A crisis of reputation in a Social Media environment: a comparative analysis of the crisis communication strategies employed by Jetstar and Air New Zealand in a severe weather event
Jury, Tracey Ann
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The significance of social media technologies for the practice of crisis communication cannot be understated. Developments in social media and Web 2.0 technologies have created an unprecedented media environment that enables instantaneous, global and public information sharing. These social media technologies have the potential to foster open and honest discussion, and enable communities of interested and affected publics to gather and publicly discuss organisations, creating new active publics. The technologies that enable such an environment have not been fully integrated into communication practices, despite having been at play for several years. Many practitioners remain wary of the potential challenges associated with the use of social media technologies. As organisations remain hesitant of embracing these technologies to their full potential, it has become increasingly pertinent to assess the effectiveness of communication strategies used in these environments. This study contributes to the body of knowledge surrounding social media’s impact on crisis communication by undertaking a comparative analysis of the crisis communications issued by Jetstar and Air New Zealand in a social media environment. Findings for this project contribute to the growing body of knowledge within social media and crisis communication, outlining successes and failures of the use of current crisis communication practices within a social media environment and providing recommendations for social media crisis communication strategies. Findings indicate that such technologies demand change in current strategies used in social media environments. Key publics increasingly expect organisations to communicate on social media in a timely, honest, accurate and transparent manner, as fits the platform. At the same time organisations must be able to understand and work within the potential challenges that social media platforms present if they wish to continue to maintain and protect a good reputation. Organisations must accept a loss of control previously granted by traditional media and must learn to deal with a hyper-emotive community that could both hinder and help reputation. The complex communication expectations of social media can no longer be ignored by organisations if they hope to remain in-touch with key publics. Social media gives organisations the potential to participate and engage with their key publics on a more personable level than seen before, moving towards a more dialogic form of communication that is more easily facilitated in a social media environment. To do so, organisations must be able to fully understand the challenges and opportunities presented by social media, and also appreciate the communicative demands of the platform. Organisations must give autonomy to those in charge of their social media sites to engage with key publics with empathy and understanding. This study suggests that traditional strategies for crisis communication must change in a social media environment and such change should not be feared. Social media platforms are leading organisations towards a more transparent form of communication in which the best way to safeguard reputation is to engage fully, truthfully and transparently in conversation with key publics in these online communities.