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Crisis and Risk Communication


Admission requirements

  • Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management, enrolled in the specialisation ‘Governance of Crisis’, can take this course.


Crisis management and crisis communication are intertwined phenomena. Knowing how to communicate increases the effectiveness of crisis management, as stakeholders regain trust and public confidence is restored. This course bridges theory and practice. We present recent theory and concepts, illustrated by best practices of crisis communication. The course focuses on the role of communicative responses during scandals and crises in order to minimise damage and impact in the long run. Case studies from The Netherlands and abroad will be used throughout the course. Students will get more insights into the use of crisis response strategies, the concept and value of meaning making and public leadership in times of crises, and the specific elements of social media as a tool for crisis communication. Students will acquire professional and political sensitivity to communication issues in crisis management, and draft a strategic advice on crisis communication. Their competency to look at risk and crisis communication strategically and empathetically based on practical and academic insights will benefit them in their future professional environment when communication is key in addressing crises and security issues.

Throughout the course, there will be a strong emphasis on challenging students to assess crisis communication dilemmas from the position of other stakeholders, such as media, victims or other organisations within the professional governmental network. Also, insights are provided in terms of risk communication, from natural hazards such as superstorms and floods, to man-made disasters such as toxic spills and accidents, and the threat of earthquakes following the extraction of natural gas in The Netherlands.

This course teaches students to set up, conduct and write a literature review. The purpose of the literature review is to gain comprehensive understanding of the current state of research on risk and crisis communication and on debates relevant to a selected topic with respect to crisis communication, and to present that knowledge in the form of a critical written account. By exploring and picking apart different conceptualisations and theories in the crisis research field when reviewing the academic literature, students will learn about the conditions, effects and challenges of crisis communication. The seminar will build on a mix of academic studies, case examples, empirical trends and media accounts. The seminar has an interactive set up and includes guest lectures from practice.

Course Objectives

After finalising this course, students will be able to:

  1. Critically evaluate academic literature on crisis communication, from a conceptual, theoretical and methodological viewpoint and to present the results of this individual research project in the form of a written academic report (the literature review).
  2. Critically evaluate the effect of the social, political and administrative context and complexity on the perception of communication in crisis situations;
  3. Assess how leaders deal with communicative challenges and analyse how their modus operandi affects the outcome in terms of resilience, public confidence and trust;
  4. Present—together with fellow students—arguments and analyses regarding the content and impact of communication on reputation and crisis response in a format appropriate for a broader professional audience and as input to expert groups;
  5. Build, present and defend well-grounded arguments in oral communication through groups assignments, and engage in public debates about the issues related to crisis communication;
  6. Provide strategic analysis and advice to decision-makers on crisis communication, and craft basic strategic messages to target audiences;
  7. Differentiate between risk communication and crisis communication and the context in which both are applied;
  8. Self-evaluate and reflect after interactive in-class work and individual assignment.


On the right side of programme front page of the studyguide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of Instruction

A combination of interactive lectures and activating workgroups (two sessions per week). In the lectures, students will learn the key principles of research, and the relevant concepts and methodologies. In the workgroups, students will practise research design and methods by applying the concepts, testing theories, and analysing empirical material and group presentations. The workgroups will, amongst others, consist of in-class assignments, team performances, peer review and exercises and feature several compulsory formative (non-graded) assignments that will help the student prepare for the summative (graded) assignments. Reflections on academic literature are available at Brightspace.

Attendance is mandatory. Students are only allowed to miss a maximum of two sessions if there are special, demonstrable personal circumstances. The Board of Examiners, in consultation with the study advisors, will decide on such an exceptional exemption of mandatory attendance.

Total study load: 280 hours
Contact hours = 42 hours
Self-study hours = 238

In this 10 ects course, 4 ects is specifically reserved for the assignment that is going to be part of the portfolio of students, including working on their interim reflection paper as preparation for the final reflection paper. Specific information on the portfolio assignment and the intended learning outcomes that are being acquired will be published in the syllabus of this course.

Assessment method

Assessment for this course is based on:

Individual paper proposal

  • pass/fail

  • Resit possible

Individual final paper (literature review)

  • 70% of final grade

  • Grade cannot be compensated, a 5.50 is required to pass the course

  • Resit possible

  • Resit will take the same form

One group assignment consisting of a presentation and a vlog

  • 30% of final grade (equal weight to presentation and vlog)

  • Grade can be compensated in case of a fail (grade < 5.50)

  • Resit not possible

Additional, formative (non-graded) assignments are an obligatory part of the course.

The calculated overall course grade must be at least 5.50 in order to pass the course. If the calculated overall course grade is lower than 5.50, students are also permitted to resit the 70% final paper.

In the case of written assessment methods, the examiner can always initiate a follow-up conversation with the student to establish whether the learning objectives have been met.

Transitional Arrangement
Partial grades obtained during the academic year 22-23 will still be valid in the academic year 23-24 but they will weigh towards the final grade in accordance with the weight given to partial grades in the year 23-24.

Reading list

A selection of books and articles, to be announced on Brightspace.


Register yourself via MyStudymap for each course, workgroup and exam (not all courses have workgroups and/or exams).
Do so on time, before the start of the course; some courses and workgroups have limited spaces. You can view your personal schedule in MyTimetable after logging in.
Registration for this course is possible from Wednesday 13 December 13.00h

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in MyStudymap you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.

More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.


Dr. Wouter Jong, course coordinator

Dr. Andrea Bartolucci