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Public Relations Review 33 (2007) 313–318

Remembering disaster: Since the media do, so must public relations
Jeffrey L. Courtright a,∗ , Gerald Z. Slaughter b,1 b a School of Communication, Fell Hall 428, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4480, United States Department of Communication, 322 Erickson Hall, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN 47809, United States

Received 9 October 2006; received in revised form 26 January 2007; accepted 26 January 2007

Abstract Only recently has research begun concerning the longer-term aftermath of organizational crisis. This essay presents the genre of disaster rhetoric as a viable strategy to address the problems and opportunities that arise when the media write about crisis anniversaries or news stories that refer to any crisis or disaster, past or present. After a brief review of genre theory, the authors outline the seven functions of the “rhetoric of disaster” and provide multiple examples of their application to public relations activity and its news coverage. The essay concludes with questions that practitioners may use proactively in the development of copy points to address each of the rhetoric of disaster’s functions. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Rhetoric; Genre; Writing conventions; Disaster; Crisis; Message design

1. Overview The bulk of the crisis communication literature has been devoted to crisis plans and the principles behind them (e.g., Fearn-Banks, 2006; Seeger, Sellnow, & Ulmer, 2003), using issues management to prepare for potential crises or avoid them (e.g., Heath, 1997; Olaniran & Williams, 2001), and how organizations “speak” during crises (e.g., Hearit, 2006)—and rightly so. Yet what happens after the crisis’ aftermath merits attention for, as Birch (1994) argues: Things will return to normal—but the story won’t be over yet. It will run again and again....

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