Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, a crisis management theory is clearly distinct from a crisis management model, as models seek to represent the structure or application of crisis management, while theories are more abstract concepts. Some of the most well-known crisis management theories include attribution theory, situational crisis communication theory, stakeholder theory, and contingency theory. Theories from management studies and other disciplines have also been applied in crisis management, including the diffusion of innovation theory, resilience theory, and human capital theory. Attribution theory holds that companies suffer reputation and business harm when the public blames them for a crisis. Situational crisis communications theory builds on this idea by recommending that businesses tailor crisis communications to the crisis’ potential to hurt the company’s reputation. People closely associate Coombs with both these theories. Attribution theory starts from the premise that it is inherently in human nature to seek to explain why events occur, especially sudden and damaging incidents like crises. Typically, people attribute responsibility to an entity, such as a company, or a situation. When people blame an organization, they direct negative emotions toward it. Coombs found that it can result in damage to the organization’s reputation, reduced intention to do business with the company, and increased tendency to speak negatively to other people about the organization. While Coombs didn’t anticipate the power of social media to amplify reputational harm, tweets and other posts can be especially damaging form of the negative word-of-mouth he described. These networks have introduced a level of rapid two-way communication between consumers and companies that previously did not exist, testing the ability of companies to control the messaging. Therefore, social media management is an essential part of crisis management. In situational crisis communications theory, Coombs said crisis managers must first determine the threat to the company’s reputation by assessing which of three clusters the crisis fits into the victim cluster; the accidental cluster; or the intentional cluster. The clusters have escalating potential to harm the company’s reputation because of the level of responsibility attributed to the company-minimal, low, or strong. Based on an assessment of the situation and reputation risk, Coombs believes the organization should respond with one of three strategies: deny, diminish, or rebuild. In deny strategies, the organization assumes no responsibility; diminishing strategies seek to downplay the seriousness of the crisis; and rebuilding responses tend to involve apologizing. Majority of researchers recognize the powerful role that apologies play in crisis management. This has been formalized as an area of study under the term corporate apologia, which means using rhetoric to protect your reputation while explaining what happened. In apologia, the crisis response options are denial of responsibility, shifting of responsibility, or taking full responsibility with an apology. Majority of researchers recognize the powerful role that apologies play in crisis management. This has been formalized as an area of study under the term corporate apologia, which means using rhetoric to protect your reputation while explaining what happened. In apologia, the crisis response options are denial of responsibility, shifting of responsibility, or taking full responsibility with an apology. In Keith Michael Hearit’s 2011 book Crisis Management by Apology, in which he developed the theory of apology, he states that companies often avoid apologies in favor of making no public comment because of concerns that apologizing increases their liability or weakens their position in lawsuits. However, Hearit contended that a public relations-driven strategy, in which the organization apologizes and seeks to be candid, is more effective. Later research by Coombs and Sherry Holladay contradicted this statement, finding that apologizing isn’t necessarily more effective in reducing reputation damage and negative word-of-mouth among stakeholders who are not themselves victims. In these studies, apologizing was about as effective as other victim-centered strategies, such as expressions of sympathy and compensation. Image repair theory, also known as image restoration theory, shares a focus on rebuilding an organization’s reputation when it has been damaged by a crisis. Communications scholar William Benoit originated image restoration theory in his 1995 Book- Accounts, Excuses, and Apologies: A Theory of Image Restoration Strategies, which focuses on the messages a company should communicate during a crisis. He offers five categories of image repair strategies: denial, evasion of responsibility, reducing perceived offensiveness of the action, corrective action, and mortification Structural functionalism comes from sociology, and looks at society as a structure made up of institutions that function together to keep the whole running, like organs that work together to keep the body functioning. In crisis management, this theory explains how organizational communication relies on a structure made up of networks for information to flow and a hierarchy of people who manage the process. Chaos theory comes from mathematics, and holds that some systems are so complex that small differences in starting conditions can make them act very differently and unpredictably. This characteristic inspired the concept of the butterfly effect, in which a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can theoretically cause a tornado in Texas. This potential (for small changes to have unpredicted effects) can make these systems appear completely random, even when they may not be. Researchers have applied both chaos theory and the butterfly effect in crisis management. For example, they studied officials who made precise and rosy predictions about disasters without taking unpredictable weather variables into account. This occurred in Canadian floods in 1997, wherein inaccurate communication meant that many communities were not prepared for the scale of a disaster that occurred. In the corporate world, chaos theory can show the limitations of controlling volatile public perception of a crisis. In 2009, Alpaslan, Mitroff, and Sandy Green published a theory that focused on the role of stakeholders in crisis management. They argued for including stakeholders in crisis preparations and responses – not because of their power or influence on financial value, but due to factors such as potential for injury. Crises can reorder the importance of a stakeholder group, and managers who understand stakeholder theory consider and incorporate the needs and values of a range of stakeholders, Alpaslan, Mitroff, and Green said. Resilience theory, which has its roots in child psychology, holds that having one or more protective factors can help individuals survive adversity with less harm. In business, resilience theory helped give rise to business continuity planning, which seeks to make companies more resistant to failure. According to researcher Patrice Buzzanell, resilience theory outlines five elements that businesses can cultivate to strengthen their ability to bounce back: crafting normality, affirming identity anchors, making use of communication networks, putting alternative logic to work, and emphasizing positive feelings while downplaying negative ones. Contingency theory asserts there is no single best method to organize or lead a company, and that decisions should be made contingent on circumstances. Researchers say this applies equally in crisis management, because crises are fluid, complex, and uncertain. Therefore, crisis managers must adapt their response to make it contingent upon the situation. Crisis leaders and communicators should take into account a range of external factors, such as threats, the marketplace environment, social and political support, the characteristics of public stakeholders, and the complexity of the issue. The diffusion of innovation theory describes how new ideas spread and become accepted. According to Evertt Rogers, who pioneered the theory in his 1962 Book, Diffusions of Innovations, a small minority of people initially adopt innovations. When about 20 percent of the population adopts a new behavior, 70 percent of the remaining people will adopt it. The theory of human capital comes from economics, and frames individual characteristics such as education, health, and birthplace as factors that contribute to a person’s productivity and income. Thus, in crisis management, inequalities of human capital such as disadvantages in education and healthcare and unfair income distribution among classes and races can lead to or amplify crises. According to Coombs, the guideline for initial crisis response focuses on three points: be quick, be accurate and be consistent. Quickness and accuracy play an important role in public safety, because slow or inaccurate responses can increase the risk of injuries and possibly deaths. Quick actions can also prevent further damage and protect reputations by showing that the organization is in control of the situation. The philosophy of speaking with one voice in a crisis is an effective way to maintain accuracy. As the news media are drawn to crises and can reach a wide array of publics quickly, it is logical that media relations is a key part of crisis response. Crisis managers should also express concern/sympathy for any victims of the crisis. Expressions of concern are expected by stakeholders and recommended by crisis experts, but are not admissions of guilt. Organizations did experience less reputational damage when an expression of concern is offered verses a response lacking an expression of concern. The writer is a civil servant by profession, a writer by choice and a motivational speaker by passion!