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Aalto University School of Business Master's Theses are now in the Aaltodoc publication archive (Aalto University institutional repository)
School of Business | Department of Management Studies | International Business Communication | 2015
Thesis number: 13972
From "A school to Africa" to "Women are like cars": Analyzing successful and unsuccessful crisis communication cases
Author: Tulonen, Suvi-Maria
Title: From "A school to Africa" to "Women are like cars": Analyzing successful and unsuccessful crisis communication cases
Year: 2015  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management Studies
Academic subject: International Business Communication
Index terms: viestintä; communication; yritysviestintä; business communication; kansainvälinen; international; kriisi; crisis; maine; reputation
Pages: 103
Key terms: crisis communication; crisis; risk; issue; international business communication
Abstract:
The purpose of this study is to find out what characterizes successful and unsuccessful crisis communication. This study focuses on five characteristics derived from crisis management and crisis communication literature: context, responsibility, actors, crisis communication strategy, and ethical apologia. The study was motivated by the lack of multi-case studies in the field of crisis communication research. In addition, this study wanted to emphasise the complex nature of crises.

This study utilized three different crisis communication theories with different approaches: Frandsen and Johansen's (2009) Rhetorical arena, Coombs' (2007) Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) and Hearit's (2006) Crisis Management by Apology. In addition, the context was established by exploring the subjects of crisis, risk, and issue. From these theories a research framework was merged and was applied as themes in the analyses of the cases.

In order to compare successful and unsuccessful crisis communication, three cases of both types were chosen from a study where communication professionals had mentioned examples of successful and unsuccessful crisis communication cases. This study utilized mixed-methods and case study as research strategies. Case information was collected from secondary, public sources, mainly from newspapers. To analyse the collected data, qualitative and quantitative content analysis was used.

As main findings for this study, five characteristics were identified that lead crisis communication to fail more likely than succeed. 1) A risk taken by the company has initiated the crisis. 2) The responsibility assigned to the company is high. 3) The chosen crisis communication strategy does not match the perceived responsibility level. 4) The crisis is complex with many actors. 5) The manner of communication in apologia is lacking.

The findings suggest that the crisis communication manager should first analyse the crisis' context, company's perceived responsibility level and the actors in the crisis' rhetorical arena. Based on the analysis, the crisis communication manager should choose the correct crisis communication strategy or strategies and formulate an effective apologia focusing on the manner of communication.
Master's theses are stored at Learning Centre in Otaniemi.