Political Leadership in Transboundary Crises: New publication in the Research Group on Public Relations & Communication of Technology in Annals of the International Communication Association

In September, Elisabeth Wagner-Olfermann's theory paper was published in the Annals of the International Communication Association, titled "Political leadership in transboundary crises, responsibility attributions, and the role of the media". The journal is among the six journals of the International Communication Association (ICA) and among the top journals in international communication studies. The paper appears as part of a special issue on the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic for the conceptual debate in the field. The paper was written in the context of Elisabeth Wagner-Olfermann's doctoral thesis and the research focus on risk and crisis communication in the Department of Public Relations and Communication of Technology.

In her article, Wagner-Olfermann first classifies the pandemic as a culmination of a series of transboundary crises since the beginning of the new millennium. It is therefore not only the coronavirus pandemic that forces us to rethink our concepts, but a completely new, recurring type of crisis. This new type exceeds national coping strategies and calls for coordinated, international solutions and thus also political leadership beyond national borders. Public visibility is an essential leadership resource on an otherwise poorly institutionalized level. This article therefore explores the question of how media construct and thus legitimize political leadership in transboundary crises. Previous work on the representation of political actors in media coverage does only limited justice to the complexity of political leadership at the transboundary level. In her contribution, Wagner-Olfermann therefore posits that perceptible political leadership in a transboundary crisis results from publicly observable processes of attributing responsibility across geographical and hierarchical boundaries. Consequently, an instrument to capture this discourse of responsibility is presented as an extension of previous approaches.

Interested parties can read the paper at the following link:


We research various structural, content-related and social dimensions of strategic communication, including in the context of technology-oriented organizations. Our focus is on public relations & organizational communication, risk and crisis communication, communication with and about technologies, and international strategic communication.

ResearchTU Ilmenau
TeachingTU Ilmenau


In the area of teaching, we deal as a field of expertise with the areas of public relations, crisis communication, international communication, communicator research as well as media change and social media.

  • Schwarz, A., Seeger, M., & Auer, C. (Eds.). (2016). Handbook of international crisis communication research. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
    Schwarz, A., Schleicher, K., Srugies, A., & Rothenberger, L. (2017). Crisis communication of youth welfare offices in Germany: Findings on media coverage and strategic communication especially in the context of severe cases of child welfare endangerment. Ilmenau: Ilmenau University Press. 
    Schwarz, A. (2010). Crisis PR from a stakeholder perspective: The influence of attributions of cause and responsibility on organizational reputation. Wiesbaden: VS Verl. for the Social Sciences.

The research group for Public Relations and Communication of Technology has been led on an interim basis since 04/2023 by Prof. Dr. Martin Löffelholz. The team consists of Dr. Andreas SchwarzFrancis Alpers, Elisabeth U. Wagner-Olfermann, and Tatjana Faj. Melanie Waltinger currently supports as team assistant.

TeamAnLi Fotografie