CFP: Theory Advancing Practice: The Contingency Theory in the Strategic Management of Crises, Conflicts and Complex Public Relations Issues

Deadline: November 30, 2020

Special issue editors:

Augustine Pang, PhD
Singapore Management University

Yan Jin, PhD
University of Georgia

Crises and conflicts have become more complex, impacting nations, organizations and individuals in unprecedented ways. Look no farther than how organizations (operationalized as governments, corporate, NGOs, NPOs) respond – or forced to respond, as an organization, an industry, or an multi-agency issue response entity, when confronted with threats to business, public health and safety, and national/international security. Organizational responses, at each level, must be equally dynamic, cognizant of the dynamics of internal structures and external vulnerabilities, that could affect their position, approach and management of communication outcomes that reflect organizational purpose and values as manifested in the process of making strategic decisions on short-term and long-term responses.

Over the past three decades, the Contingency Theory of Strategic Conflict Management (the Contingency Theory hereafter) has emerged as an empirically tested perspective in how public relations, crises, and conflicts can be managed. It defines public relations as strategic management of competition and conflict in the best interests of one’s organization, and when possible, also in the best interests of key publics (Wilcox, Cameron, & Reber, 2015). This has been applied to how nations, organizations and publics manage and negotiate conflicts. Coombs (2010) has described the Contingency Theory as a “grand theory of public relations”. A “grand theory” is one which “seeks to explain how public relations as a whole operates”. Grand theories seek to explain an entire discipline and “can be adapted to specific areas of the discipline” (Coombs, 2010, p. 41). Today, it is one of the most applied theories applied in crisis communication research (An & Cheng, 2010).

The premise of the theory is this: If two-way communication is not always possible, organizational response to a public relations issue or problem must be examined more dynamically. The Contingency Theory argues this to be examined via stance movements, which has, at one end of the continuum, advocacy, and at the other end, accommodation. The theory offers a matrix of 87 factors, arranged thematically, that the organization could draw on to determine their stance. Between advocacy, which means arguing for one’s own case, and accommodation, which means making trade-offs with a public, is a wide range of operational stances that influenced strategic communication strategies.

The Contingency Theory began essentially as a public relations theory in the 1990s, but has since been adapted and applied to crisis situations. Frandsen and Johansen (2017) argued that “it was not until the mid-2000s that Cameron’s contingency theory of accommodation became a genuine theory of crisis communication. It was in particular Augustine Pang and Yan Jin who contributed to this development” (p. 116). Heath and Coombs (2006) argued that theories are developed from best practices. Liu and Viens (2020) reflected the arguments among scholars for research to advance practice. Pang, Jin and Cameron (2010) argued that the Contingency Theory was developed to reflect the reality of practice. “Even as the insights of the theory are now used to inform practice, the theory actually operates in a continual cycle of how practice informs theory and how theory transforms practice. As the field evolves, so does the theory” (p. 28).

This special issue examines how the Contingency Theory has transformed and informed public relations and strategic communication practice. We invite submissions, be it conceptual or empirical, of all methodological approaches, to topics (interdiscplinary perspectives are especially encouraged), but are not limited to,

  • Further elaboration, expansion, and explication of the Contingency Theory and trajectory of future research
  • How the theory has informed and/or transformed practice
  • Application of theory to crises, conflicts, public relations issues, or public diplomacy
  • Linkages and interaction of the contingency factors in resolving conflicts, managing crises, or dealing with complex public relations issues
  • Identifying new contingency factors
  • Innovative approach of evaluating the relative importance among existing contingency factors in influencing public relations decision making
  • Measurement advancement in refining the operationalization of stance and stance movements
  • The application and advancement of the Contingency Theory in the social media landscape
  • Crisis/conflict leadership and strategic communication decision making in complex situations
  • Understanding the role of publics in the contingency framework: The role of cognitive appraisal, emotions, and coping
  • Ethical factors or considerations associated with strategic communication with key publics with conflicting values and/or different expectations from the organization


All manuscript submissions should be no more than 25 pages or 6,000 words (excluding references and tables, figures or appendices), double-spacing, 1-inch margin, 12-point font, Times New Roman.. Please follow the most recent APA style guideline for in-text citations and references. All submissions will be double-blind reviewed, following the guideline of Public Relations Review.


  • Deadline for full paper submission to the Public Relations Review submission portal: November 30, 2020
  • Notification of review results, including invitations for revision and resubmission (R&R): February 28, 2021
  • Deadline for R&R submission: April 1, 2021
  • Publication: Scheduled for third or fourth quarter of 2021

For questions about this special issue, please email one or both of the guest editors:

Augustine Pang

Yan Jin

Call for Papers: Special Issue on COVID-19

Examining risk communication, crisis management, as well as the implications of the decisions made, and actions taken to combat a global pandemic.

Guest Editor – Professor Yan Jin

Georgia Athletic Association Professor in Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication; Professor, Department of Advertising and Public Relations; Associate Director, Center for Health & Risk Communication, University of Georgia, United States.

Objectives and Scope of the Special Issue:

On January 30, 2020 the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) a “public health emergency of international concern). Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that include MERS and SARS and it is believed it was initially spread from animals to humans with the epicentre in Wuhan, China. It has subsequently spread throughout Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East, and several countries in Africa. In response to the pandemic, public health officials and governments worldwide have taken steps to mitigate the spread of infection with seemingly extreme recommendations, requirements, and restrictions. Organizations have also taken steps to respond by developing guidance for international travel for employees, recommendations for working at home, and cancelling major events. Finally, people have also reacted as sales of hygiene products have skyrocketed creating shortages in products like masks, hand sanitizer, and even toilet paper.

Broadly, our aim in this issue is to use crisis and risk communication knowledge, experience, and research to shed light on a crisis that has received significant heat in the last few months. As such there are broad three objectives in this issue:

  1. Deconstruct the COVID-19 crisis in a meaningful way to better understand lessons for future pandemic crisis planning, and actions.
  2. Analyze the existing and emergent risks associated with COVID-19, organizational or institutional reactions to it, and public self-protection actions taken (or not).
  3. Evaluate the (de)escalating factors affecting the pandemic and its outcome(s) in order to build strategic recommendations for future pandemics and public health crises.
  4. Advance crisis and risk communication theory via conceptual and methodological innovation that provides evidence-based insights for COVID-19 and future public health crisis prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.

Examples of topics suitable to this issue could include:

  • Critical examinations of government policy, decision-making, & the communication of those decisions
  • Evaluations of reactions to the pandemic in/across different sectors (e.g., public sector, private sector, NGOs, etc.)
  • Cross-cultural explorations reactions and factors driving reactions to the pandemic
  • Risk analyses of the short, medium, and long-term implications of the pandemic
  • Specific analyses of messages to manage risk perception
  • Online and offline conversations about the disease, risk perception, and risk management
  • Outcome risk assessment (e.g., what could happen as a result of the crisis)
  • Information & communication expectations and challenges (e.g., misinformation and disinformation) during the pandemic
  • Socially responsible behavior and ethical considerations in the wake of a global pandemic

This is not an exhaustive list, but successful papers will meaningfully build their rationale around at least one of the three objectives identified in this call. All methodologies, ontological perspectives, and theoretical approaches are acceptable.


Submissions to this special issue should follow the process outlined on: and authors can find more information about the journal’s guidance for authors at:

Submission deadline: December 4, 2020

About the Journal

The Journal of International Crisis and Risk Communication Research (JICRCR) is the first scholarly journal dedicated to human and mediated communication issues associated with crises, risks, and emergencies around the world. JICRCR publishes original theoretical and scientific articles and brief reports that stimulate debate and contribute to the knowledge of crisis and risk communication. JICRCR intends to be the premier outlet for authors to submit crisis and risk communication research. The Journal is supported by an international editorial board comprised of top risk and crisis communication scholars. The journal publishes articles in a print version and open access online, which means that all content is freely available without charge to the user or institution. Users are allowed to read, download, print, or link to the full texts of the articles, without asking prior permission from JICRCR. For more information about the journal visit:

Developing a global virtual risk & crisis community

A collaborative, open resource for risk & crisis communication

We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when creating them.

— Albert Einsten.

We are certainly living through an interesting and very challenging moment in history. Risk and crisis communication scholars and practitioners have an opportunity to share the best practices, latest research, best approaches to mitigating risk, as well as our work and engagement.

The plans for this site as well as the risk and crisis community have been in process for months, yet as they have come together now, we also have an opportunity to critically reflect on ongoing health crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, recent (and future) economic crises, and all of the factors that connect to what serves mutual interests in our communities, institutions, and businesses.

As the current chair for ECREA’s Crisis Communication division, my invitation for the community is to share our work, our experiences, our thoughts, and research. If you would like to be a contributor, contact me directly at

Contributor Guidelines

For anyone interested in contributing, here are the guidelines for posts:

  1. Text-based posts need to be 400-1500 words (maximum)
  2. MP4-based posts (e.g., recorded interviews, podcasts, mini-lectures, etc.) of 2 1/2-5 minutes are acceptable but the MP4’s will need to be uploaded separately (contact me for the upload details) with a 100-200 word ‘abstract’
  3. We invite posts on calls for participation (papers, conferences, etc.), information about upcoming events relevant to the community, recent publications (promote your latest work), risk and crisis in the news, and teaching and training related to risk and crisis communication
  4. All posts need to have a featured image and we encourage visualisation of material where possible. However, all visuals must be copyright free OR owned by the person posting them.
  5. Before their first post, contributors are expected to create a brief profile and are encouraged to upload a photo, put in their own social media, and email contact information.
  6. Aside from the MP4’s that will be uploaded separately, contributors are responsible for laying out their own posts. Technical help using WordPress is generally not available from the management team, but there is a lot of WordPress documentation for help.

Posts will be moderated by a member of the division’s management team before being scheduled for posting. However, our objective is to encourage open participation; therefore, this is not a ‘peer-review’ process; rather, ensuring the content is accessible and appropriate to the group’s mission.