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Secondary research on Crisis communication

Satarupa Dutta

Crisis Communication-Meaning,Need and its Process

Crisis refers to sequence of unwanted events at the workplace which lead to

disturbances and major unrest amongst the individuals. Crisis generally arises on
a short notice and triggers a feeling of threat and fear in the employees. In
simpler words crisis leads to uncertainty and causes major harm to the
organization and its employees.

It is essential for the employees to sense the early signs of crisis and warn the
employees against the negative consequences of the not only affects the
smooth functioning of the organization but also poses a threat to its brand

Crisis communication is an initiative which aims at protecting the reputation of the

organization and maintaining its public image. Various factors such as criminal attacks,
government investigations, media enquiry can tarnish the image of an

Need for Crisis Communication:

Crisis can have a negative effect on brand image. Crisis Communication experts
are employed to save an organizations reputation against various threats and
unwanted challenges.Brand identity is one of the most valuable assets of an
organization. The main purpose of Crisis Communication team is to protect the
brand identity and maintain the organizations firm standing within the industry.

Crisis Communication specialists strive hard to overcome tough situations and

help the organization come out of difficult situations in the best possible and
quickest way.

The Crisis communication process:

Employees should not ignore any of the external parties and important
clients .They should come out, meet them and discuss the problem with
them. There is nothing to be ashamed of.
Media must not be ignored. Their questions should be ignored. Avoiding
media makes situation all the more worse.
Criticizing individuals is a no-no. Show a feeling of care and concern for

Playing blame games should be avoided.

Effective communication must be encouraged at the workplace during
emergency situations. Employees should have an easy access to
superiors cabins to discuss critical issues with them.

Information must flow across all departments in its desired form. One
should not rely on mere guess works or assumptions during crisis. We
need to make sure the information we have is accurate.
Crisis communication specialists must learn to take quick decisions. One
needs to respond quickly and effectively during unstable situations,think
out of the box and devise alternate plans.

What we see from various academic research

Protecting Organization Reputations during a Crisis: The
Development and Application of Situational Crisis Communication

Crisis managers benefit from understanding how crisis communication can be

used to protect reputational assets during a crisis. Situational Crisis
Communication Theory (SCCT) offers a framework for understanding this

SCCT provides a mechanism for anticipating how stakeholders will react to a

crisis in terms of the reputational threat posed by the crisis. Moreover, SCCT
projects how people will react to the crisis response strategies used to
manage the crisis. From its empirical research emerges a set of evidence-
based crisis guidelines.


Crises are taken as a threat to the organizational reputation. Crises damage

the reputation and such changes can affect how stakeholders interact with
the organization.Post-crisis communication can be used to repair the
reputation or prevent reputational damage .The end result is that we know
precious little about how stakeholders react to crises or to the crisis response
strategies used to manage crises.

Crisis management needs evidence-based crisis communication guidance.

Evidence-based guidance for decision making in a crisis must be supported
by scientific evidence from empirical research rather than personal
preference and unscientific experience .

Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT)

It provides an evidence-based framework for understanding how to maximize

the reputational protection afforded by postcrisis communication.

SCCT identifies how key facets of the crisis situation influence attributions
about the crisis and the reputations held by stakeholders. In turn,
understanding how stakeholders will respond to the crisis informs the post-
crisis communication. The empirical research from SCCT provides a set of
guidelines for how crisis managers can use crisis response strategies to
protect a reputation from the ravages of a crisis.

Reputational assets can attract customers, generate investment interest,

improve financial performance, attract top-employee talent, increase the
return on assets, create a competitive advantage and garner positive
comments from financial analyst.

Crisis situation model of SCCT


Crises can harm stakeholders physically, emotionally and financially. A wide

array of stakeholders are adversely affected by a crisis including
community members, employees, customers, suppliers and stockholders.
Crises threaten to damage reputations because a crisis gives people reasons
to think badly of the organization.

Because reputations are evaluative, some point of comparison is required.

Stakeholders compare what they know about an organization to some
standard to determine whether or not an organization meets their
expectations for how an organization should behave. A failure to meet
expectations, an expectation gap, is problematic for organizations.Reputations
are based in large part on how stakeholders evaluate an organization s ability
to meet their expectations for treating stakeholders.


The first priority in any crisis is to protect stakeholders from harm, not to
protect the reputation.
Instructing information tells stakeholders what they must do to protect
themselves from the physical threat of a crisis.

Examples would be telling consumers not to eat contaminated foods or

warning sirens alerting people to a chemical release and the need to
shelter in place.

Instructing information can be delivered directly to stakeholders

(eg,sirens) or through the news media (recall alerts).

Adapting information helps people to cope with the psychological threat

from the crisis


A widespread belief within crisis communication is that crises are specific

incidents. People sometimes overlook the continuous mistakes a company
can make, their so-called crisis history. Therefore, a crisis can be an
isolated event or part of a larger pattern of organizational
performanceCrisis history is whether or not an organization has had a
similar crisis in the past.

According to Attribution Theory, a history of crises suggests an

organization has an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed .Prior
relational reputation is how well or poorly an organization has or is
perceived to have treated stakeholders in other contexts. Prior relational
reputation is unfavourable if the organization has a history of treating
stakeholders badly. An unfavourable prior relational reputation suggests
an organization shows little consideration for stakeholders across a
number of domains, not just in this crisis.

Crisis history and prior relational reputation have both a direct and indirect
effect on the reputational threat posed by the crisis. Either a history of
crises or an unfavourable prior relational reputation intensifies attributions
of crisis responsibility thereby indirectly affecting the reputational threat.


Previous research found that the primary SCCT crisis response strategies
form three groups based upon perceptions of accepting responsibility for a
crisis: (1) denial, (2) diminish and (3) rebuild.


According to Wigley and Zhang, social media have allowed for news to
break almost instantly and once it hits a conduit such as Twitter or
Facebook it is only a matter of minutes before the story is spread virally to
thousands or even millions of people .This means that the old mantra of
crisis communication regarding control of information flow has become
almost impossible for companies to perform .Public relations professionals
no longer have time to plan before crises reach social media and the
public. Thus, crisis communicators have been given the reactive role and
with that they are forced to begin reputational damage control once the
public has already discovered and evaluated the crisis


Naturally, there are both advantages and drawbacks by this development.
However, there is no doubt that social media can be used as a tool by
organizations, and, if used correctly, a very beneficial one .One of the
advantages could be a higher degree of transparency and interactivity
between company and consumer. Coombs posits that before social media
people were having trouble reaching many of the organizations
considered at the heart of the crisis.Companies now have various
channels to communicate from and, more importantly, they have access
to a tool that allows for a message to be delivered without delay .Another
advantage is the reduced significance of the so-called middle-men, who
until now have served as a form of filter that messages passed through
before reaching the public.
An example of this could be censors or editors interfering with
communication. When using social media the message instead goes
directly from sender to receiver without delay or modifications, this has
speeded up communication time substantially.This development may also
include drawbacks; some argue that social media in terms of credibility fall
short .This is specifically due to the immediate nature, which allows a
minimum of proof reading and accuracy compared to other media tools.
This factor can be important for organizations when trying to convince
stakeholders. If credibility of a message does drop when using social
media, this means organizations must take extra care in tailoring
communication when using these conduits .