Crisis communication developing strategies
to protect the reputation of the organisation in a crisis.
Organisation reputation is the most
important intangible asset of any organisation and during crises organisational
reputation is under threat. Crisis communication is the means through which
organisation attempt to restore their image and impede the damage of
reputational capital. Park and Cameron (2014) stated that strategic use of crisis
communication determines the publics view towards the organisation accountable
for crisis (p. 491). Based on crisis management theory effective crisis
communication divide the crisis into three phase pre crisis, crisis response
and post-crisis (Coombs 2007, p. 1). Crisis communication is a part of crisis management
which develops the different communication strategies depending upon the phase
of crisis. The main aim of crisis communication is to deal crises with ethical
Pre-crisis phase and communication
In most of scenario crisis are uncertain
and unpredicted. Crisis can be resulted due to natural or artificial
activities. As we know prevention is better than cure; organisation should try
their best to avoid crisis. Accessing the potential risks and prior preparation
against crisis minimises the possibility of crisis According to Coombs (2007) ‘Preparation involves creating the crisis
management plan, selecting and training the crisis management team, and
conducting exercises to test the crisis management plan and crisis management
team’ (p. 2). A well-developed management plan and trained crisis management
team act proactively and tackle the crisis beforehand. The crisis management
team appoint one person as the spokesperson to communicate and update the
different beforehand strategies and activities we are undertaking to handle the
crisis to gain support of stakeholders during crisis. In addition, Coombs
(2007) also mentioned that we should develop management plan, crisis management
team, spokesperson, pre-drafted message and communication channel for effective
crisis communication (p. 2).
Management Plan: a stepwise guide to manage crisis.
Crisis Management Team: a team formed from cross functional department
like human resource, legal, security, public relation and operation to manage
Spokesperson: an authorized person to communicate to stakeholder and should be
trained with media training practices.
Pre-drafted Message: template of crisis messages which will be used
Communication Channel: We should separate website or allocate a section
in our current website to communicate issues related to crisis.
Pre-crisis phase is also
known as warning stage in which usually only limited people in the organization
find it and circulate information among top management. According to Weiner
(2006), ‘A coordinated approach to issues management can help an organization effectively identify and anticipate potential
issues, prevent crises from developing, and influence their evolution and
outcome’ (Ivey, p. 2). During initial stage of crisis, mass media is eluded and
crisis manager should analyze the potential harm and communicate among the
concerned authorities to preclude the crisis. We should conduct organization
audit on regular basis to find all critical issues and categorized them by
likelihood of occurrence. So pre-crisis situation analysis helps to develop the
effective crisis communication strategies which help crisis manager to limit
the detrimental impact of crisis on the organization and its stakeholders.
Response crisis phase
and communication strategies
Crisis is the unwelcomed
situation that any organization never wish to pass through. When crisis hit the
organization, spokesperson should quickly notify the stakeholders. We should
response to crisis quickly, if not, it may lead to loss of organization
reputation and jobs, decrease employee morale, government intervention,
opportunity for competitors and decrease customer loyalty and management trust
(Cassling 2014). Quick response to crisis reduce stress and chaos
situation among stakeholders. During crisis, manager should take the
responsibility and stand in front to deal with every crisis related issues. A
strong crisis management team is required to deal in such scenario.
Says Quesada (2017), ‘It’s important to distinguish crises from issues and
potential conflicts’ (p. 2). To protect the situation to become even worse
crisis manager should safeguard crisis from mixing with issues and conflict.
Whatever information in hand should be communicated to all the
internal and external stakeholder. Crisis manager should communicate with
empathy, clear message, confident and reflects that organization is handling
the issues seriously
Crisis has negative
impact on stakeholders as well as organization and emotional crisis
communication is applicable to connect with public and respond crisis. The
emotions can be expressed through verbal and nonverbal communication. Meer and Verhoeven (2014) tells
‘intentionally or unintentionally, spokesperson that represents an organization
in a crisis may display the emotions they are experiencing’ (p. 528). The spokesperson may use denial, diminish and
rebuild strategies to response crisis (Coombs 2007, p. 171). The main theme of
crisis communication during crisis is to normalize the situation, defend
baseless allegation, communicate exact organization condition and plan to deal
with crisis ethically. Selecting the right medium for communicating during
crisis is very important. Maintaining good relation with media, government,
customers, shareholder and other stakeholders will ease the situation
Not only word of apology
and sympathy are enough, stakeholder are looking at the action that
organization is undertaking to console the victim and overcoming situation (Johar, Birk ).
Employees are the ambassador of any organization; people will ask them about
the situation so they need to be updated with organization’s action
plan for crisis. During crisis, communication plays vital role on easing the
situation, safeguarding organization reputation, reducing stakeholders stress,
minimizing government intervention and defending market share. Example of
crisis of Samsung which turned crisis to opportunity. Samsung recalled more
over 2 million Galaxy Note 7 due to overheating of batteries and explosion; 96
percent were recalled globally which cost 5.3 billion USD. DJ Koh, President
Mobile Communications Business for Samsung Electronics said that customer
safety comes first and focus on reinstate the trust in the brand. After detail
investigation, Samsung found the root cause and developed the eight point
battery safety system to make battery even stronger and trustworthy which set
standard for smartphone vendors (Forbes 22/01/2017).S
Post crisis phase and
organization reputation is the key concern of post crisis communication
strategies. Coombs (2007) tells us: ‘After crisis, customers can stop buying
products or community members may no longer support the organization’ (p. 170).
Post crisis situation is related to the behavioral aspect of customer
and community. Crisis management team should address this situation critically.
To some extent regaining organization reputation depend upon the past
reputation of organization. Corporate social responsibility of an
organization prove its positioning in community. Crisis manager
should communicate all positive aspects of the organization, its past
record, and its contribution towards society to dilute the impact of crisis. Comments
Ray (1991): ‘Post crisis provide the opportunity for an organization
to recover initial impact of a crisis and assess its situation’ (p.
161). Post crisis communication strategies clean up the mess created by the
crisis. Effective communication after crisis may capitalize the brand value
even more strongly than before because organization can make its opportunity by
reforming it entirely and can come up with new and contemporary approach.
Crisis may have negative
impact on an organization’s reputation but organization can capitalize it as
learning experience. Here communication manager will learn plenty of thing when
responding to a crisis. Crisis communication team will learn what could be done
best if it happens again and will have more confidence than in the present
context. Seeger, Sellnow and Ulmer (2003) stated that effective post
crisis communication passes through three stages: salving legitimacy, learning
and healing. A crisis communication team and crisis manager should find out every
issue involved in crisis and handle each of these stages effectively.
Salvaging legitimacy: deal with highlighting the positive aspect of
organization to stakeholders and image restoration.
Learning: It refers to learning from past and similar situation in best
Healing: refers to the explaining
the situation in detail, forgetting bad moment and prepare for future.
communication strategies are important to restore organization reputation,
capitalizing impact of crisis by turning it in to opportunities and preserve
legitimacy, learning and healing make the post crisis communication more
effective. In addition, Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT)
explained the different communication strategies depending upon different
situation. Crisis communication strategies depends upon on the crisis type and
level of threat imposed by crisis on organization reputation (Coombs 2007, p.
In conclusion, crises
are uncertain and unpredicted situations which pose a threat to an organization’s
reputation. Organizations bear loss during crisis so prevent them from crisis
or to lower loss they develop different crisis communication strategies. Crisis
communication strategies depend upon the phase of crisis and they are pre
crisis communication strategies, during crisis communication strategies and
post crisis communication strategies. Pre-crisis communication strategies avoid
the situation of crisis and prepare it for crisis. During crisis communication
strategies deal with quick responses to the crisis with empathy. Spokesperson
of crisis communication team share accurate information through best available
media to decrease reputation capital loss. Post crisis communication strategies
try to restore the organization reputation, regain customer trust and exploring
opportunities. Effective post crisis communication strategies passes through
three stages: rescue legitimacy, learning and healing.