When PR tends to fail: Science communication in Crisis Situations

Gerhard Schmücker - Germany

Professional Positions:

Since 2002       Director University Relations, Nuertingen-Geislingen University

1994 – 2002    International & Public Relations Officer, Nuertingen-Geislingen University

1989 – 1994    Public Relations Officer, Nuertingen-Geislingen University

1988 – 1989    Radiojournalist

Professional Organizations:

Federal Association of University Communication: Member of the board 1995 – 2000, 2010-2018

EUPRIO European Association of Communication Professionals in Higher Education

Freelance Positions:    

Since 2005       Lecturer on German History, Politics and Economy (in English for international Students)

Since 2004       Lecturer on PR for financial institutions at Stuttgart University of Corporate Studies

1989 – present Freelance Author, Journalist, Lecturer and PR Consultant

Academic Background:

1982 - 1989                             University of Tuebingen

1985 – 1986                            University of Florida, USA

1987 – 1987                            University of Uppsala, Sweden

Session introduction

Institutions of Higher Education are affected by crisis: Either situational or structural. Both crisis scenarios share the same phenomenon: Surprise. Communication in this situation can be crucial for the future of the institution because public trust and the corporate image are at stake. The class addresses the challenges and especially the limitations of public relations during crisis situations. A real case of science communication during a crisis will be explored and compared with examples from the business world. Participants will learn that even perfect PR tools fail, when public opinion and reaction is simply overwhelming.

Session in-depth

This presentation

  • describes the challenges of crisis management especially for smaller institutions
  • provides an overview to different crisis scenarios
  • presents crisis communication solutions with various real world examples
  • gives an insight to crisis communication with a real case analysis
  • explores how to manage and communicate in crisis situation
  • argues that crisis PR and communication offer clear limitations depending on the crisis environment.