Crisis Communication in theory and practice: Analysis of cultural influence, strategy applicability, and stakeholder relevance in Australia and New Zealand
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Permanent link to Research Bank record:http://hdl.handle.net/10652/1530
This research project explores crisis communication in theory and practice in Australia and New Zealand with specific focus on cultural influence, strategy applicability, and stakeholder relevance. A mixed-method approach was used to evaluate crisis communication in its theoretical and practical constituents. The research project comprises of the two data collection methods of content analysis and in-depth interviews. The content analysis, the selected method to evaluate the theory, was conducted from published research studies in leading Australian and New Zealand Public Relations and Communication journals, the websites of the PRism journal, the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA), the Public Relations Institutes of Australia (PRIA) and New Zealand (PRINZ), and via the database search platform Ebsco. The content analysis provided information about the number of published articles, leading theoretical models, research methods, and research orientation. The in-depth interviews, the chosen method to investigate the crisis communication practices, were conducted with three Australian and three New Zealand practitioners and addressed the issues of cultural influence, strategy applicability, and stakeholder relevance in crisis communication. However, both methods complement each other and add different perspectives to the research subject. The findings of this research project indicate a dominance of non-theoretical, qualitative crisis communication research in Australia and New Zealand in the last ten years, while publications on crisis communication research in general are decreasing in New Zealand. The findings also reveal that the majority of studies employed case studies as a research method, using qualitative context analysis as the preferred data collection method. Overall, the research focus lies with the evaluation of crisis incidents, mostly exploring general crises such as those occurring in financial, political, and business sectors. With regard to the specific issues the results propose a clear influence of culture on crisis communication, especially in terms of audience perception and reaction to communication strategies. Organisational culture and structure is found to be an additional, significant factor in crisis management and communication. The results also suggest that stakeholders, although considered as very important, are mostly regarded from the organisation’s (sender) perspective. This one-sided approach does not take the stakeholder (receiver) perspective into account and neglects stakeholders as potential victims of a crisis.