Enhancing consistency in dynamic stakeholder interactions: On implementing blogs in crisis communication

Lisa Damgaard

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

Using the dairy company Arla Foods and the Cartoon Crisis as a case study, this thesis explores the corporate blog as a new phenomenon in crisis communication with an applied view to how organisations can communicate their crisis responses consistently when blogs are added to the communication landscape. It thus differs from previous studies through its particular focus on consistency and how this concept unfolds in practice. The problem statement was assessed using a combination of qualitative methods, namely an analysis of actual crisis communication efforts based on constructivist grounded theory and an informant interview. Through the analysis of Arla‟s crisis responses on three different communication platforms, the degree of consistency within and across these was evaluated. Surprisingly, the results showed a remarkable coherence between what was communicated through each channel during the crisis and also pointed to characteristics of the blog medium being remarkably different from those of other media. It was therefore concluded that blogs has a raison d‟être in crisis communication, and that it is possible to communicate univocally within and across communication channels in crises when using blogs. In search of an explanation for this, analysis results of an interview conducted with a member of Arla‟s crisis communication team, namely the Stakeholder Relations Manager and blog coach in Arla Foods was included. These suggested that consistency in Arla‟s crisis communication was aided through its organisation of communication. However, the analysis in addition implied that organisations using blogs must be able to balance the need for control of communication (centralisation) with a demand of flexibility (e.g. loosely defined constraints of blogs), thereby making freeway for individual expressions on the blog. It was also concluded that consistency is interpedently linked with transparency. This entailed the suggestion that particular attention needs to be paid by organisations to the accessibility of its information. Finally, a number of alterations of the Situational Crisis Communication Theory were suggested. In particular, it was argued that a new crisis response strategy, dissociation, was added to the framework. Furthermore, a reinforcing strategy, referencing external authorities, was introduced as a support strategy being particularly useful for the blog medium. The author suggested a number of implications for companies as well as the academic world. These included a proposition of mechanisms which can aid companies using blogs to obtain consistency in crisis communication. Also, the proposed problematisation of consistency points to future research, e.g. its merits could be examination through an assessment of stakeholders‟ perception of consistency and their ways of assessing corporate information. Also, an empirical testing of the proposed alterations of the SCCT was recommended.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2010
Number of pages78