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Issues and crisis management


Ingenhoff D.

Course director


Companies and institutions today need to consider an increasing number of (digital) publics ready to take action on issues that concern them and for which they hold these organizations responsible. The increasing complexity of social, economic, and technological systems is also the reason why the number of crises that can potentially harm a company, a whole branch, or even a nation is constantly growing. Active reputation management and well-prepared crisis communication have therefore become standard management tools in well-run companies. Students will learn about reputation and crisis management processes and structures in theory and practice. Using case studies, empirical research studies, and an analysis of the problems and the stakeholders' expectations, students will gain knowledge about issues and crisis management policies and tools. They can also apply and deepen their knowledge of issues and crisis communication strategies in a full-day crisis simulation exercise.

Selected reading material will be provided in class. 

Enrollment required. Limited number of participants.


  • To give participants informed insights into the basic elements and terms of the interrelated concepts on issues and crisis management as part of a strategic communication strategy (identity, image, reputation, issues, crisis, issues management, crisis management, stakeholder theory, public sphere).
  • To learn more about crisis communication theories, reputation and issues management, the role of activists, internet contagion theory, stakeholder theory, business ethics and CSR, and the role of culture. 
  • To give insights into the overall issues and crisis management processes and structures in today’s companies, including challenges like the development of issues in social media.
  • To prepare for crisis communication situations and develop a crisis communication strategy.
  • To practice your knowledge in a crisis simulation exercise (speak in front of a camera, press conferences, tv-statements…).
  • To develop the ability to think critically and creatively about issues and crisis through collaborative working in small groups on selected case studies and through analyzing current PR issues.

Teaching mode

In presence

Learning methods

We will combine presentations, discussions, case studies, and a whole-day crisis simulation exercise. For further details, please also see below “exam style/grading”.

When registering for the course, please subscribe to one of six groups. Each group will work and develop on one particular topic assigned to them before the course starts and solve a case study during the course.

  1. Each group is expected to examine a specific topic in detail before the course starts (for example, the Situational Crisis Communication Theory and Contingency Theory; see list below). Please present this topic in a ppt-presentation of about 30-40 minutes, and please also include a short discussion (either during or after the presentation). The literature is mentioned below. You are expected to present the topic coherently, not just one text followed by another. Moreover, you are welcome to integrate additional texts (e.g., from the authors of the model/theory presented) relevant to the topic. When preparing the presentation, reflect on what could be relevant for other participants, for example, by making connections to the other five core topics. In each presentation, the related topic should be clarified with a current example from Switzerland or abroad. The example should be a real case, which is not mentioned in the literature. The example needs to be chosen and investigated by you. (Important remark: All participants must read all literature, including the other groups’ literature).

Deadline for uploading your ppt: Please upload your presentation on iCorsi one day before your presentation, till 10:00 a.m.

  1. Each group is expected to solve a case study. We reserved the time slot on May 3 from 14-17:00 for you to solve the case with your group, among others. However, you might choose any other time slot individually in your group to work on the case and finalize the task. There are three different cases, so every case is solved by two groups. The texts for the case studies are uploaded on iCorsi. Please read the case of your group before the course starts. 


Examination information

Group work (presentation and case study): 40%
Written exam: 60%