Communication in Crisis. The "Red Phone" and the "Hotline"

Tobias Nanz


In situations of crisis politicians are expected to keep calm and to de-escalate the state of affairs. In this paper I will discuss two devices for crisis communication with regard to form and behaviour: First, the legendary "Red Phone" as a direct communication link between Washington and Moscow, which allows the president to present himself as a capable leader with a cool mind, who can pick up the "Red Phone" and convince a political opponent in a crisis. Second, the "Hotline" as a highly formalised telex connection between both capitals, which enables the political leaders of the US and the USSR to communicate quickly and reliably but without capitalising on the abilities of the president as a cool-headed negotiator. The aim of this analysis is to discuss how both devices were presented to the public and used by the politicians and how this may impact on national and international politics.


media history; diplomacy; hotline; red phone; communication in crisis