A RHETORICAL APPROACH TO CRISIS COMMUNICATION :
MANAGEMENT , COMMUNICATION PROCESSES , AND STRATEGIC RESPONSES .
A crisis is typically defined as an ultimately but predictable event that has actual or potential consequences for stakeholders interests as well as the reputation of the organization suffering the crisis .
The responsibility issue needs to be put to rest to demonstrate that the organization can regain control over its activities so tha the crisis no longer exists or no longer harms stakeholders .
Crisis exists when the media are knocking at your door and you would rather that they donot . Rumors are a special kind of crisis .
Barton delinates crisis as " A situation faced by en individual , group or organization which they are unable to cope with by the use of normal routine procedures and in which stress is created by sudden change .
Crisis management represent a set of factors designed to combat crisis and lessen the actual damage inflicted by the crisis.
A Rethorical Definition of Crisis .
Central to arhetorical analysis of crisis is the concept of a rhetorical problem . A rhetorical problem arises when exigencies call for a statement from one or more persons or organizations .
A rhetorical approach to crisis recognizes that each crisis has an actual dimension and a perceived dimension . Some crisis are "perceived " to be bigger or smaller than they actually are . One explanation for this difference in perception is the ability of key spoke persons to communicate effectively befor , during , and after the crisis . Crisis managers , then , need to think in terms of the technical , managerial , and rhetorical dimensions of a crisis. They need a mind set that motivates them to prepare for the crisis , as well as to prepare others for the crisis . The mind set leads them to respond and communicate during a crisis , as well after the crisis .
Thus , crisis has two dimensions ; technical/managerial and communication .
A rhetorical approach to crisis asks the following questions: What needs to be said before , during , and after a crisis ?
A crisis plan is needed to prepare all sort of persons to know what to do in the event of a crisis . Preparation can entail at least two key functions ; looking for and reducing the likelihood that a crisis will occur : communicating with key markets , audiences , and publics to prepare them for a crisis so that it can be framed and addresses when it occurs .
The advice might be, "Tell the truth :play the public relation functions of the journalist-in-residence and provide the information that will tell the concerned persons what they want and need to know to understand the cause of the crisis , its impact , its likely duration , and the steps being taken to ended ."
In addition to providing information , the rhetoricalapproach to crisis preparation and response requires that statements frame the crisis.
The rhetorical approach to crisis raises a second question : What concerns do people have about potential crisis that should be addressed ?What responsibility does the organization have to address these issues ?How can theses issues of crisis potential be addressed in ways that do not alarm key markets , audiences , and public unnecessarily , but give them the information they need to be forewarned and prepare for a crisis .
Post crisis responses is narrower in latitude . Thus , postcrisis , a vital part of the process , entails providing information that demonstrate how , why , and when the organization has put things right as well as what it plans to do to prevent the recurrence of a similar crisis .
The Struggle for Control
A crisis can be view as a strggle for control . Persons who are affected by a crisis look to responsible parties to control their actions or to create actions that reduce the harm of the crisis .
The message of the organization need to responsibly define the crisis , the actions that need to be taken , are being taken , or have been taken . These messages may also contain information the markets , audiences , and publics need to understand what they should know to form appropriate attitudes and to take actions that reduce the impact of the crisis on them .
A. Precrisis strategies :
1- Management tactics designed to prevent the crisis
2- Management tactics designed to mitigate the impact of a crisis should one occur
3- Communication tactics designed to prevent a crisis
4- Communication tactics designed to mitigate the impact of a crisis in the event that it occurs
B.Crisis Response strategies :
1- management tactics designed to exert control during a crisis
2- Management tactics designed to mitigate the impact of a crisis while one is occurring
3- Communication tactics designed to co-define the meaning of a crisis
4- Communicatios tactics designed to mitigate the impact of a crisis by explaining the crisis , its causes , consequences , and predicted restoration strategies
C. Crisis correction and restoration : Post crisis response strategies
1- Management tactics designed to restore the organization and its community : management strategies used to restore control
2- Management tactics designed to mitigate or eliminate the negative impact of the crisis
3- Communication tactics designed to retrospectively co-define the neaning of the crisis
4- Communication tactics designed to explain postcrisis restoration strategies-bringing closure to a crisis .
Crisis as Rhetorical Exigency
Bitzer argued that a rhetorical problem results when an exigency demands a rhetorical statement that address the problem and seeks to provide a rational , justifiable response to the exigency . A classic version of this view of rhetoric is the problem-solution presentation .
Items in the following list broadly highlight some elements of a crisis that relates to its cause, magnitude , and duration and therefore constitute aspects of a rhetorical problem ;
- possible cause of an event
- factors amplifying the event
- factors attenuating the event
- estimated magnitude of events
- estimated duration of events .
Crisisi as Interpreted Events .
Crisis happens . As with all events , they are subject to interpretations.All parties that are affected by a crisis and involved with it tend to seek to interpret it , evaluate it , and draw conclusions about it .
In the context of the narrative , the exigency is to management actions and rhetorical statements that can or must demonstrate persuasively that the organization understands the crisis and has the resources-intellectual, managerial, financial ,rhetorical , and ethical- to restore to an acceptable. as opposed to an unacceptable , narrative .
Rhetorical approaches to crisis are likely to be expected to address variations of narratives . One is the interrupted narrative . All is going well , and then something goes bump in the dark . A second narrative is " been there , done that ." The rhetorical exigency is the recurring crisis- a reccurring story of the company having suffered the same or similar crisis before .
The following elements constitute parts of the organizational story :
Where the crisis occur? What is the symbolic power of the scene ?
The dramatis personae-cast of characters- of this undirected play that leads to , occurs during , and transpires to resolution of the crisis .
-heroes/heroines-persons snd factors that attenuate, contained, and restored operations so they did as little harm as possible.
-rescuers- specifics heroes/heroines that contain the crisis
- enemies-persons and factors that caused or amplified the crisis
- allies- persons who assisted the heroe/heroines
- protectors-agents who acted on behalf of the stakeholders
- villains- agents who acted against the stakeholders
- victims-persons and things damaged by the crisis .
Plots and Themes: past , present , and future sense of the organization and its ability to preform in ways that meet rather that offend the expectations of key publics.
Theme : Each story has a central idea-a theme . What is the theme of this crisis ? Is it accurate in the estimation of the organization ? Will the organization thematic account of the crisis -cause , duration , and nagnitude-sustain itself against the scrutiny of other interested parties , such as media reporters and even criminal investigators ?
Plot : What is the story line that the organization wishes to feature ?Is it the same as that told by other stakeholder advocates and adversaries ?
Interpretation and evaluation of style is shaped by the degree to wich organizational messages :
- demonstrate concern and empathy
- demonstrate compassion
- orient to solutions
- appear poised and confident/competent
- appear responsible and responsive
- reveal open-mindness and receptivity to comments and criticism .
Crisis as Dramatistic Pentad
A Burkian view of crisis would incorporate the prespectives of the pentad : scene , act, agent ,agency, and purpose.
The elements of the pentad provide a platform from which to view organizational crises :
Scene: What was the physical and symbolic scene in which the crisis occurred?In what ways, if at all, did the scene create the crisis ?To what extent did the crisis result from an inability or unwillingness of the organization to respond in ways to prevented or mitigated the crisis ?How does the crisis change the definition of the scene?
Act ; What acts led to the crisis ?What kind of act is the crisis? What acts were done to prevent or mitigate the crisis ?What acts have been done and not been done since the onset of the crisis ?What acts will be done to correct the crisis ?
Agent : Who are the key players in thecrisis ?What is the relationship between the palyers ?
Agency : By what means was the crisis created ?By what means is the crisis being sustained ? By what means , if at all , is control being returned into the crisis situation ?
Purpose : What purpose motivate the persons engaged in creating and responding to the crisis ?What motives account for the crisis and the organization response to it ?
Questions That Flow From a Rhetorical Perspective.
A rhetorical perspective builds on the premise that the organization needs to look to the quality of the performance as the foundation of its messages that are generated in response to inquiries and implied by the nature of the crisis. Then it needs statements that address the key topics and themes from the perspective of its stakeholders .
News accounts are part of the driving logic that frames the rhetorical situation. Reporters seek information , interpret information , and form evaluations which motivate them to act . Crisis are events or a series of events that are newsworthy .They attract attention to something an organization has done or needs to do .Reporters do not necessarily focus on faults , but their typical view of the scene suggests that some organization needs to address concerns and issues that are on the mind of markets , audiences , and public . These concern focus on issues of control and relate to the markets' . audiences' ,and publics' desire to reduce uncertainty about the crisis , its causes , duration and magnitude .Why did it happen? Who did and will hurt? How much damage isit doing or did it produce ?Wow long will it last ? What is being doing to end it ?
One of the key elements of a rhetorical response to crisis is the need for interpretation .On the one hand, this crisis response can open the door to " spinning". It is not what is thought to be the most ethical and effective rhetorical response . Spinning is a strategy that privilege one party in the crisis - usually the focal organization - to give a sel-serving interpretation of the facts . Spinning is a rhetorical strategy , but not one that is likely to bear the challenge of being ethical or responsible .
A rhetorical approach to crisis assumes that people will believe the facts when presented and their interpretations .
To further define thelatitudes of the rhetorical approach to crisis , the chapters that follow address key issues such as these ;
- How should the persona of the organization and of the stakeholders be framed ?
- How should fault be assessed and assigned? Does forwarning change the kind of degree of responsibility ?What do markets , audiences , and publics deserved to know about a crisis that is pending , happening , or winding down because of their interest and their relationship with the organization ?
-How should the degree of harm or uncertainty created by the crisis be dinefined and presented ?If it is overplayed , people may respond inppropiately , as they may if it is downplayed inaccurately and inappropriately ?How can the organization wiyh actions and statements demonstrate its ability and willingness to reduce the uncertainty and establish the required amount of control as a specific response to the crisis ?
- What is the magnitude of the crisis ? What would or will its magnitude be ? How can people warned and motivated to specific actions as a means ofr mitigating the crisis if or when occurs ?
- What is or will be the duration of the crisis ? How long can people expect the crisis to last ? How does each statement help the audience to monitor its duration ?
- How can the human element be addressed appropriate to the duration and magnitude of the crisis ?
- How can identification be restore or fostered so that the relationship between the organization and the affected parties is created , repaired , or maintained ?
- How can the organization engage in the formation and enactment of narratives that include crisis detection and prevention , as well as crisis response and postcrisis consolidation ?Crisis are inherently narrative. Reporters and interested parties see them as such .Savvu crisis preparation and response experts know that they are very unlikely to control the narrative , but they can treat it as a rhetorical problem . As such , they need to provide information , interpretation , evaluations and actions that add to the eventual resolution of the crisis , which in narrative terms ends," and they all lived happily ever after ."
- What needs to be said to inform the markets , audiences , and publics?
- What statements most responsibly , effectively, and ethically convinced the affected persons regarding key interpretations and the subsequent actions ? Do the messages motivate the appropriate response ?
- What message are needed for collaborative decision making andto demonstrate the organization's willingness and ability to engage in a collaborative decision making?
As a corporate level specialist in crisis response once said , " I can't prevent a story. I can't shape a story . But I can add my information and interpretation to help the story be right , one that people can trust and use to make their own decisions "
EXPOSING THE ERRORS :
An Examination of the Nature of Organizational Crises .
Organizational crisis have been defined by many authors , including other writers in this book , each seeking to descry the phenomena . Gathering various elements from several definitions leads to a list of characteristics :
- suddenly occurs
- demands quick reaction
- interferes with the organizational performance
- creates uncertainty and stress
- threatens the reputation , assets of the organization
- escalates in intensity
- causes outsiders to scrutinize the organization
- permanently alters the organization
The ICM database breaks information into 16 categories of crisis types as the basis for analysis ;
- business catastrophe
- class action suits
- environmental damage
- financial damages
- labor disputes
- sexual harassment
- white collar crime
- Casualty accident
- consumer action
- executive dismissal
- hostile takeover
- whistle blowing
- work place violence .
CRISIS PREPARATION : PLANNING FOR THE INEVITABLE.
Crises are predictably unpredictable . Savvy managements know crisis can occur , but they do not know when they will happen . For these reasons , wise managements strive to understand the sort of crises that could affect their organizations .They plan and prepare for the eventually of a variety of crises .
Crisis Management : Toward a Multidimensional Model of Public Relations .
This chapter offers s theoretical model based on effective public relations to establish the underlying rationale for dealing with crisis situations . It also recognizes that the preparation for crisis is perhaps one of the best survival strategies that any organization can attempt .
This chapter proposes a model of communication based on public relations principle that allows for maximum communication of the crisis management plan adopted .Quite simple is axiomatic that a plan is only as good as the communication campaign developed for it .
CRISIS MANAGEMENT PLANNING
Crisis management planning is actually a corporate communication plan that seeks to manage various public perceptions of the crisis . An effective crisis management plan is a well thought out campaign that seeks to reduce any negative impact , while generating positive outcomes during a crisis period . Traditionally , "good" crisis management includes three elements ; There must be a plan of action , the organization must have early warning systems in place to signal potential crisis situations , and the organization must have a crisis management team in place with power to act .To be minimally effective a crisis management plan must be formulated that centers on three critical communications channels :
- Who does the communicating ?
- Who are the audiences with whom to communicate ?
- What communication channels are to be used in the crisis ?
TOWARD A MULTIDIMENSIONAL MODEL OF CRISIS MANAGEMENT.
The theory of Gruning may be the best suited to the crisis management situation. This theory focuses on both the direction and the purpose of communication , yielding four historically developed models of public relations ;
- press agentry/publicity( one-way , asymmetrical )
- public information ( one-way symmetrical )
- persuation ( two-way asymmetrical)
- relational ( two-way symmetrical )
Each model is tied to a particular communication function.
The " press agentry/ publicity model" serves a s a promotional function ; it is a direct conduit between organization and a passive public and promotes a particular point of view .The model focuses primarily on a public external to the organization . Because of this and a perception that the communication provided is mainly distorted or incomplete , many view this as merely a propaganda device , one that often fosters negative impressions among the various publics .
The " public information model " function is similar , but focuses on a more journalistic function .Its function is to disseminate information in an objective manner to a passive audience.Although the communication reflects the realitiews of the situation , it is still slanted toward the organization .
The " persuasion model " focuses on persuasion , employing a feedback look to ascertain message effectiveness . The two way asymmetric model focuses on persuading publics based on research on attitude and opinion change .It is a step forward in understanding different publics and their needs . Although two-way , it is still unbalanced and depends on some form of strategic positioning from the organization .
The " rational model " seeks mutual understanding between the organization and its publics . The two-way symmetric model tries to serve a mediator role , focusing not on prediction and control , but on mutual understanding between the publics .
An effective crisis management plan must segregate its publics . Self / Internal public /administrative public / external public .
Communication Strategy .
The foregoing discussionidentified the major elements of a model of crisis management . Across all elements has been a concern for communication . The final face of the model deals with the message and message strategies to be employed . Basically , message strategy should seek to inform or persuade . Informative strategies take into account situations where quick access to information is required or information needs to be disseminated as quickly and widely as possible .Informative strategies often take the form of asymmetrical , one-way communications. Persuasive strategies take into account situations where reinforcement or attitude change is necessary and are either transitional or transactional and asymmetrical . The message strategy adopted should conform to the public relations model chosen , which in turn should be chosen as the most representative for the particular organizational structure/infrastructure and best for the targeted public .
When considering communication strategy , the communication channels must explored and included in any message strategy .
PUTTING THE MODEL TO WORK
In planning for a crisis modelposits that each of the elements or processes needs to be taken into account. That is , once the plan has been developed it must be communicated first through the organization .Once accomplished , the various publics must be identified and messages strategies created .
At the onset of a crisis , an automatic press agentry approach may be the best strategy ; information might be prepared to let the public know that the organization is working on the problem .
Of particular impact will be the type of communication strategy employed in dealing with external publics . The majority of exant theory and research in crisis management has focused on surveying those organization with crisis management plans , examining who has been targeted , in what way , and through which channels .Once the organization has been persuaded that a workable crisis management exists , the next step is to plan for its execution .
Constructing Response During Uncertainty : Organizing for Crisis .
Organizing for a crisis involve behavioral communication cycles-what Weick refers to as enactment , selection , and retention .During enactment members attend to information by using "rules" and " Cycles" to interpret and process ambiguous information .For example , organizations must develop information-processing mechanism capable of detecting trends , events , competitors , markets , and technological developments relevant to their survival .
Enacment plays a key role during the preparation phase as an organization plans for or anticipates potential crisis .
Ostrow (1991) criticized actions plans by pointing out they are based on the assumptions that crisis can evolve to defined scenarios . He argues that although there are certain predictable patterns of how particular types of crises evolve , are handle by the media , and then decline in public interest , crises rarely fit procedural plans . No expert can predict when information will develop that may make a crisis worse or help resolve it . Nor can they predict who may be motivated to act on the information that may be available , whether in support of or against management interest .
Coombs (1999) pointed out one of the weaknesses of the crisis communication literature is the tendency to be "heavily descriptive " .
From Weick view point , it is not the plan itself , but the reflection process palnning , which enables organizations to act appropriately . The implications for palnning is that it can best be understood as thinking in the future perfect tense .It isnot the plan that gives coherence to actions . Coherence comes from the fact that when the act to be accomplished is projected in the future perfect tense , the means for accomplished the act becomes explicit , and the actions run off with greater coherence . It is the reflective glance , not the plan per se , that permit the act to be accomplished in an orderly way . A plan works because it can be referred back to analogous actions in the past , not because it accurately anticipates future contingencies . by projecting into the future , it has " reflected on the past ."
Planning requires establishing , monitoring , and maintaining good relationships with all the organizations publics . " From a reputation management standpoint , it is vitally important in a crisis situation to have a spokeperson who can provide factual information "In the company there must be someone who is prepared to present a dependable and reliable corporate personality who can handle the pressure of the media . " If the first time you talk to the media is during a crisis , then something is wrong ."
The selection phase of organizing requires organization to decide how to interpret information by relying either on established rules or behavioral cycles .
Retention occurs when ways of handling crisis become part of routine organizational procedure .
From Weick's perspective the important thing may be simply to act or be quick to respond .
Dileschneider and Hyde recommended procedural control by suggesting a " control center approach " , part of this approach is to have clearly defined chain of command , which is understood by all employees and a control designed to provide tactical supervision to manage process.
TIMING IS IMPORTANT
In all crisis situations , " the goal is to reduce the uncertainty " even in the absence of " information ".For example , messages that reassure sincerity , commitment to find out what happened , willingness to explain , or messages that control the runor , or maintain credibility need to happen quickly . In addition to action , an organization must talk about what actions it is taking .
Reframing The Organizational Exigency : Taking a New Approach in Crisis Research
These approaches to crisis communication , underscore and emphasize the uncertainty of crisis situations , the negative nature of crisis , and the need to return to organization to the status quo or an improved position .David Hurst nderscored this in his book on crisis and organizational change , when he noted , " Crises and surprises have usually been regarded as dysfunctional "
Crisis arise when there is a major incongruence between the expectations of a corporation and what happens in the environment .
Hermann(1963) noted that crisis , "(1) threatens high-priority values of the organization, (2) present a restricted amount of time in which a response can be made , (3) is unexpected or unanticipated by the organization "
First , crisis situation is often unexpected within the organization . Second , exigencies force the organization to change its immediate approach to information processing . Finally , as organizations cope with yhe crisis situations thosein leadership narrow their communication channels . thus changing the way information is distributed .
Most of the discussion concerning the organizational crisis has focused in two areas ; preparing for the event , and responding to or managing the crisis situation .The crisis response has also receive attention
What is your overreaching goal in helping a client respond to a crisis ? The response was :" The terms are usually stop the bleeding. It is damaging control at first . You have to make sure your first actions do not magnified the problem or compound the problem .The first thought is to look at all the effective audiences and try to put yourself in their place and find out what they are thinking . The goal is to get back to business as usual and get the whole issue off the table ."
Burkian Counternature and the Vigilant Response : An Anticipatory Model of Crisis Management and Technology .
It is assumed that the less attention devoted to understanding the nature of a crisis the greater the tendency for a crisis to escalate .
Understanding in the model suggest having a thorough knowledge of conditions , situations , or events that could signal potential for danger .
Expectations represent assumptions people make about certain events or objects .
Rigidity consist of the degree of inflexibility that is built into a particular action or process.
Control is viewed as the degree of influence that organizational members have at their disposal .
Weick argued that when people think they can do more, they pay more attention to their surroundings and issues , which leads to a greater ability to control and cope with their environment .
Reasoned Action in Crisis Communication : An Attribution Theory-Based Approach to Crisis Management .
It is reasonable , therefore , to assume crisis communication should be affected by the crisis situation .
Three points must be addressed to understand how to match crisis response strategies with crisis situations : development of a list of crisis response strategies ; identification of crisis types ; and creation of a link between the crisis response strategies and crisis types . Understanding the interplay between crisis situation and crisis response strategy improve a crisis manager's preparation . One of the greater advances in public relations education has been the movement from accepted wisdom and " seat-of-the-pants" thinking to reasoned action . Students are taught principles grounded in theory , which recommend certain courses of action when confronted with a public relations problem . Public relations moves from mere hunches to reasoned action. Crisis communication needs to move in the same direction .
Attribution theory serves as the foundation for linking crisis response strategies and crisis types . Attribution theory is premised on the belief that people make judgements about the causes of events . People commonly use three causal dimensions when making attibutions ;
stability ; external control ; and personal control/locus.Stability reflects whether the cause of the eventhappens frequently(stable) or infrequently (unstable) . If someonerepeats the same mistake it is stable , but it is unstable the mistake is unique or rare .
External control indicates whether the event's cause was controllable or uncontrollable by some other person . If another actor control what happens to a person , there is a strong external control in the situation . Personal control assesses whether the event's is controllable or uncontrollable by the actor .
Logically , a crisis is an event for which people/publics seek causes and make attributions .
Reputational damage increases as perceptions of crisis responsibility grow stronger . Crisis responsibility becomes the link between the crisis types and crisis strategies . A reputation is a valuable commodity fir an organization .
Crisis response strategies have been arrayed along a defensive-accommodative continuum . Defensive CRSs seek to protect the organization at the expense of the crisis victims . Accommodative CRSs make protecting the victims the top priority .
The " deny posture " represents a set of strategies that claim either no crisis occurred or that the accused organization has no responsibility for the crisis. If there is no crisis , there can be no organizational responsibility for a crisis .
The " dimishing posture " reflects a set of strategies that attempt to alter public's attributions by re-framing how publics should interpret the crisis. Crisis managers might try to place distance between the organization and responsibility for the crisis .
The " repair posture " encompasses a set of strategies that seek to improve the organization's image in some way .
POSTURES AND CRISIS COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES
Deny Clarification; denies the crisis happened and reinforces the denial by
explaining why the event could not have happened.
Attack ; levels charges against the accusers to prompt
the accusers to stop making charges.
Shifting blame ; admits a crisis event did occur but
places the blame outside the organization.
Diminish Excuse ; seeks to minimize responsibility for the crisis event ,
a crisis did occur , the organization is involved ,
but bears little of the responsibility for the crisis .
Deny intent ;say the organization did not mean for the crisis to occur.
Deny volition ; argue that the organization could not control the events
leading to the crisis .
Justification ;accepts responsibility for the crisis but attempts to
limit the negativity associated with the crisis .
Minimizing ; argues that a crisis created little or not
damage and/or poses little or no threat to stakeholders .
Comparison ;argues that the crisis is not as bad as similar crisis .
Big picture ; places the crisis in a larger context and argues that
such crises are the price that must be paid for reaching
some larger , desirable goal .
Misrepresentation ; argues that the crisis is not as bad as others make it out to be .
Repair Suffering ; notes that the organization is also a victim in the crisis .
Bolstering ;reminds stakeholders of the good deeds an organization has done
in the past .An organization might remind publics of past
charitable work as a form of bolstering.
Praising others ; uses flattery toward a stakeholder to win
that stakeholder's approval of the organization.
Compensation ; offers stakeholders gifts designed to counterbalance the crisis .
Corrective action ; seeks to restore the crisis situation to normal operation and/or promises to
make changes which will prevent a repeat of the crisis in the future .
An organization tries to restore order as soon as possible after
a crisis-return to normal operations .The organization also
may change policies and/or procedures in order to reduce
the likelihood of the crisis repeating itself .
Apology ; has the organization accept the responsibility for the crisis and
ask stakeholders for forgiveness .
Credibility is essential to the effective practice of public relations .
If characteristics of a crisis situation suggest the most effective type of crisis communication strategy , one must first know how people perceive crisis situations .Crisis types ;
- rumor , false and harmful information about an organization is circulated
- natural disaster , naturally occurring environmental events
- malevolence/procuct tampering , organization is attacked by an external agent
- work place violence , former or current employee attacks current employees on the job
- challenge , some group claims the organization is operating in an inmoral or inappropriate manner
- technical breakdown accident , equipment or technologiy failure causes an industrial accident
- technical breakdown product recall , equipmet or technology failure results in a defective product
- megadamage , a technical error accident that creates significant environmental damage
- human breakdown accident , human errors triggers an industrial accident
- human breakdown product recall , human error leads to the production of a defective product
- organizational misdeed with no injuries , management knowingly places stakeholders at risk but no serious injuries occur
- organizational misdeed management misconduct , management knowinly violates regulations or laws
- organizational misdeeds with injuries , stakeholders are palced at risk and there are injuries .
A three-cluster solution proved to be the simplest solution .
The first cluster was called the "victim" cluster and contained natural disaster , rumor , work place violence , and product tampering crisis types .This cluster produced minimal attributions of crisis responsibility .
The second cluster was called " accidental " cluster because the crisis types were unintentional . The accidental cluster included challenges , megadamage , technical breakdown accidents , and technical breakdown product recalls .This cluster produced moderate attributions of crisis responsibility.
The third cluster was called " preventable " cluster because allthe crisis types involved knowingly violating laws or regulations , knowingly placing stakeholders at risk , or involving human errors that could have been avoided .
A Model for Crisis Management
A bad image has the power to make or brake even multibillion-dollar corporations . A crisis can tarnish the most positive of corporate images , even that of an organization with well -establishes name recognition . Defending an organizational image during crisis requires a great deal of effort and skill .
A crisis is an event " which seriously interferes with the operation of the organization and which can be regarded as unwelcome by those involved "
Because a common factor found in all of these components is the speed of information transmission and reception , news of a crisis can spread so quickly that it can potentially paralyze top management before they can effectively control the crisis situation .
The problem is lack of a model that has been tested and refined to apply to most cases .
Most communication scholars agreed that " Image is something that a communicator creates ".
Crisis management should avoid making " seat-of-the-pants " decisions . Time , effort , and effective communication are essential to managing a crisis , and as Gibson noted , defending an organizational image requires a great deal of effort and skill.
Research has shown that communication is central to the list of universals that organizations should consider when addressing a crisis situation . Hainsworth and Wilson proposed communication as one of the four basic elements in a model composed of ; research ; planning ;communication/implementation ; and evaluation .
CRISIS MANAGEMENT MODEL
1 Before the Crisis
Prepare Plan Put it to Test
* Create a Crisis * Create a Message Action Plan * Test the Plan
*Gain Management * Define Target Audiences
Support for a Crisis
*Identify Corporate *establish techniques needed
Vulnerabilities to communicate the message
* Train employees * assign responsibility
* Complete Pre-crisis
2 During the Crisis
Gather Package Deliver
* Do background research * Disclose all information * Get your message out quickly
*Designate a spoke person *Tell the thruth * Be assertive with the media
*Define Short-and Long * Put yourself in the other party's shoes
term problems *Show concern
3 After the Crisis
Evaluate Congratulate Continue Control
* Evaluate the crisis * Congratulate Employees *Prepare for continuing
Management Campaign Within the organization Media coverage
Create a management Team .
Once a crisis management team is assampled , it becomes the team's responsibility to keep up-to-date information about every aspect of their particular organization .
a crisis management team should be composed of people who are creative , knowledgeable of the business , powerful ( having the authority and responsibility to make decisisons and a locate resources quickly ), and able to bring a variety of unique perspective to bear on solving the problem .
Crisis communications begins by establishing and building solid day-to-day community and media relations before a crisis ever occurs . Such positive relationships ultimately pay off when a company really needs them .
Plan for the Crisis
Create a Message Action Plan (MAP) The MAP combines all elements of a public relations or communications plan into a single , easily read document that helpsassure a company's key message will be conveyed in a coherent , disciplined , and organizational fashion in times of crisis .It allows for quick understanding of what must be accomplished when , how , and by whom . A MAP created while time and sanity are abundant - reduces a crisis to its most basic components , provides an easy reference for the crisis management team , and helps keep crisis management on schedule when there is not a lot of time to think .
Werner implied three central requirements of a thorough MAP ;
1- it must define the target audiences for the company's message
2- develop the proper techniques to communicates the messages
3- assign responsibilities for the tasks .
During the Crisis.
Gathering relevant information .
Do background Research .Croft recommended asking as many questions as possible about the situation , such as ; Who is responsible for the situation ? What is the historical background? Where are support and opposition likely to come from ? What position has the media taken , if any ? and What damage could your company suffer from the situation ?
Designate a Spoke person .
Define short and long term problems .
Pacakaging Critical Information .
Disclose all relevant information , tell the thruth , be prepared to counteract any negative publicity that may be generated by opposing parties or watch groups , and show concern for victims of the crisis .
Disclose all information .You may not be able to say much , but you can say something . If all the facts aren't there , get out and say so .A specialized subgroup whithin the crisis management team should be responsible for regulating crisis information .Consist of a minimum of three members ; a lawyer to regulate the legal implications of disclosed information ; a public relations professional to oversee the effect of disclosed information on the company's image ; and a memberof senior management who can supervise the disclosure of information and make the final decisison regarding the lawyer's and the public relations practitioner;s suggestions .
Tell the Thruth
Put Yourself in the Other Parties Shoes
Deliver the Crisis Response Message
The final step in crisis management involves recommendations for the livery of the crisis-response messages .The two steps essential to delivering this message while preserving the corporation good image , are communicating the message quickly and controlling the media .
Get your message Out Quickly.
Giving the who , what , how , when why , and where as quickly as possible is crucial to a company's crisis management objectives. " You cannot go much beyond a few hours because if you do , you demonstrate that you are out of control and do not know what you are doing "
Be Assertive with the Media .
The companies must be the first to inform their audiences of what is being done to remedy the situation.
CRISIS MANAGEMENT ; AFTER THE CRISIS .
Crisis management does not end with the conclusion of the crisis .
Evaluate crisis management campaign.
Congratulates employees within the organization
Continue to control the situation .
NARRATIVE ; A COMMUNICATION PERSPECTIVE
If Burke reasoned , story is basic to human existence , we are challenged to explain the role of story in public relations , in this case - crisis response . Researches and public relations practitioners study and engage in communication response during crisis .
Narrative are a way of thinking , a way of ordering the events of the world which would otherwise seem unpredictable or incoherent .As people order the events of their world into meaningful patterns , those patterns- scripts and themes-express their values and guide their actions . However not everybody thinks and acts in the same way . Viewed this way , narrative analysis assumes that the people choose among competing stories that account for a given event . Thus , the question is often not whether narrative , but which narrative is best ?
What is a narrative ? " A narrative generally is recognized to be a way of ordering and presenting a view of the world through a description of a situation involving characters , actions , and settings " At first glance we may think of a story -a narrative- as nothing more than a descriptive recounting of events . It is more . " A narrative , as a frame upon experience , functions as an argument to view and understand the world in a particular way , and by analyzing that narrative , the critic can understand the argument being made and the likelihood that it will be successful in gaining adherence for the perspective it presents "
Narrative have substantial rhetorical potency because they are a conventional and convenient means of understanding the themes that run throughout a series of events-including a crisis-or a set of similar crises such as airlines crashes .Narratives simplify ; even when they are profoundly incorrect , they nevertheless have the ability to facilitate the attribution of motivation .Narrative is fraught with motive because even-or-especially-as children people learn that the characters in stories respond to and enact motives . The story makes sense because it expresses why people did what they did - why events occurred as they did .
Through narratives , people structure their experiences and actions . Narratives give meaning to the world . Through stories , the world and people's actions reflect a logic that explain what happens , why it happens , who makes it happens , when it happens , and how people should respond to these events . Narrative express a set of preferences , the values of the persons who ascribes to those narratives .The world of human events is understood in terms of a thematic logic that begins with " once upon a time " and progress through "and then she said to him " and resolves into " and all ended well for both "
Narratives simplify ; even when they are profoundly incorrect , they nevertheless have the ability to facilitate the attribution of motivation .The story make sense because it expresses why people did what they did - why events occurred as they did .
One sentence can explain why a crisis occurred " Management places profit above safety "
NARRATIVE :COMPONENTS OF CRISIS COMMUNICATION
Narratives are the basis for how organizations are enacted , interpreted , and respond to .
A crisis narrative assumes that when some extraordinary event occurs-especially one that produces or portend dire consequences - the organization is obliged to respond and account for itself . This rhetorical problem promts crisis response .
The first question ; Is an event is occurring which others interpret as a crisis narrative ?
The second question ; If a crisis exists , what rhetorical response is appropriate ?
The third question ; As enacted , what components of a narrative are operable ina giving crisis ?If life - is a lived narrative the enactment of activities exhibits narratives elements ; Narrators , auditors , plot , theme , characters , events , locations of the act , acts , relationships , personae , scripts , communication plans and message design logics , and decision heuristics . Each drama has scripts . How well do the scripts used by the characters fit the drama ? Is the drama as scripted routine or different? Is routine enactment or different enactment the best rhetorical response to the exigency ?Does the narrative response fit the decision heuristics of the key publics ?
The fourth question ; Does the narrative enacted by the organization responsible for the crisis demonstrate that the organization has not lost control or that its efforts will restore or achive control ; is the resolution of the story satisfactory to the key publics ? A crisis response narrative may require that the organizational narrator explain why the event occurred and how the organization has or will operate to restore control . This narrative raises the question of why the operations fail to achieve or maintain control . What characters and events led to the crisis ?If the past operations were inadequate to sustain control , the rhetorical exigency focuses on what operations will be implemented to achieve control .
Narratives are evaluated by their ability to " display brevity , avoid contradictions , demonstrate unities of direction and purpose ,and integrate the credibility of narrators , authors , and speakers .
The fifth question ; What criteria are used to judge the integrity of a narrative ?The rhetorical integrity of each narrative is based on probability and fidelity , vital " considerations for judging the merits of the stories , whether one's own or another's ".
Fisher reasoned , one of the components of narrative probability is " characterological coherence " . Coherence in life requires that the characters behave characteristically . Without this kind of predictability , there is no trust , no community , no rational human order .
A second aspect of narrative probability is " argumentative or structural coherence ".People know and use that logic to interpret the integrity of a story .
A third criterion of narrative probability is " material coherence "They use them to determine whether any one presentation of a set of events deserves their confidence and concurrence .
The sixth question ;What narrative structure leads through a set of events-past, present ,and future- to transform the organization from an apparent or actual loss of control to the implementation or regaining of control ? As Murphy reasoned "Political reading of narrative draws attention to the relationship between the structure and the process of interpretation " .The key to narrative structure is the principle - often as an expression of value - that is developed by what the characters say and do in response to one another and to the scene and the events that occurs there .
Any narrative , reasoned Burke can take one of three dominant forms ; Progressive , Repetitive , and Conventional .
Progressive form advances an idea through syllogistic or qualitative development .A qualitative progression would deal with attributions made about characters .
Repetitive form relies on maintenance of principles under new guises , as illustrated by the following statements ;two years ago , this company touted a new product that had to be discontinued because the regulatory agency found out that the supporting evidence had been falsified . Last year the company executives engaged illegal inside trading . This year the executives are threating to clear cut massive amounts of its ancient forest timber holdings if the government does not pay a premium to buy the timber land . For these reasons , this company can be predicted to suffer an endless string of crisis because it will not restrain itself ; it deserves governmental intervention into its operating procedures .
Conventional forms feature development - repeated enactment - of standard themes .
INFORMED ORGANIZATIONAL IMPROVISATION METHOD
To engage in this integrated process of discovery and problem solving , groups may participate in a basic five-step method : 1- Identifying the Crisis ,2- Assembling the Improvisation Team , 3- Selecting and Assigning the Duties of the Facilitator , 4- Enacting the Scene/Solving the Crisis , and 5- Interpreting the Outcome/Reflecting Upon the Process .
A Model of Organizational Image Management
Organizational Failure Organizational Restructuring
The Process of Legitimacy The question that arises now is just how legitimacy is obtained by organizations . No organization can simply claim legitimacy for itself -rather , legitimacy is something given an organization by stake holders .
AFTER THE DANCE IS OVER : POST CRISIS RESPONSE
When does a crisis end ? Some purveyors of conventional wisdom reason that the end is marked by the dramatic reduction or absence of media attention . By this logic , when reporters go home , the crisis is over .
That conventional wisdom may be simplistic . Crisis is a time of ambiguity , uncertainty , and struggle to regain control . The aftermath of crisis may linger for some publics long after media attention has waned . Organizations have many stakeholders that need reassurance that the crisis has ended and that their interests are receiving proper attention . For instance , employees constitue one of the most important audiences in the postcrisis era . They want to be told and reassured that the organization has achieved stability , that is operating properly .
Several premises are examined in this section that can guide and aid executives , including communication managers , as they respond to crises by applying the following best practices :
- Because crisis threatens an organization's social legitimacy , communication strategies need to bring clousure to tha ambiguity surrounding the organization's performance and right to be trusted to operate properly . Operational change ,management tactics , procedures , and statements are all part of an organization's repertoire of strategies to demonstrate that it is a responsible , responsive , and ethical in the restoration of its operation .
- Organizations can assert that a crisis is not occurring , did not occur , or has ended .Such assertions require convincing proof because of the ambiguity that characterizes and is unique to each crisis .
- Organizational spokespersons' responses must be sensitive to the markets used by its publics as it assert that the crisis has ended and that the order has been restored.
- Strategies can be used to restore an organization's image . Part of restoration is an acceptance of responsibility for some or all of the crisis . Executive leadership may be reluctant to accept responsibility . They should never be seen as overly recalcitrant in this regard , as they should not think that a facile apology will absolve them of responsibility .
- Each crisis poses one or more rhetorical problem .Restorative measures must be selected and used based on what is credible interpretation of which sort of rhetorical problem is posed be each crisis .
- Studies of apologia as a crisis response suggest that this tactics can be successful but also can lead an organization into further troubles .The specific apologia must be situationally relevant to the rhetorical problem raised by the crisis and the persons who comment on it .
- Some organizational crises , such as substantial downsizing , are prime facie evidence of management's inability to plan and manage for bad times .Rhetorical responses such as situations must acknowledge the responsibility of management rather than serve as the rationale for the organization's action. Reconciliation is needed by the rhetoric of hiring " we want you " , to the rhetoric of downsizing , " you will have to go for the best interest of the organization ".These rhetorical stances are inherently at odds with one another and must be reconciled to the satisfaction of those who are not part of the management team .
- Any public that is asked to sacrifice for the greater good of some other set of stakeholders is likely to suffer high degrees of cognitive involvement , problem recognition , and constrain . These factors constitute substantial incentive to become an active public which can oppose the efforts of the organization . Rhetorical strategies and management policies need to be selected to reduce and defuse these incentives to opposition lest the manifest themselves in substantial conflict.
- The end of a crisis may be delayed simply because the public relations practitioners cannot respond to the rhetorical problem in a timely and responsible way . The absence of timely and effective response adds to rather than mitigates the crisis . This inability to make timely response is further evidence f the organization's ability to exercise ethical and responsive control over itself.
- Communication results from the need for sense making . which is a collective co-created activity . Crisis create rhetorical problems that demand that sense be made of decisions and events . The organization suffering the crisis is expected to understand and respond to the various kinds of sense that are being made . Savvy practitioners understand that stakeholders are capable of and motivated to create their own sense of the situation . Responses sre likely to be more successful when they acknowledge the mutuality of sense making .
Questions of evidence , intent , and degree of responsibility emerge naturally as an organizational crisis unfold . The answers to these questions are likely to hold some degree of ambiguity . Those who study organizational crisis communication should be sensitive to this tendency . The assumption that organizations should provide a candid and early response to a crisis is , in most cases , inappropriate . Instead , communication critics should strive to determine the degree to which ambiguity is reasonable in the given context of a specific crisis.
Johannesen identified five specific purpose for which he believes ambiguous communication is ethically justified ;
1- to heighten receiver attention through puzzlement
2- to allow flexibility in interpretations of legal concepts
3- to use ambiguity on secondary issues to allow for more precise understanding and agreement on the primary issue .
4- to promote maximum receiver psychological participation in the communication transaction by letting them create their own relevant meanings
5- to promote maximum latitude for revision of a position in later dealings with opponents or with constituents by avoiding being " locked-in" to a single absolute stance .
Congruence is threatened in crisis situations when an organization's "intentions" are called into questions by consumers , the media , or regulatory agencies .
An organization's explanation that , at all points leading to the crisis , its intentions were honorable often requires a degree of ambiguity .Any action by an organization prior to a crisis , regardless of its merits , is likely to be criticized to some extent if it is seen as having contributed to a crisis . Organizations frequently suggest that actions leading to a crisis " occurred accidentally ". Such claims create ambiguity when they leave the audience with two competing alternatives : willful disregard for the public's welfare versus s mischance in an otherwise socially responsibly system .
IMAGE RESTORATION DISCOURSE AND CRISIS COMMUNICATION .
Crisis management is crucial for a company because as Brody asserted , " early response to crisis can limit the extent to which organizations are damaged. Prompt , open response minimize damage potential "
The way image repair strategies function to repair a damaged reputation can best be understood through an analysis of the attacks , reproaches , or complaints. Fundamentally , an attack on an image , face , or reputation has two components ; 1- An act occurred that is considered offensive , and 2- The accused is held responsible for that action . Only if both conditions are though to be true by the relevant audiences is the accused's reputation at risk .
If a firm does not care that a particular group believes it committed an offensive act , there is no threat to the company image . The point is that an act must be considered offensive by a relevant audience or audiences for image to be threatened .
Second , damage to image requires that the accused be held responsible for the offensive act by the relevant audience .However , responsibility can appear in many guises ; for example , we can be blamed for acts we performed , ordered , encouraged , facilitated , or permitted to occur .The greater the ( perceived ) offensiveness of the act and, perhaps , the greater the ( apparent) responsibility of the accused for that act , the greater the damage to the image .
IMAGE RESTORATION STRATEGIES
Strategy Key Characteristics Example
Simple Denial did not perform act Coke doesnot charge McDonald's less
Shift the blame another performed the act Exxon: Alaska and Coast Guard caused
*Evasion of Responsibility
Provocation respond to act of another child who broke toy
Defeasibility lack of information or ability executive not told meeting moved
Accident mishap Sears' unneeded repairs inadvertent
Good Intentions meant well Sears; no willful over-charges
*Reducing Offensiveness of Event
Bolstering stress good traits Exxon's swift and competent action
Minimization act no serious Exxon ; few animals killed
Differentiation act less offensive than similar ones Nixon ; attack Viet-Cong , did not
Transcendence more important considerations Nixon : new actions
needed to win war
Attack Accuser reduce credibility of accuser Pepsi:Coke charged McDonald's less
Compensation reimburse victim disable movie-goers given free
Corrective Action plan to solve problem/prevent recurrence ATT promised to improve service
Mortification apologize ATT apologized for service
CRISIS SEVERITY INDEX
Weak Moderate Strong
Nature of crisis
Extent of crisis
Clarity of crisis
Precedence of crisis
Power of accusers
Control of crisis
Visual dimension of crisis
Technology dimension of crisis
Intercultural dimension of crisis
Type of Executions : Deliberative Responses
- Transcendence; "there are more important issues ......"
- Corrective Actions ; " Here's what we are doing so this won't happen again."
- Extenuating Circumstances; "Understand we were in a unusual circumstances "
- Minimization ; " This isnot as bad as it appears "
Type of Executions :Epideictic Responses
- Confession ; " I am very sorry "
- Bolstering ; " We're like you; we cherish safety ........"
- Counter Attack ; "Let's look at who's bringing this charges "
-- Scapegoating ; "We are not to blame ; our competitors are "
Type of Executions : Forensic Responses
- Denial ; "We did not do it "
- Stonewalling ; " No comment "
- Jurisdiction ; " This isnot an issue that can be treted well in the public realm ; it's technical and
needs to be sorted out by our legal team "
- Equivocation ; " Mistakes were made and it is unclear at this time .........."