Crisis Communication

Theory: Sensemaking

Posted on: April 14, 2009

The first theory I read about in Communication and Organizational Crisis by Seeger, Sellnow, & Ulmer was about sensemaking. According to the book, “This process is inherently retrospective as members look back on events and construct their meanings,” (p. 22). Essentially, people involved in organizations will try to reduce uncertainty through sharing their interpretations and ideas of what happened, why it happened and what they can do to solve the problem.

The book says, “Weick (1979) identified specific phases or stages to organizing, including enactment, selection, and retention.”

This is the first action taken. For example, Facebook listened to the complaints of the users. The company had to at least recognize and respond to the complaints.

An organization goes to the next step, selection, in an effort to solve the problem. In crisis situations, “organizations are usually forced to offer explanations of cause, blame, and responsibility…that will cause the least legal and economical liability,” (p. 23).


Previously used methods that prove successful become part of the organization and are reused when another incident occurs.

Sensemaking can help organizations “see the cause of crisis, to avoid them, and to reduce their intensity,” (p. 28).


Seeger, M. W. , Sellnow, T.L., & Ulmer, R. R. (2003). Communication and Organizational Crisis.

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