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Crisis Communications

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Crisis Communications

  1. 1. CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS John Brissenden 03.02.09 Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  2. 2. TODAY’S LEARNING OUTCOMES To review the conventional wisdom on crisis communications To identify special characteristics of international crisis communications To consider the role of online communication, postmodernism and of chaos theory Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  3. 3. FURTHER READING Tench & Yeomans (2006) Chapter 12 Seeger, M (2006) Best practices in crisis communication: an expert panel process. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 34 (3): 232 244 Taylor, M and Perry, D (2005) Diusion of traditional and new media tactics in crisis communication. Public Relations Review 31, 209-217 Tyler, L (2005) Towards a postmodern understanding of crisis communication. Public Relations Review 31, 566-571 Seeger, M (2002) Chaos and crisis: propositions for a general theory of crisis communication. Public Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  4. 4. WHAT IS A CRISIS? “A point of great dificulty or danger to an organisation possibly threatening its existence and continuity, that requires decisive change.” (Cornelissen, 2004) Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  5. 5. MANAGEMENT FAILURE OR ENVIRONMENTAL FORCES? Natural, eg tsunami, hurricane Technological, eg Mercedes-Benz A-Class Confrontation, eg Shell and Brent Spar Malevolence, eg Tylenol contamination Skewed management values, eg Nick Leeson and Barings Bank Deception, eg deceiving employees about pension fund value Management misconduct, eg Enron Business and economic, eg dot com bubble Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  6. 6. CRISIS TYPOLOGIES Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  7. 7. CRISIS TYPOLOGIES “Cobra” (Seymour Moore, 2000: 10) - “a disaster that hits suddenly and takes the company completely by surprise and leaves it in a crisis situation” Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  8. 8. CRISIS TYPOLOGIES “Cobra” (Seymour Moore, 2000: 10) - “a disaster that hits suddenly and takes the company completely by surprise and leaves it in a crisis situation” “Python” - “the slow- burning crisis or ‘crisis creep’ - a collection of issues that steal up on the Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  9. 9. KNOWN UNKNOWNS (BLACK, 1989) Known unknown: mishaps owing to the nature of the organisation and its activities, eg. manufacturing or processing Unknown unknowns: events that cannot be predicted and that can come about from employees’ behaviour, unconnected events or Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  10. 10. KNOWN UNKNOWNS (BLACK, 1989) Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  11. 11. KNOWN UNKNOWNS (BLACK, 1989) “Now what is the message there? The message is that there are no quot;knowns.quot; There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that's basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns.” US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Press Conference at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, June 6, 2002 Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  12. 12. THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  13. 13. MANAGING CRISES Cataloguing potential crisis situations (the risk audit) Devising policies for the prevention Formulating strategies and tactics for dealing with each potential crisis Identifying who will be aected by them Devising eective communications channels to those aected Testing everything Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  14. 14. MANAGING THE PROCESS Audience Procedure Definition Development Pre-emptive action planning Risk Audit Training Testing Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  15. 15. THE RISK AUDIT Many approaches: What has happened to the company in the past? What has happened to other companies in the same industry? What would be the impact on the bottom line of the identified risk? Who are the audiences or public who could be aected? Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  16. 16. Be prepared Provide background information Manage information flow Agree ground rules Be authoritative Principles of Crisis Keep talking Public Relations Say you’re sorry Harrison, S (1995) Ensure accuracy Be sensitive Learn from experience Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  17. 17. HOW DOES THE INTERNATIONAL DIMENSION AFFECT A CRISIS? Time: Do timezones work against you or for you? Time was always short, now it’s non-existent Place: The home/host country divide becomes greater Culture: Dierent expectations, sensitivities, agendas Interconnectedness: Multiplies unpredictability Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  18. 18. ONLINE COMMUNICATION AND INTERNATIONAL CRISES “The media and other stakeholders demand an immediate, thorough and unqualified response from organisations. Anything less might be seen as stonewalling.” Seeger, Sellnow Ulmer (2001): 160 Taylor Perry (2005) identify five innovative tactics used in crisis communication: Dialogic communication Connecting links Real-time monitoring Multi-media eects Online chat Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  19. 19. POSTMODERNIST APPROACH (TYLER, 2005) Draws on Lyotard (1984), discredits and abandons all totalising, universalising and essentialising grand narratives in favour of multiple, simultaneous, competing local narratives Draws on Derrida - the organisation as text, or a storytelling system (Boje, 1991, 1995): “An organisational fiction is created that everyone is supposed to accept as true, yet which noone believes to be true.” (Bergquist, 1993) In crisis, competing, suppressed narratives erupt to counter the dominant narrative Sees traditional crisis communication as motivated by need to control, and to restore the dominant narrative Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  20. 20. CHAOS AND CRISIS (SEEGER, 2002) Chaos theory emphasises: Lack of predictability in system behaviour Unexpected and non-linear interactions between components Radical departures from normal system operations The re-emergence of order through natural self-organising processes The goal of chaos theory is “to achieve some level of predictive understanding, but without relying on established causal and deterministic patterns and models and using broader scales, perspectives and methods.” (Seeger, 2002: 330) Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  21. 21. CHAOS THEORY AND CRISIS COMMUNICATION Precise and confident predictions regarding system performance are impossible: Explanations and predictions are not accurate within the context of chaotic system disruption, and may contribute to the disruption itself Communication itself may be seen as a disruptive element: Small variances in communication processes, message form, content, distribution, timing or other factors may produce wide fluctuations in systems leading to disruption Investigations should move beyond the immediate and short-term dynamics of crisis, to larger patterns of self-organisation, reconstitution and renewal over extended time frames “Increases in organisational complexity require quite significant increases in information flow, communication and cooordination.” (Comfort, et al, 2001) Extending the timeframe of analysis may reveal a more comprehensive role for communication and public relations Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  22. 22. Traditional Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  23. 23. Traditional Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  24. 24. Traditional Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  25. 25. Traditional Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  26. 26. Precision Speed Minimise risk Traditional Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  27. 27. Precision Speed Minimise risk Traditional Postmodern Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  28. 28. Precision Speed Minimise risk Traditional Postmodern Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  29. 29. Precision Speed Minimise risk Traditional Postmodern Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  30. 30. Precision Speed Minimise risk Traditional Postmodern Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  31. 31. Precision Speed Minimise risk Traditional Prioritise victims Admit “unofficial” voices Postmodern Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  32. 32. Precision Speed Minimise risk Traditional Prioritise victims Admit “unofficial” voices Postmodern Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  33. 33. Precision Speed Minimise risk Traditional Prioritise victims Admit “unofficial” voices Postmodern Chaos Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  34. 34. Precision Speed Minimise risk Traditional Prioritise victims Admit “unofficial” voices Postmodern Chaos Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  35. 35. Precision Speed Minimise risk Traditional Prioritise victims Admit “unofficial” voices Postmodern Chaos Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  36. 36. Precision Speed Minimise risk Traditional Prioritise victims Admit “unofficial” voices Postmodern Change conceptual frame of prediction Longer time frame Embrace risk Identify non-linear and indirect sources of disruption and recovery Chaos Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  37. 37. Precision Speed Minimise risk Traditional Prioritise victims Admit “unofficial” voices Postmodern Change conceptual frame of prediction Longer time frame Embrace risk Identify non-linear and indirect sources of disruption and recovery Chaos Tuesday, February 10, 2009
  38. 38. Precision Speed Minimise risk Traditional Prioritise victims Admit “unofficial” voices Postmodern Change conceptual frame of prediction Longer time frame Embrace risk Identify non-linear and indirect sources of disruption and recovery Chaos Tuesday, February 10, 2009

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