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Crisis communication put to the test: the case of two airlines on 9/11

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1 Author(s)
Strother, J.B. ; Dept. of Humanities & Commun., Florida Inst. of Technol., Melbourne, FL, USA

The events of September 11, 2001, provide enough case material for hundreds of cases that are applicable in Technical and Professional Communication courses. I developed the case described in this article to give students a real-world look at how corporations communicate in a crisis-in this case, a crisis of extraordinary proportions. The foundation for the case is the public communication via press releases from American Airlines and United Airlines via their press releases within the 24 hours following the first plane's crash into the World Trade Center. The activities provided allow students to produce appropriate corporate communication, in this case, press releases, using the details of the situation. They also provide a variety of ways to use crisis-response strategies, such as Coombs', to analyze, critique, compare and contrast how each airline constructed the messages it conveyed on this fateful day. This case study demonstrates how crucial each word of a message can be and allows students to reach concrete decisions about why a crisis-response plan, along with the accompanying crisis-response strategies and the resulting communication products are essential for any corporation.

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Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:47 ,  Issue: 4 )