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Crisis communications of the Croatian business organiziations through social media


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Žigo, Žanina. (2019). Crisis communications of the Croatian business organiziations through social media. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Information Science.
(PDS Informacijskih i komunikacijskih znanosti) [mentor Jurišić, Jelena].

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The thesis begins with the explanation of research goals, hypotheses and research methodology. The scientific approach is used to study the role of social media in crisis communications of Croatian business organisations. Hypotheses and research results are presented in detail in chapter five of the thesis. The analysis of a crisis situation had to be done in one of the following three topics: environmental pollution, food pollution and banking and financial sector. Research began with the analysis of a structured questionnaire and content analysis. The questionnaire was used as a preliminary study whose results were then used to select the industry. The industry’s communication patterns were then analysed by the method of content analysis applied on their official social network pages, news web sites and printed materials in the period of one year. The banking and financial sector was selected because of a series of crisis events in this sector. Chapter two of the thesis begins with the analysis of key notions necessary for understanding the content which follows afterwords. It explains the status of social networks in the context of modern times, i.e. the impact of Web 2.0 on the trends of their development. Social networks and social media are part of new media but social networks are a narrower notion than social media. Further discussion in the thesis relates to the logic of ownership of social media. Some authors argue that today’s media are not social and that they are controlled by small groups of individuals, whereas other authors say that all media today are social and that the knowledge created in these media is controlled by the users themselves. This part of the thesis focuses attention on the potential of social media to support the development of more transparent business operations because they enable unbiased communication. Dialogue has a special potential for development as a result of the development of social media. Speedier two-way communication and speedier decision-making is now possible with prior exchange of ideas, with no live contact and with a great number of participants. The notions of stakeholders and the public are also described as they are crucial for the development of any relationship. The analysis of stakeholders has created basic divisions of the public according to its importance and power of impact on the business success of an organisation. Framing is another notion described as its use has become important to all social media users. Anyone who wishes to present their attitudes to the public should be able to create messages in the way they want the messages to be perceived. The way a message is presented (framed) has an impact on emotions of the public and the image of an organisation. The elaboration of the topic also relies on the concept of corporate social responsibility or CSR. CSR is deemed necessary for business organisations aiming to make additional contributions to society in return for a “license to operate”, i.e. support of society. It is also believed that a business organisation which has a positive stock of good deeds can overcome a crisis more easily should it occur. In today’s media environment, organisations should pay attention not only to responsible behaviour but to a behaviour which is deemed right. Unethical and wrong decisions and information spread globally at a great speed. Still, the success of an organisation may depend on the image it has built and stakeholders receive most information on the organisation from the media. Therefore, if organisations want a positive image they should build long-term relations to create trust and credible communication. Special attention in the thesis is given to transparency, i.e. the publication of accurate, timely, balanced and unambiguous information. It has been stressed that the publication of a large amount of information is not necessarily correlated with increased transparency. Business organisations might not proactively strive for transparency were it not for citizens’ requests and the media. Further explanations clarify that the role of public relations is key for building positive relations with different audiences, i.e. for image building. The role of PR has significantly improved with the development of new media. Similarly, organisations are expected to increase their flexibility. Chapter three describes issues management, risk management, rumour management and crisis management. The analysis further outlines some theories on the life cycle of issues. It has been established that unsuccessful issues management in the pre-crisis phase can evolve into a crisis phase. Moreover, unsuccessful crisis management can also produce key issues. The role of the media, including social media, in issues management is twofold. On the one hand, they are a source of information, and on the other, they emit messages, thereby having an important role in framing the issue. Risk is described as the evaluation of probability of an adverse event and its impact on people, the environment and the business organisation. After risk evaluation, plans for risk analysis or risk elimination are prepared. If risk manifestation can affect the quality of life of the public and their safety, it is necessary to inform the public on such risks. With today’s technology and social networks, business organisations are even more exposed to risks of rumours so that they should be managed as key issues. The organisation will manage rumours more easily if it has built a positive image. Inadequate communication of an organisation with stakeholders does not help build good relations. The key to success in building good relations is trust and credibility. As a result, transparency is becoming more important for organisations if they want to gain the trust of the public. One way to build trust includes CSR programmes. When a risk is manifested, crisis occurs. It is then highly important to identify the type of crisis and decide on crisis management and communication with the public. This chapter presents Fink’s model which charts the life span of a crisis, Mitroff’s model of five stages, Smith’s crisis management process model and the most commonly mentioned Coombs’crisis management process. Holladay’s, Lebringer’s and Coombs’ types of crisis are also described as well as two types of crisis communication: crisis knowledge management and stakeholder reaction management. Depending on the type of crisis which occurred, primary or secondary communication strategy of crisis response is selected. Good communication in crisis maintains or improves the image of an organisation whereas poor management or absence of such skills leaves negative effects on business operations. Chapter four describes the impact of social media on business operations and direct communication with stakeholders. The development of social media has given the stakeholders a possibility to impact business operations should they wish to do so. The same opportunity is given to business organisations which can build reputation, advance sales, develop human resources, research the market etc. due to a rising number of social media. These communication channels can be particularly useful for two-way communication with stakeholders during crisis events. In order to maximise the benefits of social media, business organisations should be acquainted with the specific features of each social medium because this is the only way to define an adequate social media strategy. It is also important for business organisations to recognise the importance of high-quality published content on official social network sites because they are often used by journalists as sources of information. This is how content published on official social network pages may spread to different media. In order to describe social communities in the present moment the thesis presents van Dijk’s analysis of world history of social communities through a series of five global networks: the first world web, metropolitan or city web, Old World Web, cosmopolitan Web and world web. The last phase which has been around for 160 years is important for today’s development. Today’s networked society is made up of technical and media networks. As was already mentioned, the advantage of social media is that they allow an efficient dialogue between different groups. Still, a high-quality dialogue primarily requires transparency and trust. If social media are used in an ethical manner, they can increase transparency which in turn leaves a positive impact on the image of an organisation. Today, each crisis finds a way to social media and always leaves consequences on business operations. One benefit of social media for business organisations during the crisis is the protection and restoration of reputation. The application of tactics of new media during difficult times helps restore trust in the organisation. Social media can support organisations in successful crisis management in two ways: the first is to explore the network environment and readiness for the crisis because large quantities of information are available, and the second is to enable speedy two-way communication with stakeholders, i.e. speedy sending and receiving of answers. Problems which develop in social media are hard to manage because they spread fast and are unpredictable. Since during the crisis the public relies specifically on information which comes from the organisation itself, the organisation can use this situation to its benefit. For instance, it can use it as a potential to develop a dialogue with new audiences at the time of crisis when the organisation is under increased and intensive supervision. This can lead to a reduction of damage to the smallest possible extent, which speeds up recovery. A more modern crisis communication management model or social-mediated crisis communication model has been developed because the content of social networks can impact stakeholders’ emotions. The main goal of the model is to understand how the public creates, consumes and/or shares crisis information in social media and other sources. Organisations should include social media in risk management, rumour management, issues management and crisis management. The capacity and advantage of social media will be best used by introducing a corporate social media policy and by including transparency in all policies and business processes. Chapter five presents research conducted in the form of a questionnaire and content analysis, hypotheses. Chapter six presents discussion and seventh conclusion. The first hypothesis is that social media are not an important communication channel in Croatian business organisations in situations of crisis. The research results confirm H1, i.e. that Croatian business organisations do not find online social media and news web sites as an important channel of communication with stakeholders in crisis. The second hypothesis is that the communication tools that business organisations in the Republic of Croatia use in social media for the need of crisis communication are not differentiated from the ones which are used in ordinary communication channels (remark: TV and radio are not included). It can be confirmed that a press release is most commonly used as a communication tool during crisis for communication in print media and in news web sites. Additionally, in the print media, the statement scores high. Business organisations in the Republic of Croatia most commonly use status, film and photographs. If a press release and news web site are counterparts of status in online social networks and if we take into account that social networks use films and photographs, H2 can partially be confirmed. The third hypothesis is that the use of social media during situations of crisis has a positive effect on the attitudes of users regarding services and products of business organisations. A more specific conclusion about attitudes and further activities of users cannot be made because only a small number of user activities was recorded. The fourth hypothesis is that business organisations in the Republic of Croatia communicate in a non-transparent way with the users of their products and services in times of crisis. This hypothesis has been proven. The contributions of the present research are manifold. Research results can be used by educational institutions and students, as well as by different economic entities, e.g. business organisations, news agencies and various consultants. A significant contribution of this research is raising awareness of ethics in business in the context of technological development, which should be a topic for both educational institutions and business organisations. The areas of ethics and transparency are certainly the areas whose definition, role and practical application should be researched more thoroughly.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: social media, social networks, transparency, reputation, responsibility, risk, crisis
Subjects: Information sciences
Information sciences > Media and communicology
Departments: Department of Information Science
Supervisor: Jurišić, Jelena
Additional Information: PDS Informacijskih i komunikacijskih znanosti
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2019 11:52
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 11:52

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