Pacheva. Valeria. Crisis under control. Corporate communication in crisis situation.
p. 219-222

     The relevance of thе topic stems from the frequency and intensity with which some critical negative phenomena, such as conflicts, risks, accidents, crises, crushes arise and develop nowadays. It is a consequence of the necessity to understand the experience acquired in the management of extreme situations as well. However, just 14 per cent of the crises ate actually random and unexpected events, and the other 86 per cent are more or less predictable crisis situations.
     We see the applied aspect of this research in the know-how creation, aimed to assist the organizational leaders in the seeting of dispositions for action within the framework of an active crisis culture.
     The research object is the management of communication and its importance for the adaptation of the organization in five particular Bulgarian cases of crisis.
     The research subject is the management of communication in crises according to the classic formula of the four stages of public relations: I. Definition of the problems, II. Planning and Programming, III. Action and Communication, and IV. Evaluation of the program.
     In the building of the conceptual project, we were led by the following limitations: crisis situations and the respective practices of communication management in crises within the frameworks of economic structures: industrial enterprises, corporations and companies at peace-time conditions, have been analyzed.
     According to the integrated approach, the objective of this research could be interpreted in two aspects: substantial and instrumental. In the substantial aspect, the objective is to optimize the use of human resources in order to achieve a higher level of mobilization and self-organization of the affected structure, so that the internal change could generate significant flexibility, organizational cohesion and active adaptation considering the important changes in the medium. From the instrumental point of view, the goal is to check empirically to what extent the governing resource, i.e. the organizational leaders have the necessary command on the means necessary to overcome extreme situations, so that they can manage and hand the professional challenges provoked by the crisis situation.
     We state that the quick and efficient communication during crisis situations reveals the achieved level of self-organization : it depends on the possibilities of active adaptation of any specific organization, considering the dynamic influence of external factors.
     Some of the main tasks of this research are:

     •  To define the conceptual frame of the concept of "Crisis" through an interdisciplinary prism,
         and the resulting definition to reflect both exogenous and endogenous approaches in the
         analysis of the development of the crisis process.
     •  To ground the arsenal of cognitive resources on arguments, such as:
         - The description of the factors influencing decisions in a crisis;
         - the construction of crisis scenarios as a strategy of prevention from potential crisis
     •  To structure the components of the efficient crisis communication: communication plan,
         corporate image, communication crisis staff and speaker of the organization.
     •  To argumentate the strategy of triangulation of the crisis communication (media - victims -
     •  To substantiate the importance of public diplomacy as a communication approach.

     The methodological approach, which has been chosen for the objective of this research is case study. The most internationally important crises have been quoted, as well as selected crisis situations taken from the Bulgarian social reality during the period 2000-2005.
     To this end, a series of interviews with organizational leaders, managers, experts in the field of public relations, journalists and other involved persons were condcted. Five of the cases were analyzed on the grounds of seven interviews: the crisis with the pilots of "Bulgaria Air" (March, 2005); the burglary of the safety vault of "South Park" Branch of "HVB Bank Biochim" (23 March 2004); the breakdown at "Metropolitan Electric Power Distribution" Plant, "Zapad" Region (22-23 December, 2003); the explosion at Ambassador Hotel (15 November 200), as well as the cascade crises in Sri Lanka, in consequence of the tsunami wave in the region of Eastern Asia (February 2005).
     The chosen methodology illustrates the idea that for the successful management of communications in crisis situations, it is necessary to take into consideration the different positions of the stakeholders in order to integrate endeavors and measures to overcome the crisis and to plan the possible actions.
     This study is a pilot research aimed to outline the main parameters of the field work. The questionnaire that has been developed, is suitable for use in leader’s practical work.
     The demonstrated partiality to qualitative research is a consequence of the integral orientation of modern PR to Quality PR. For the purposes of this study, sociograms have been developed for each of the five single cases. Their cognitive role is to outline the links and interactions between stakeholders at a specific crisis situation. The suggested sociograms have been developed with pragmatic purposes and they have no academic claims.
     In Chapter One, "Definition of the crisis situation" the role of Public Relations is analyzed as a socio-applied technology for the prevention from conflicts and as a mechanism to overcome crisis situations: a menace for the social cohesion.
     We can categorically say that the analysis of the situation is the key stage of the crisis management which determines the strategic planning at extreme conditions. This study outlines the theoretical frame of the crisis as a process and some basic components of this process have been derived. The concept of "crisis" is chronologically interpreted at several semantic levels. The main definitions and theoretic conceptions about crisis in the light of the interdisciplinary method have been presented.
     Two complementary approaches have been applied to the analysis of the crisis process: exogenous and endogenous. The adaptation of the affected organization as a self-adjusting system is determined by the self-organization potential: by the capacity of fast mobilization of resources: human, material, financial, informational and time resources.
     Prevention supposes the development of a crises navigation map. In the prospective of situational analysis, the sociological problem of stakeholders as a key dimension of crisis management has been analyzed.
     Chapter Two analyzes the next communication management step: the construction of PR strategy – the plan and the formulation of the PR program – the tactics of action and communication in crisis situation.
     The factors, influencing decisions, have been analyzed as a strategic point in the management of communication during crises: the creative thinking, the stress as a variable with a constant activity, personal features, the effect of "protecting myths", the group dynamics phenomena: group thinking, self-isolation – "cocoon effect", as well as organizational leader’s critic role.
     Our research interest is oriented to the analysis of the functions of the team that is responsible for the management of the crisis, focusing on the mission of the communication crisis staff. The presence of such a structure is a reflection of the level of crisis culture in the organization and an evidence of acknowledged corporate social responsibility. The construction of scenarios is interpreted as a suitable method decision making, in view to the high grade of risk and uncertainty of the context in extreme situation.
     In Chapter Three "Action and communication during a crisis" the factors which determine the communication efficiency in crisis situation have been analyzed, namely: the existence of communication plan, the capacity to form a crisis staff and the use of one speaker during the crisis. The good corporate image is defined as a resource of surviving in crisis situation. We defend the idea that the two main vectors of the corporate communications during crises are with the external audience of priority: the mass media and the victims, and with the internal audience: the employees.
     The study defines key characteristics of mediatization of the crisis. Due to the new information technologies, today we can speak about globalization of the phenomenon of the crises. The media are the factor influencing the world public thinking, provoking empathy and sharing of tragedy and suffering of others. In this context, the problem of the victims is interpreted as an ethic dimension of the communication management. Rumors are analyzed as pathology of the corporate communication during a crisis.
     In Chapter IV, the evaluation is presented as a method of acquisition of experience derived from the crisis. The frames of the personal experience are opened by the mechanisms of the collective memory. The conception of Public Diplomacy as a modern dimension of public relations is also analyzed in this context.
     Crisis situation is the incident: the fact of happening + its public resonance: the reaction of the audiences.
     The methods of research are an integral part of the communicatiol management. Our interest is oriented to the most popular analytic method in Public Relations: case study.
     The goal of this work is connected with the process of definition of the whole communication policy and the attitudes of the managing board of the organization in a crisis, putting the stress on the interaction between decision makers – high management – executive director, legal adviser in chief, mid-level manager and PR experts: internal or external. This particular approach goes beyond the standard PR-analysis, where the activities of the PR-department are subject of monitoring as a reflection of the communication strategy of the company.
     As a result the following conclusions could be made:
     First: the thesis of the research is partly proved by the studies done. The theoretical grounds that the public reaction to crisis is stronger than the actual incident, is confirmed by the analysis of the toughening effect of the mass media, which act as a catalyst of social panic and present critical situation in a contrasting, black and white manner. The same can not be said about the empirical analyses, conducted in the frame of the objectives of the research. Each situation appears to be unique and difficult to be generalized, as social science requires.
     Second: the study demonstrated that the four-stage model for management of public relations could be applied also to the interpretation of communications during crisis situations.
     Third: this research includes an unusual approach angle with respect to the topic: considering the stage of rehabilitation of the affected organization.
     Fourth: the socially responsible participant in the field of public communications is the one who, in pursuit of organizational dominants, aims to reduce the social losses in times of crisis.
     Fifth: at the conditions of "serially manufactured risks" (Beck, 1992), the crisis culture must be developed by targeted actions based on specialized training of the organizational leaders.
     Sixth: During a crisis, the speaker of the organization must possess not only stoicism, social stability and endurance, but also a high moral sensibility.
     Seventh: Sociometry presents itself as an important method, and the sociogram: as the main instrument for operational management in a dynamic context set by the crisis.
     Eighth: In the socio-psychological adaptation, it is important the specialists in public communication to try to help the creation of positive attitudes, organizational requirements and social expectations, in order to motivate people to participate in rehabilitation processes.
     We hope that this study will be followed by empirical endeavors in a wide range of organizations. Crisis situations in power industry, public health, military and banking affairs, transport, agriculture etc. are part of the transformations that accompany the world in the 21st century.

crisis, communication management, organization, adaptation, self-organization

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Mirchev, Mihail.
Public Lecture to the 4th youth AFSS, May, 18th 2013

Mirchev, Mihail.

Mirchev, Mihail.

Mirchev, Mihail.

Mirchev, Mihail.

Mirchev, Mihail.