Crisis Communication in Public Organizations: A Comparative Case Study of SKAT & DSB

Frederikke Cecilie Lenskjold Lerche & Cathrine Grønlund Frank

Student thesis: Master thesis


Background: Todays’ society is constructed by complex norms and rules, in which organizations must monitor their communication through an expectation of increased transparency. The technological development is resulting in much more accessible information of which it is more difficult for organizations to navigate in the society. It seems as if governmental organizations experience challenges in complying with these increased demands and expectations. Especially crisis communication is a challenge for organizations as they must comply with their surroundings and minimize the reputational damage. This thesis investigates SKAT and DSBs crisis communication and influencing factors in the surroundings in relations to the crises. Purpose: Motivated by the factors, which are contributing for an organizational crisis, we chose the governmental organizations, SKAT and DSB. This due to their year-long crisis history and them being governmental organizations, we find it interesting to investigate the crisis communication through configuration of a public-sector. Methodology: This thesis is a comparative case study of SKAT and DSB. It is composed of three perspectives; crisis, organizational, and societal. By this we try to clarify equalities and inequalities in SKATs crisis of dividend tax and DSBs crisis of IC4-trains, together with positive and negative influencing factors to these crises. Our methodology is based upon existing theories in which the empiricism is collected by coincidental search online and through content analysis. Findings: The findings of the thesis prove that SKAT and DSBs crisis have more equalities than expected beforehand. The analysis of crises types and history established that both crises are of high reputational threat and that a prolonged crisis history resulted in both organizations having velcro effect. In relation to this, an analysis of SKAT and DSBs crisis response strategies showes that neither of the organizations have applied the recommendations of Coombs. Furthermore, it is indicated that the media’s negative linguification of SKAT and DSB creates noise and disturbance in society. This become a challenge for the organizations’ possibility to create comprehensiveness among consumers. In coherence with the medias negative linguification, the consumers’ opinion of the organizations is negative as well. Due to this coherence, an assumption is that the linguification of the media influences the consumers’ opinion. SKAT and DSB’s organizational culture is analyzed to be rationel/open. By analyzing the organizations’ VCI it is clarified that neither of the organizations communicated in relation to their culture. This is one of the reasons why the organizations experience gaps between the ‘C’ and ‘I’. In relation to VCI, it become clear that SKAT and DSB have gaps between every element of ‘V’, ‘C’ and ‘I’. A further founding is that neither SKAT nor DSB have much legitimacy in society, which is a negative effect of their crisis history, velcro effect and gaps in VCI. This indicates that the organizations do not persuade to operate in relation to the hypercomplex society as they have not developed with their surroundings expectations and demands.

EducationsMSc in Organisational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages141