Analysis of Case Study and Theoretical Application
The case study regarding the crises that hit Collinsville in North Queensland provided a situation that depicts the many things in life that most people are simply taking them for granted. In this analysis, this paper will provide important concepts and ideas that can be useful especially in times of severe crises. As Timothy Coombs has tagged it in his book, bad things happen and some times, thing were just going wrong. When this happened, they usually beyond human control and the resulting condition are extremely terrible. However, appropriate response to this kind of situation can certainly lessen the impact of the crises. It is in this context that this paper is headed. Using the case study, this paper will try to provide important ideas regarding crisis response strategy and theoretical framework helpful to this understanding.
The type of crisis this is, supporting your conclusion with discussion provided by the literature on types of crises
The type of crises experienced by Collinsville residents in North Queensland is what Timothy Coombs tagged as “when things go wrong.” According to Coombs, this type of crises is beyond the control of the organization. This could be caused by an accident, or by forces of nature in which, no one including the company did not want it to happen. In other words, despite of the preventive measures taken by the company to safe guard its operation, yet sometimes bad things happen and things just go wrong.
The approach taken by Powerlink and Ergon Energy in dealing with this crisis using Coombs crisis response strategies by posture
The two natural disasters that hit Collinsville in January and March 2007 created unexpected crises that brought terrible sufferings to the residents of Collinsville. The town’s power supply was knocked down by severe storm that forced the residents “not only to face the onset of nightfall in storms conditions with no power, but also potential disruptions to their electricity supply for up to two weeks while complex technical repairs were undertaken.” The resident suffered not only utter discomfort resulting from this calamities, but also of the absence of other personal comforts such as adequate water supply, air-conditioning system, the communication system via cellular phone and computer and internet based services, electric fans, and so on. What was even more stressful is the uncertainty that the power supply can be restored soon as the initial information was that it might take up to two weeks before the power could be safely restored
In view of Coombs model of crises response strategies, both companies had obviously met Coomb’s requirements with regards to the approach they have taken to deal with the crises. The approach was obviously designed, aside from quickly restoring the power supply, to keep the residents well informed of the developments, as well as to insure them of the management concerns and supports. This was evident in the management action to reinforce their efforts by sending senior officials on the area to developed meaningful relationship with key stakeholders. Looking at Coombs four postures namely: deny, diminish, reinforce, and rebuild, some of these postures were evident in the crises response taken by the companies.
A. The denial posture
This posture according to Coombs “seeks to disassociate any connection between the organization and the crises.” There are three categories under this posture namely attacking the accuser, denial and scapegoating. These three categories are quite explanatory but in essence, they depict the company as either irresponsible and selfish or lacking in moral and ethical principles. Denial posture simply would explain that no crises exist. Based on the response strategy implemented by PowerLink and Ergon Energy at Collinsville, this posture is out the way. Based on Coombs model of selecting suitable crises response strategy, denial was never the option of the two companies. The five guide questions namely, 1. is there substantial evidence that the crises occurred? 2. Is the damage that was caused minor or major? 3. has the public suffered from the crises and does it perceive it self as a victim or not? 4. Does the organization have a positive or negative general image based on past performance? 5. What is the most appropriate way to react to the crises? It appears that both Powerlink and Ergon Energy responsibly handled the crises at Collinsville.
B. Diminishing posture
This posture, according to Crandal et.al tries to picture the organization “as having little control over the crises.” The focal point of this posture is to make excuses and justification. That is, this posture seeks to frame the organizations as having little control of the crises or the events. Its objective of justification is to minimize the perception of damage resulting from the crises. In the same way that denials was never an option of both Powerlink and Ergon Energy, diminishing posture never occurred in the case study regarding Collinsville power crises. Instead, on the question regarding whether these organizations recognizes the crises, the answer was a sounding yes! On the contrary to excuses, justification, and minimizing responsibilities, obviously the two companies responded well in the situations.
C. Rebuilding Posture seek to rebuild the reputation
Reflecting on these questions, it appears that the approach taken by the companies was carefully planned and meets the answers of the five questions above posed by Coombs. Do PowerLink and Ergon Energy recognize that a crisis has occurred? The answer was a sounding yes. The management of the two companies specifically addressed the crises by implementing the right course of action. They based their actions on the questions above engaging in research, setting objectives, identifying the key person that could help
D. Bolstering posture or supplementing aforementioned strategy.
Based on what the two companies had done, it appears that both rebuilding and bolstering posture appears prominently in the crises response strategy implemented at Collinsville because the company had done their best efforts to address the concerns of the affected residents. The setting of goals and the initiative to identify key stake holders as well as the presence of senior management officials assigned in the area proved the two organizations had engaged a crisis response strategy that was both supplementing and rebuilding for the people’s needs.
Select a theory that you think can provide the framework for the case, justifying this selection with discussion of the theory
The theory that I think could provide the framework for the case study is the contingency theory. According to Coombs and Holladay, this theory is “a grand theory of public relations that explains the degree to which an organization uses an advocacy or accommodative response to conflict with stake holders.” As Coombs and Holladay pointed out, this theory helps us understand what guides policy-level decisions an organization makes about goals, alignments ethics, and relationships with publics and other forces of in its environment
This theory apparently reflects the progress and outcomes of the crises compared with any other crises management theory because it concerns about the organization’s response to conflict with stake holders, and also it is much concern about policy-level decision that the organization makes, as well as regarding relationships with publics of all the decisions made as well as the crises response strategy implemented by Powerlink and Ergon Energy at Collinsville more than any other theory in the same bracket.
Given the whole concepts of Contingency theory, the case at Collinsville highly involves ethical and relationship issues. Ethical issues include the moral obligations of the two organisations with their stakeholders despite of the fact that what happened was not a result of failure on their part. But the fact that Collinsville residents were their clientele, a relationship exists between the two entities. It is therefore in this aspect that Powerlink and Ergon Energy has a moral responsibility with the people at Collinsville. Indeed, the two organizations implemented several approaches that emphasized their concerns with the affected residents which depict that they highly valued their relationship with their costumers. This corporate behaviour in dealing with the crises reflects their willingness to conform to the theory of contingency. In demonstrating the value of relationships through their chosen crises response strategy, the two companies identified the crises by doing research on the nature of the crises in order to select an appropriate crises response strategy. According to Xavier, the two companies did a research by reviewing their emergency management handbooks, which effectively helped them consider a suitable response process.
Secondly, they identified the target publics which are important to the communication strategy. They identified seven major groups that could effectively facilitate communications. They also set up goals and objectives as well as communication strategies anchored on four themes namely: Be visible, Be available, Share information, and Partner with and involve relevant groups in the process and outcome. As a whole, Contingency theory reflects the progress and outcomes of the crises in terms of the existing relationships between the two organization and their consumers. Based on this relationships, things are being done and being worked out towards a achieving the solution to the crises.
Given the whole discussion, what were important in the end were the lessons that can be drawn from this experience. First was the manner by which the two companies responded to the crises. They were very responsible and were guided by a high sense of moral and ethical perspectives. They did not deny, justified or diminish responsibilities having little control of the cause of crises. They deserved an appreciation for their efforts. Second is the level of preparedness on the part of the two organizations, as they knew exactly what to do in times of emergency situation. Here, the people should also learn the value of preparedness. Given the entire experiences therefore, one thing that people should always be aware of is the value of relationships anchored on the moral and ethical perspective.
 Timothy Coombs PSI Handbook of Business Security, Volume 1 (USA: Praeger Security International, 2008) p. 164
 Robina Xavier Emergency Crises Communication: Returning Power to Collinsville Chapter 14, p. 207
 William Crandall, John Parnell and John Spillan Crises Management in the Strategy Landscape (USA: SAGE Publications, 2010) p. 158
Timothy Coombs and Sherry Hollady The Handbook of Crises Communication (UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2010) p. 36
 Xavier, p. 209