Crisis in contemporary business organizations is one of the worst challenges facing management. The aims of the study were: to determine the communication strategies as an essential for crisis management, to examine crisis management, to identify communication strategies, and to understand the use of the internet as an effective delivery platform for crisis communication. The top management having the knowledge will ensure that the organization performs better in managing the crisis. A qualitative strategy based on document analysis approach was used. The study found that effective communication is essential for crisis management and the internet as an effective tool in crisis communication. It also revealed that crisis management includes the pre-crisis phase, response phase, as well as the post-crisis phase, and identified the communication strategies as a scapegoat, compensation, and apology. Finally, it suggested that crisis communication involves public relations, the internet, and the discourse community.
The paper studied communication strategies as a basis of crisis management including the use of the Internet as a delivery platform. The goals of the study are to determine the communication strategies as an essential for crisis management, to examine crisis management, to identify communication strategies, and to understand the use of the internet as an effective delivery platform for the crisis communication. The top management having the knowledge will ensure that the organization performs better in managing the crisis.
The study covered crisis management, pre-crisis stage, response stage, post-crisis stage; communication strategies; crisis communication, the internet as a communication platform and the discourse community. Crisis in contemporary business organizations is one of the worst challenges facing management. In such a situation failure to invest in crisis management is extremely dangerous and might lead to catastrophic damages to an organization’s reputation, operations, and competitiveness. It is therefore very relevant for businesses to manage the crisis by using the best and effective communication strategies via the web. By doing so, the adverse effects of the crisis will be avoided enabling the organization to progress and prosper.
The crisis has several and various definitions and till now there is no unique as well as acceptable definition. However, for the purpose of this research, this definition will be considered. Millar (2004, P. 19) describes crisis as “an event that suddenly occurs, demands a quick reaction, interferes with organizational performance, creates uncertainty and stress, threatens the reputation, assets of the organization, escalates in intensity, causes outsiders to scrutinize the organization, and permanently alters the organization”.
Fearn-Banks (1996, P.6) considers that crisis management by definition is “a process of strategic planning for a crisis or negative turning point, a process that removes some of the risk and uncertainty from the negative occurrence and thereby allows the organization to be in greater control of its own destiny”. Crisis management has various numbers of stages but the study will consider crisis management based on three stages (Richardson, 1994; Hale et al., 2005; Coombs, 2007b). These are a pre-crisis phase, response phase, and post-crisis phase.
Sellnow (1993, p. 31) states that in case crises occur, businesses choose one of three strategies. They comprise inaction or no response, routine solutions which draw on pre-crisis planning, or original measures designed purposely for a crisis. There are varieties of crisis communication channels such as blogs, television, radio but this thesis will limit itself to the internet. Organizations could create a special website for crisis or uses part of its existing website. Taylor and Kent (2007) argued that having a crisis website is a best practice for using the internet. Stakeholders including the media, resort to visit the internet during a crisis.
Coombs (2007) suggested that Crisis Management (CM) is an essential activity and without it; there will be problems like harm, losses or collapse of an organization. Among those responsible for such function is Public Relations Practitioners (PRP). Piperopoulos (2017) asserted that people cannot allow the differences between a real crisis and symbolic crisis concerning an organization to result in reputation damage. Experts including PR understand with proper CM, the maxim ‘an ounce of preparation worth a pound of cure’. Effective strategy, methods, and techniques cannot be abandoned until the crisis occurs; and should not be assigned to PR or top management only. Fall (2001) researched the increasing role of public relations as a crisis management function during the 9/11 attack. The findings indicated since the attacks, the use of public relations tactics for promotions has increased whilst advertising decreased.
Again, more than one-quarter of tourism managers redirected their core public focus and nearly half had redesigned promotions to support their revamped objectives. Wolf (2013, p. 84) posited that before the BP crisis; the organization made attempt to prevent and prepared for it. Coombs (2007, p. 2) propounded that prevention is about reducing an identified risks that could result in crisis; and this forms part of the business risks management program. Preparation covers crisis management plan, selecting and training crisis management team; pre-drafting certain messages and undertaking some exercises to evaluate the plan and team. Coombs (2007, p. 4) indicated that crisis response is the management activities during the actual crisis.
Sellnow (1993, p. 31) established that when crises occur, businesses choose one of these three strategies. They comprise no response, routine solutions which draw on pre-crisis planning, or original measures designed purposely for a crisis. Sellnow and Seeger (1989, p. 17) asserted that “while routine responses to the crisis, such as blaming and firing individuals, can salvage an organization’s legitimacy, original solutions that signal change within an organization can ‘enhance the perception of preventative, long-term change and renewed social legitimacy”. This argument means the original solutions, created specifically for a particular crisis, might serve as the best course of action.
Harrison (2005, p. 13) suggested crisis communication could mean the process of sending a message during and after a crisis has occurred. That communication is a critical part of CM; which is a continuous long-term activity that includes a range of organizational dynamics and management functions. CM and crisis communication (CC) are closely inter-related. Paraginneas (2016, p. 37) recommended that each organization requires a crisis plan before it occurs; that the organization must send honest and transparent information within an hour of occurrence. And there is the need to expect a response on social media engaging and interacting with people should be the norm. For instance, when the crisis involves human disaster and the people need help and support the community acts immediately.
Finally, the organization must take time to explore the situation by reacting within an hour. Seeger (2007) investigated the best practices in crisis communication from the perspective of large publicly-managed crisis. Ten best practices for effective crisis communication that was synthesized were presented and selected. Kayode (2014, p.198) asserted PR believes businesses operate in a peaceful and conducive environment that encourages continuous happy and survival of the organization to achieve its objectives. They must be socially responsible and accountable to the local community. PR uses propaganda and three categories of media such as electronic media to operate. Piperopoulos (2017, p. 104) argued that an organization might employ a full-time PR specialist or hires the services of a PR consultant. Coombs (2007, p. 3) proposed a business might create a website for crisis or choose a section of the existing website for the purpose. Sachs and McHaney (2016, p. 11) indicated categorically that the internet offers vast information creation, data sharing, and computer power.
The study consists of both theoretical and practical texts. It involves data collected from key relevant theories, empirical studies, and documents of contemporary organizations that had faced a crisis, practiced its management, implemented it successfully; sustained and benefited from it. The data collected were evaluated and analyzed to produce valid conclusions for the best practices in business organizations.
The study investigated the communication strategies as a basis of crisis management including the use of the Internet as a Delivery Platform. After evaluation, the thesis found that effective communication is essential for crisis management and the internet as an effective tool for crisis communication. The finding is supported by (Harrison, 2007; Singh, Naik, and Rao et al 2008). The result that crisis management comprises the pre-crisis phase, response phase, and post-crisis phase is validated by (Boin and McConnell, 2006; Coombs, 2007; Shobaki, Amuna, and Naser, 2016). Eventually, the research proposed that communication strategies include scapegoat, compensation, and apology, which is proved by (Sellnow and Seeger 1989; Coombs, 2006).
The study is limited because it does not discuss all the communication strategies that serve as the bases for crisis communication. Again, the research approach is only qualitative so inadequate. Contributions in the form of theory, research, knowledge plus practice have been offered by the study. Recommendations are made for evaluative studies on the topic. The results are essential since it helps organizations to manage the crisis effectively. Moreover, the paper assists businesses to redeem their image during the post-crisis stage. These enable firms to sustain successful operations and achieve the outcomes of their desired goals.
Considering the evaluation, analysis, and assessment of the findings based on related cases; the current scientific findings are valid and most reliable: because it is based on key organizations as well as best and current theories likewise empirical studies.
Author: William Jacob Baidoo, student at LIGS University
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