Crisis Management and Image Restoration through Social Networking: Analysis of Maggi Crisis

Crisis Management and Image Restoration through Social Networking: Analysis of Maggi Crisis

Debarati Bhattacharya (Communication Area, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, India)
DOI: 10.4018/IJVCSN.2016010103
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Abstract

The study aims to discern how social networking sites have become an important tool in enabling immediate crisis communication. Juxtaposing theories on crisis and strategies of image restoration the paper aims to analyze the recent Maggi Crisis. The case study takes Twitter and Facebook as points of analysis. The paper observes that although social networking site facilitates immediate communication, it can cause a lot of damage to the reputation of the organization if utmost care is not taken in the message that goes out. The paper will further analyze the possibilities and limitations provided by social networking sites to the companies at the time of crisis. The paper concludes that damage control to a great extent could be exercised through adoption of apt strategies right away.
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Defining Crisis

In The Handbook of Crisis Communication edited by W. Coombs, a crisis is defined as “the perception of an event that threatens important experiences of stakeholders and can impact the organization’s performances”. (Coombs & Holladay, The Handbook of Crisis Communication, 2012) A crisis can be said to be an unpredictable event that threatens to harm both the stakeholders and the organization; it can negatively affect the organization owing to the tarnished image incurred post the event. Crisis may be assembled into Economic, Employer or Reputational groups which would be the deciding factor for the strategy to be adopted for image restoration. The Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) framework by Coombs framed crises into victim, accidental and preventable clusters. A crises classification scheme was put forward by Coombs in 1995 which enables a typology of crisis. The scheme states four crisis types, namely, faux pas, accidents, terrorism and transgressions. Further, they are sub-categorized into external/internal and unintentional/intentional clusters. A faux pas crisis occurs when an external agent transforms an unintentional action into a crisis. This implies that the company considers the action appropriate. The outcome of the crisis depends on which definition the stakeholders choose to believe. An accident is usually impossible to predict and can happen during an ordinary day within an organization. This type of crisis leads to minimal organizational responsibility due to its random nature. Both types of crises can be equally unintentional however studies show that stakeholders have a tendency to attribute less blame to a crisis caused by nature than by human accidents.(Egelhoff & Sen, 1992)

The third crisis type, terrorism, refers to intentional actions designed to damage the reputation of an organization. External actors take the actions and therefore the blame also lies externally. According to Coombs, Victimage is an essential part of the reinforcing response strategies of the SCCT. The concept refers to a situation where the organization claims to be the victim of a crisis. Whether or not the claim is sincere is subordinate to the perception held by the stakeholders and media. (Liu, 2011) If they believe in the claim of innocence it becomes easier for the organization to carry out a victim-based, mortification response strategy and equally harder if the public dismisses the victim claim.

According to Fediuk et al, transgressions are “crises that are believed to be due to intentional organizational misconduct”. What this means is that an organization knowingly commits a wrongdoing and therefore becomes the sole offender. Transgression-based crises are linked with negative perceptions held by stakeholders about an organization’s actions and behavior. These perceptions are what eventually harm the reputation of an organization. (Fediuk, 2010) Of the four types of crisis, transgression, if the evidence of the wrongdoing is true, requires the highest level of atonement.(Coombs T. W., 1995) While Faux Pas, Accidental and Terrorism can be said to be external crisis types, Transgression can be said to be internal crisis type, where the organization is at fault.

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