An Investigation of How Organisations Manage Crises on Social Media Platforms
If one concedes to the idea of Edmund Burke that traditional media is the Fourth Estate, an organ bound to keep dutiful watch over the three pillars of the state, then social media is the Fifth Estate. For it keeps watch over the media and the other three pillars. It is where events and the news are either authenticated or rejected by real people. Although it is generally agreed that traditional forms of media still remain the main source of news worldwide, social media is quickly becoming the leading public platform were even actions of organisations are discussed. The aim of this research is therefore to investigate how organisations use social media to lessen the severity of crises situations, and by implication protect their reputations.
To that end, the paper investigates how three state-funded organisations in Namibia execute this: Air Namibia, the University of Namibia and the Office of the President. It does so by critically looking at (a) how organisations structure themselves to manage social media, (b) how organisations conduct planning for social media, (c) techniques used during crises periods and (d) the evaluation of the techniques employed. The theoretical framework used is the Social Information Theory developed by Joseph Walther. The dominant research design used is qualitative, relying on content analysis juxtaposed with data collected through interviews from Public Relations practitioners of the aforementioned organisations.
Tentative findings reveal that all organisations are structured to handle social media. However, all organisations seem poorly prepared to dilute a crisis via social media. There seem to be no standard operating rules and procedures during a time of crisis for most of these organisations. This research will make several recommendations that will aid social media management and thus create meaningful engagement for companies with their stakeholders during a time of crisis. Chief among them is a standard operating procedure template for managing crises using social media platforms.