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Effective communication of corporate crises through the internet

Albert H Segars examines the role of the internet in corporate crises.

By Albert H Segars 01 September 2003

Communication messages in organisational crises are highly strategic in conveying the well being and future direction of an enterprise and have become even more visible with the advent of the internet. Customers and investment analysts as well as the media form initial and lasting impressions of management’s response to crises through messages conveyed on corporate web sites. But management has little guidance on how to make such communications effective. Albert H Segars examines the role of the internet in corporate crises.
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Messages from top management in crisis management play a key role in rationalising corporate events as well as framing actions and potential remedies. Organisational crises are highly ambiguous situations where causes and effects are unknown and where events, though they have a low probability of occurrence, nonetheless pose a major threat to the survival of the organisation. Crises offer little time to respond, are a surprise to an organisation and present a dilemma in need of decision and judgement.

Psychological, social-political and technologicalstructural issues are important factors in managing organisational crises. Digital media such as the world wide web offer firms a quick and potentially effective means to address them.

For example, in the recall of car tyres by Firestone, both Ford and Firestone used the web to provide information and top management’s view on how the crisis would be addressed and how it would impact each company. Such communication became particularly critical as news reports of the crisis grew.


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