Track 1: Risk communication: Communication by companies, NGOs and governmental organizations about risks and hazards
The term “risk society” was coined in the 1980s, referring to “a society increasingly preoccupied with the future […], which generates the notion of risk” (Giddens & Pierson, 1998). To take but one example, the effects of climate change have become more and more apparent for everyone, so much so that the issue is now in mainstream public consciousness. This increase in public awareness has largely been due to an increase in extreme weather events, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and hurricanes, and it is now an issue that interacts with all parts of society. Companies, NGOs and governmental organizations all have the responsibility to communicate risks in order to inform people about the potential hazards related to particular conditions or activities, and to thus reduce uncertainties and insecurities. In addition, risks may raise other issues for PR that require theoretical or empirical consideration.
Track 2: Emergency communication: Communication in the context of emergencies, especially health emergencies
The greatest health emergency of current times, the COVID-19 pandemic, has shaken the world. It created enormous challenges for communicators in organizations and politics to reduce uncertainties, generate trust, and win the support of stakeholders such as citizens, customers and employees. Yet, COVID is not the only challenge we face; floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and the like all require elaborate approaches to communication to deal with disasters and their consequences. Established theoretical models of emergency-preparedness, and communication about disasters and public health crises, are put to the test, which may lead to extended or even novel approaches.
Track 3: Crisis communication: Communication before, during and after crisis situations
Crisis communication is an established field of research. Yet, with crises abound in a world that is characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (Bennett & Lemoine, 2014), communication faces new situations and challenges. This includes, for example, the phenomenon of online firestorms (Pfeffer et al., 2014), dealing with disinformation and novel counter-audiences, and questions of organizational structures and processes to prepare for (or mitigate) crisis situations. Empirical investigations into current challenges of any kind, as well as updated theoretical or educational approaches to crisis communication, are welcome.
Track 4: Ethical issues in risk, emergency and crisis communication
Challenging situations like emergencies, crises, and those containing an element of risk, all raise issues of ethics and morality. Ethical communication involves communicating with stakeholders with accurate and timely information, during the entire crisis cycle, in a transparent, responsible and honest way; while at the same time contributing to the organization’s strategy and reputational wellbeing (Jin et al. 2018). In other words, how can organizations accommodate stakeholders, while at the same time advocating their own stance during a particularly critical situation? Moreover, can (or indeed should) PR practitioners act as the “moral conscience” of the organization during times of crisis? There is a need to address these and other questions concerning the ethical issues in risk, emergency, and crisis communication - empirically and theoretically.
Track 5: Communication on risks and ethical issues regarding new technologies in communication/PR
It is perhaps a given that science and technology has brought many benefits to humankind – but it has brought significant risk too. Big data, artificial intelligence (AI), automation and robots create many uncertainties and insecurities, and risks are often difficult to ascertain at first glance. AI, for example, raises concerns around human autonomy, fairness, and justice, which calls for responsible stewardship including public engagement and informed discourse (Buhmann & Fieseler, 2021). Using big data for PR and strategic communication can be a valuable tool for gaining comprehensive insights into the interests, needs and habits of stakeholders (and subsequently for targeted communication), if ethical challenges regarding data protection and privacy are properly addressed. Applying automation technology for communication may improve efficiency in communication, but at what cost? These, and similar issues, deserve attention by communication scholars to ensure further technological development occurs in the most ethical possible way.
Track 6: Stakeholder activism: Communication by stakeholders to raise awareness on issues, nuisances and social injustice
Now so more than ever, NGOs, citizens and organizational stakeholders pressure organizations and politicians for answers, explanations and actions on the urgent issues and risks that societies face. Facilitated by social media, citizens are speaking up more and more - both on the internet and on the streets. Recent examples of this activism include Fridays for Future, the Yellow Vests movement, and the #MeToo movement, which mobilise people around the world and exert change in organizations and politics. Societal issues and risks also stir up emotions in the workplace, which leads to employees speaking out, aiming to impact their employer’s policies or conduct. Research on stakeholder activism, their communication, and its effects on companies and politics is needed, as well as theoretical approaches to capture the ever-growing phenomenon.
Track 7: Open track: Current research in (strategic) communication and PR
To open up the congress to the most recent and thought-provoking research, EUPRERA 2022 also welcomes work that sheds new light on other topics and challenges within the broad domain of PR and strategic communication - be it theoretical, empirical, or applied. We encourage the submission of original contributions, using innovative methods and interdisciplinary approaches, that contribute to the body of empirical knowledge and theory-building in our field.