Crisis Communication in the Age of Social Media and the Case of Dairy Khoury

Crisis Communication in the Age of Social Media and the Case of Dairy Khoury

Nisrine Zammar (Faculty of Information, Lebanese University, Lebanon)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3473-1.ch151
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The use of social media platforms has become an essential part of today's protocol of reacting to any sudden crisis, due to their interactive nature which allows them to reach vast and heterogeneous audiences. This makes them the right tool that enables the organizations to spread their messages efficiently. Any failure in responding adequately on social media level, would allow rumors and negative contents to circulate uncontrollably, affecting the organizational reputation and recovery. Therefore, the main purpose of this paper is to provide a clear understanding of the crisis communication strategy adopted by Dairy Khoury, a Lebanese firm, on social media, at a time when the new power of social media had not yet been fully measured and estimated. The author will highlight the necessity of a preset crisis communication strategy and the use of social media platforms while dealing with crisis.
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The rise of social media was a game changer for consumers and companies alike. It gave the consumers clear and direct voice in many aspects related to the products they consume. On the other hand, it provided the organizations with a new tool to communicate with their audiences everywhere, especially in response to an occurring crisis.

At times, crisis strike due to factors beyond the company’s management control (natural disasters, war, stock market drop, boycotts, competition’s malevolence etc…), and sometimes due to the management’s misconduct, deception or lack of values. For a reason or another, “crises are considered to be common parts of the social, psychological, political, economic and organizational landscape of modern life” (Matthew et al. 2003).Consequently, a predetermined crisis-management plan and an adaptable communication strategy will always play a pivotal role in defining the survival of an organization or an industrial sector as a whole.

According to Willmer (2016), organizations should invest in preparing crisis-management plans on different scales, supported by comprehensive analysis of the organization’s environment, activity and potential risks. Risks are known to be all the potential activities or events that could harm the organization’s finances, revenues, reputation, market position and capacity to deliver services.

Whereas, crises are known to be unforeseen events that may occur at a specific point in time and they tend to:

  • Place the organization in serious financial jeopardy

  • Cause damage to the employees and the public

  • Cause image and reputation damages:

    • o

      Threaten the viability of the organization

    • o

      Alter the reputation of the company and its leadership

    • o

      Weaken or destroy the confidence of stakeholders and consumers in the company.

Furthermore, the SCCT (Situational Crisis Communication Theory) developed by Coombs (2011) classifies different types of crises as follows:

Table 1.
SCCT (Situational Crisis Communication Theory) CRISIS TYPES*
Crisis clusterCrisis typeDescription
VictimNatural disasterEarthquake, flood, etc would damage an organization
RumorA rumor is disseminated about an organization
HackingAttackers perform computer hacking
Workplace violenceAn employee attacks other employees
AccidentalChallengesStakeholders claiming that the organization is operating inappropriately
Technical-error product harmA technology failure resulting in a faulty product
Technical-error accidentA technology failure causing an accident
PreventableHuman-error accidentA human error causes an accident
Human-error product harmA human error results in a faulty product
Organizational-misdeedManagement taking actions that it knows may place stakeholders at risk

* (Adapted from Coombs, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Communication Strategy: A set of communication activities to reach an organizational objective(s). It targets a well-defined audience with strategic messaging, using a choice of communication tools that would best reach that audience. A communication strategy aims to achieve a high level of performance, create values for its shareholders and satisfaction for the target audience in a competitive market

Reputation: Is the trust and confidence (or the lack of) of consumers and shareholders in an organization. It is what people hear and say about an organization and how its good or bad standing is reported in the media. It affects the number of customers, operations, and profit margins. Good reputation takes a lot of efforts to build and requires excellent crisis management to maintain in times of adversities.

Corporation: The legal entity of a group of companies or a large company owned by shareholders. The Corporation is liable by law to conduct the actions and finances of the business, while the shareholders are not.

Crisis Management: The actions taken to deal with unpredictable and sudden events often based on pre-designed strategies, in order to limit – and eventually halt- the occurring damages as quickly as possible.

Social media: Are computer-based platforms that enable people to connect with each other’s, to share and generate content (opinions, ides, photos, videos…), to establish and maintain relationships. These platforms allow organizations to reach, to engage with and persuade their target audiences. Social media includes forums, blogs, social networking sites and other forms of online discussions.

Organization: It is the process of organizing a group of people in a given structure and being managed to pursue and meet particular purposes. Organizations have an authority that structures and determines activities, roles, tasks, and responsibilities that members should carry out. Organizations are shaped by their member’s relationships. Organizations are dynamic structures that affect and are affected by their environment. Organizations are units, in which offices, or positions, have distinct but interdependent duties, working to achieve financial or on-financial goals. An organization can be part of a corporation.

Image: Is the public perception of an organization/corporation, and the way it presents itself to the public. As it is a perception, it might not be a real reflection of the actual state of the organization/corporation nor of its brand (s). The main challenge is to match reality with the desired image.

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