Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Professionals in all fields of practice will encounter crises and need to be able to develop strategies communicate clearly and convincingly. This unit will examine the role of communication at moments of political, economic, social and environmental upheaval. It will investigate the contemporary stresses in communication and the effectiveness of various forms of disseminating information. No longer the privilege of institutions or power centres, mass communication is democratised through a range of online platforms. This unit will examine the challenges this decentering brings to how information is spread and who accesses it, from political commentary and media reporting to disinformation campaigns and the fostering of conspiracy theories. The learning outcomes can be attained through a mixture of communications theory, in-depth research and case study analysis. This unit will examine how and why various techniques and forms of communication are more effective than others and investigate the crises that have altered communication itself.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify and analyse a range of communicative practices and strategies (GA1, GA4, GA5)

LO2 - Analyse the communication dynamics inherent in real-world situations (GA1, GA3, GA4, GA8, GA9)

LO3 - Synthesise and apply communication theory and strategies to address and resolve a range of crises (GA4, GA8)

LO4 - Apply ethical perspectives in the creation and analysis of public content (GA1, GA3)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics may include:

·       Historic case studies in which communication has caused, prevented or ameliorated crises

·       Pre-emptive crisis writing

·       Leadership and communication during conflict

·       Community engagement: before, during, and after a crisis

·       Inclusive communication and accessibility.

·       Government and institutional communicative responses to disasters, pandemics, climate change and other crises

·       Disinformation, conspiracies, fake news and the contemporary crisis in communication

·       Ethical considerations

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit immerses students in active learning and facilitates the development of an understanding of communicative strategies within real-world contexts. The unit engages students in inquiry-based learning, and a research-based strategy that actively involves students in the exploration of the content, issues and questions surrounding moments of crisis and the role of communication. Students in this unit will develop skills in applying a range of communication theories to case studies. There will be a chance to explore real-world scenarios and use theories to analyse what happened and what could be improved in the future.

Assessment strategy and rationale

Assessment tasks in this unit are designed to scaffold the ability to use communication theory to understand the role of communication in conflict and resolution situations.

The first assessment will require students to carry out a basic analysis of the communication dynamics present in a series of classroom or online role play scenarios. Students will be introduced to issues such as power, gender, and race and consider them in the context of communicative acts.

The second assignment requires students to analyse an appropriate case study involving communication at a point of crisis and use communication theory to analyse the strategies and shortcomings involved. This will encourage employment of higher-order research and analytic skills.

The third assessment will require students to apply communication theory to several conflict or crisis situations.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes


The purpose of this task is to help students gain practical experience managing a crisis scenario.


LO1, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5

Assessment 2: RESEARCH TASK

The purpose of this assessment is to use communication theory to analyse the dynamics present in one case study.


LO1, LO2, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9


The purpose of this assignment is to test students’ ability to apply communication theories to a range of contexts.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Backholm, Klas, and Harald Hornmoen. Social Media Use In Crisis and Risk Communication: Emergencies, Concerns and Awareness. Emerald Group, 2018.

 Coombs, W. Timothy. Ongoing Crisis Communication: Planning, Managing, and Responding. Fourth edition., SAGE, 2015.

 George, Amiso M., and Kwamena Kwansah-Aidoo. Culture and Crisis Communication: Transboundary Cases from Nonwestern Perspectives. Edited by Amiso M. George and Kwamena Kwansah-Aidoo, Wiley, 2017.

 George, Amiso M., and Cornelius B. Pratt. Case Studies in Crisis Communication International Perspectives on Hits and Misses. 1st ed., Routledge, 2012.

 Laugesen, Amanda., and Richard. Gehrmann. Communication, Interpreting and Language in Wartime Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Edited by Amanda. Laugesen and Richard. Gehrmann, 1st ed. 2020., Springer International Publishing, 2020.

 Leal Filho, Walter., et al. Handbook of Climate Change Communication: Vol. 3 Case Studies in Climate Change Communication. Edited by Walter. Leal Filho et al., 1st ed. 2018., Springer International Publishing, 2018.

 Nadesan, Majia Holmer. Crisis Communication, Liberal Democracy, and Ecological Sustainability: The Threat of Financial and Energy Complexes in the Twenty-First Century. Lexington Books, 2016.

 Ndlela, Martin N. Crisis Communication A Stakeholder Approach. 1st ed. 2019., Springer International Publishing, 2019.

 Ternès, Anabel. Communication: Breakdowns and Breakthroughs. Brill, 2019.

 Weiss-Blatt, Nirit. The Techlash and Tech Crisis Communication. First edition., Emerald Publishing, 2021.

 Wheeler, Adrian. Crisis Communications Management. First edition., Emerald Publishing, 2019.

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