis events may be unpredictable.

But they should not be unexpected.

David Williams, professor of communication studies, says the most important aspect of crisis management is anticipating the problem. Williams studies institutional response to crisis situations. He recently published and co-authored, "Responding to Oil Industry Crises: The Case of Phillips Petroleum in Pasadena, Texas," which appeared in the American Communication Journal.

Williams does not research crisis communications in the oil industry specifically, but said the unfortunate nature of the business ultimately results in some kind of explosion or spill.

It is critical to respond quickly to crisis, Williams said. The first response makes the strongest impression on both the general public and important stakeholders. The initial response should inform as much as possible, be presented by a credible spokesperson for the organization, and reassure the public that the organization is addressing the issue.

"It sounds a little counter-intuitive," Williams said, "but usually a successful crisis response has been planned beforehand."

Organizations need to communicate with media and have a trusting relationship before a crisis occurs. Many different population segments will speak out about the crisis, Williams said, and a good relationship with media outlets gets the organization’s viewpoint to the forefront of reporting.

CONTACT: David Williams, professor of communication studies, (806) 742-4188 or doc.williams@ttu.edu