ISIS Crisis Communication Breakdown

Crisis is becoming a mainstay around the world with natural disasters, global terrorism, economic instability, and political unrest effecting numerous countries on the planet. A crisis can be classified as any major event that unpredictably takes place with the potential to cause damage or threaten life to individuals or organizations (Fearn-Banks, 2007). Some crisis are natural accidents that take place such as natural disasters, oil spills, plane crashes where there is a problem with routine procedures (Hackman and Johnson, 2013, p. 411). Abnormal accidents, on the other hand are deliberate acts by individuals designed to disrupt or destroy systems (Hackman and Johnson, 2013, p. 411).

A crisis taking place in the Middle East and enveloping more and more countries in the world is the advancement of ISIS. In recent days ISIS has taken responsibility for attacks in a mosque in Kuwait, a beachfront attack in Tunisia, and military attacks in Egypt (Smith-Spark, 2015). This crisis falls under the category of terrorist attacks (Coombs, 1999). The complexity of the problem that has been created by ISIS seems to render the world without a clear understanding as to what should be done. Currently, the United States is leading the charge with periodic drone attacks and troops training the Syrian nationals (Kelly, 2015). Currently there is a lack of clarity among Washington politicians, including President Obama, that the United States has a developed strategy to combat ISIS.

One issue seems to be a lack of a central spokesperson who is not swayed by political pressures. President Obama and the Joint Chiefs Chairmen Martin Dempsey would be likely individuals to lead the communication on ISIS, however both are giving different messages in conflict with one another.

How could the US solidify its message on ISIS and communicate clearly the strategy?


Coombs, W. T. (2011). Ongoing Crisis Communication: Planning, Managing, and Responding (Third Edition edition). Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Fearn-Banks, K. (2010). Crisis Communications: A Casebook Approach (4 edition). New York: Routledge.

Hackman, M. Z., & Johnson, C. E. (2013). Leadership: A Communication Perspective (6 edition). Waveland Press, Inc.

Kelly, N. (2015). Here’s What Top Defense Officials Told Congress About Their ISIS Strategy. National Journal, Online.

Smith-Spark, L. (2015, July 2). Egypt attacks signal ISIS’ expanding reach. CNN. Retrieved from

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