Communication management and trust: Their role in building resilience to ‘surprises’

This article focuses on the importance of communications, effective leadership, and trust in building resilience in times of crisis. It is based on an analysis of 82 cases from around the world, relating to environmental, fiscal, natural, legal, military, political, and technological crises. The study documents the importance of effective leadership and trust in organisations to the internal coordination of crisis communications and, in turn, resilience and recovery.

Date added 7 September 2020
Last updated 11 September 2020

This academic article focuses on the importance of communications, effective leadership, and trust in building resilience for times of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. It is based on an analysis of 82 cases from around the world, relating to environmental, fiscal, natural disasters, legal, military, political, and technological crises. The study documents the importance of effective leadership and trust in organisations to the internal coordination of crisis communications and, in turn, resilience and recovery. Key findings around crisis preparedness, leadership effectiveness, trust levels, and crisis communications are presented in tables throughout the article, and briefly summarised below.

Some key findings:

Crisis preparedness

  • Differs a lot between the organisations and places studied.
  • Better crisis preparedness leads to the more effective coordination of crisis communications.
  • But this becomes less significant the more the crisis comes as a surprise.

Effects of leadership

  • Effective leadership in dealing with crises is strongly associated with better crisis preparedness and internal coordination of crisis communications.

Effects of trust

  • There is a significant effect of internal organisational trust, on the effectiveness of the internal coordination of crisis communications - more trust between stakeholders means better communication channels.
  • However, organisations with more trust in their own groups, tend to be less prepared in advance for potential shocks and crises.
  • The flow of trusted information can enhance resilience to future crises.