|Type of paper:||Essay|
|Categories:||Business communication Crisis management Communication skills|
Abstract: The article evaluates the theory of crisis communication and how it is used when companies or individuals are undergoing crises. The theory is applicable whenever there is a crisis as it helps in the crafting of the right messages that are usually intended to protect the reputation of the said companies or individuals. Companies and individuals often find themselves in different crises that heavily dent their public image. The crisis of communication helps them in crafting the right communication that will help in saving their face and character from such allegations that are typically grave.
Part 1: Description and Evaluation of Crisis Communication or Image Repair Theory
Description of a theory of crisis communication or image repair
The image restoration theory which was introduced by William Benoit is also referred to as the image repair theory (Carroll 15). It outlines the schemes that can be applied to reinstate the image of someone in the event his character or reputation has been damaged. The argument can be used in the event there is a crisis in an organization or whenever an individual is undergoing some form of crisis. The image restoration theory operates under two fundamental concepts which are:
- An individual or company is responsible for the given action
- The action is regarded as offensive.
The image restoration theory is a critical part of crisis communication that is commonly used in public relations. The purpose of the argument is to protect organizations or individuals who are facing public challenges to their reputation.
According to Coombs (29), the situational crisis communication theory that was formulated by one Timothy Coombs is one of the arguments in the sector of crisis communication. According to this theory, the crisis managers should be able to equate the strategic crisis responses to the degree of reputational threat and crisis responsibility that is posed by the crisis in question (Carroll 33). Appraising the crisis history, prior relationship reputation, and crisis type will assist the crisis managers in predicting the degree of reputational threat of a company. The situation theory crisis theory can, therefore, be applied to the crisis management of an organization.
Combs (45) created scientific evidence based on the situational theory crisis that gives the communicators scientific evidence to inform their decisions. What this means is that the actions that the company take will depend on the crisis at hand. The theory explores the fundamental facets of the crisis affect the attributions and the reputations of the stakeholders. Coombs differentiated three clusters of crises to support his assessment (Coombs 41).The three include:
- Victim: Where an individual or organization is the victim of the crisis in place. It could be a minor reputational threat or rumors, or natural disasters.
- Accident: Whereby the organization unintentionally gets involved in certain actions that cause crisis
- Intentional: Whereby the company knowingly takes a stand or action that leads to inappropriate risk.
Advantages and disadvantages of the theory
Like any other theory, the image repair theory has advantages and disadvantages. It is meant to address the sequences of events or unexpected events that have adverse consequences. The benefits of the approach include:
- It repairs a tarnished image. The theory helps in redefining the attack which helps it to take the best strategy to deal with the nature of accusations that have been brought before them (Cauwer 55). It is, however, critical to point out that not all the allegations should always be responded to. If the reputation of the organization is tarnished or damaged, it is likely to have an effect on the customers that engage the company in question for various services. Repairing the tarnished image of the organization is one of the ways of restoring public confidence. When public confidence is restored it means that the company will be able to do business as usual which will lead to profitability.
- It helps the company or individual to gain valuable resources during and after the crisis. During the crisis moments, most individuals are usually vulnerable, and it is at this moment that they can request for help from the proper sources. This could be an opportunity to help them garner resources. With the help of the theory the company can come up with certain measures which will help it in gaining the resources that it needs for various purposes.
- It also helps the companies in localizing the efforts. A crisis management team can be dispatched to the company to allocate resources and time that will help them in dealing with the situation at hand. It creates one point of communication so that the parties do not get different responses. At times the best solution is found when the efforts are localized. The theory advocates for the localization of the efforts whenever needed or required.
- Last but not least, it helps in reducing losses. The primary objective of most companies is to make profits by offering certain services. The theory helps in repairing the image of the company which means that it helps in restoring the confidence that the previous customers had. In so doing, the company the losses that the company would have incurred are greatly reduced.
The disadvantages of the theory include:
- At times the approach ignores the fundamental fact that some people were hurt and concentrated in defending and rebranding the victims. It is one of the ways that rich companies can beat justice. Some section of the population can thus be left bitter and resentful towards the company even though measures were taken to clear their image.
- The information propagated by the two parties involved may be inaccurate. The theory of crisis communication concentrates on repairing the image of their clients. Typically, what happens in many cases is that accusations are often put before the table. Depending on the approach employed, the so-called crisis management teams can begin poking holes to the allegations that have been placed before them.
- At times the theory does not solve the inner fabric by addressing the problem at hand. At times it advocates for denial whereas the right approach in such a scenario would have been to take responsibility and fix the issue or the error that has been highlighted. Some organizations have failed to address certain issues that in the name of a public relations exercise only to be confronted with dire consequences in the future.
Explanation of how the theory is critical for image repair or crisis communication
The levels of reputational threat and crisis responsibility are initially determined when it comes to this theory. The SCCT will then build on the image restoration as suggested by William Benoit by describing a limited set of the primary response strategies. The three plans that are employed include:
- A denial which entails scapegoating, denying the story, and attacking the accuser.
- Diminishment which requires the justification of the happenings and offering excuses.
- Rebuilding which entails taking full responsibility, offering apologies, and the compensation of victims.
A response strategy that supports an organization or individual is typically given to remind the stakeholders of the good deeds of the individual or the organization. Silence is not considered as a strategy by Coombs and Benoit. Coombs says that silence is too passive and allows the other parties to determine the direction that the crisis will take (Coombs 19). Since silence can be interpreted differently, it is always important to speak up so that the company is on top of things of the various things that they are being accused of.
The theory is critical for image repair as it addresses the allegations or claims that have been brought against the company. In most cases, these claims typically have adverse effects on the running and operation of the company. By addressing the allegations that have been brought against them, these companies usually manage to steer off the controversies that have been brought before them. The lost client's confidence is thus restored, and the profitability of the company maintained.
Part 2: Identify the attack that provoked the defense you analyze in section 3
The hacking of the elections systems is one of the recent attacks that took place that required the crisis communication to avert the looming problem. Elections are typically competitive. In any democratic exercise, there is a need to have transparency and one way of ensuring that there is transparency is by using the tamper-proof system. Candidates and their supporters have to be confident in the voting process which typically begins days before the elections. The labor unions are some of the most critical unions in the country because they put the companies in check by championing the interests of the workers. This explains why the labor union elections are typically hotly contested and often attract interests from the major political parties and players in the country. Some companies have also been said to sponsor their candidates who they can easily compromise to subvert the will of the workers while they are in office. When the election systems in recent labor elections were hacked, there were several complaints. The different candidates pointed fingers at each other while assuming some candidates of colluding with the electoral body and the government to subvert the will of the people.
Part 3: Complaints
Description of the message or messages analyzed for the paper
A few days to the elections of the labor union, it was alleged that the election system had been hacked and some cybercriminals in Russia took responsibility for this action. It was one of the most trying moments for the electoral body that was mandated to run the elections. Some candidates alleged that the government had conspired with the electoral body to have their systems hacked so that candidates that lean to the government and employers side are elected to lead the union. They further explained that the authorities wanted to impose leaders on them so that they would not put the executive and employers under scrutiny.
It was further alleged that money had exchanged hands with these allegations hurting the people who were mandated to run the elections as the implication of this is that they were greedy and corrupt. It was necessary to respond to these issues since failure to do would lead to the rejection of the election results which could have adverse consequences. Also, other than addressing the allegations from the aggrieved parties there were needed to fix the hacked election system since the elections were to be biometrically handled.
All the stakeholders needed to be convinced that despite the setback all was well bearing in mind that the elections were a few days away. For this paper, these were the issues that were raised: the hacking of the election system, the conspiracy between the electoral body and the authorities, the corruption allegations, and the credibility of the elections bearing in mind that the election was to be held in a few days.
Application of the theory to the messages
The image restoration theory and the situation crisis theory can be applied to avert the damage that has already been done. Well like many other crises, proper planning of the same was critical. The ideal communication tips that were put in place included preparation, accessing the critical and weak points, a plan was then created, measures were put in place to ensure that consistent messages were issued, a spokesman was prepared, a proactive rather than a reactive approach was adopted, and the final messages were evaluated over and over again.
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