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What Roles Does the Media Play in Crisis Management?

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Research Questions

Society and the mass media always influence each other. The culture of a certain society and its people often gives the information that is said in the types of media, and the media, in return, also shows information that can persuade or influence the members of society.

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The mass media (i.e. newspapers, magazines, television, film, radio and recording) are products of society. The media is one of the greatest tools of persuasion, as it reaches a great number of people in only a short time.

The average person spends more time occupied with the mass media than with any other single activity. According to Wells and Hakanesn (1997), the mass media is a vital part of the environment which greatly influences the behavior and thoughts of people.

This has led to me to the following research questions about the power of the media and its uses in crisis management.

·         How do crisis management teams use the media to relate their information to their co-workers and the public?

·         What must public relations departments of companies do when it comes to maintaining goodwill between them and the media, such that in times of crisis, they can be assured of fair coverage?

·         What are the main types of media and what are their individual uses when it comes to crisis management?

·         What are some examples when the media was used for damage control?

Literature Review

Mass media are though to play a great role when it comes to crisis management.

The employees of a company and the company’s clients and affiliates all deserve to know the truth in any situation, especially if these situations pose threats to their safeties, careers, and relationships with other people and society itself. The ultimate goal of media relations is credibility. The media plays a big role in advertising and public relations, consequently, crisis management. The media has a role to convey the truth to all its audience (Bivins, 2004: 126).

Media relations often plays a part in each of the areas of public relations, “it is more useful to recast it as providing important access points and communications avenues for the industry as a whole” (Johnston, 2008: 2). Even if a company’s situation seems safe, it is still important to have good media relations. Most companies have plenty of opportunities to interact with the media, in non-crisis times, like when earnings, executive promotions, and new products are announced, etc. (Luecke, 2004: 99). Good relationships must be built. “The best time for key members of the crisis management team to develop positive relationships with the public relations staff on campus and the media is before a crisis strikes, not after” (Zdziarski, Dunkel & Rollo, 2007: 188).

Media relations is also very vital in the factors to consider in negative situations. During a crisis, it is very possible that the local, nation, or even international media and all its constituents will become interested in the events (Kovacich & Halibozek, 2003: 301).

Any crisis management team must learn how to structure and plan public relations tactics to use the media. They must be able to develop relationships with reporters and other members of the press, both from print and electronic media (Heath & Vasquez, 2004: 442). Public relations focuses on goodwill within and with other companies, it is only natural that they also have good relations with the media, which is the best disseminator of information. The mass media in this industry acts both as the “risk managers” which diffuses information about the measures which will be taken in the cases the company may face, and as the “public or private interest groups” with the special role of giving voice to opinions held by various groups (Liberatore, 1999: 17).

Mass media, for whatever said role it may play in the industry, is divided into five areas: television, radio, newspapers/ magazines, trade publications, and the internet. The needs of each of these media outlets vary. What may apply to one medium may not apply to the others. Having a general understanding of their individual needs will help one communicate one’s messages more effectively during a crisis (Reid, 2000: 95).

Fallon and Zgodzinski (2004) reiterate that, “various elements [and types] of the media have important roles and responsibilities during a crisis. Arrangements and contacts with persons in the media must be established before a crisis actually occurs”. This is a means of warning employees or the public about possible negative situations that may arise, situations that are anticipated and expected.

The company and its affiliates use both paid and free media to tell their story in order to influence the public and inform them of the crisis that they are currently facing, and how this may affect their environment, and what they are doing to fix it (Caywood, 1997: 191)

A good example of the power of the media when it comes to crisis management is through PepsiCo’s incident back in 1993. Rumors escalated that syringes had been discovered in cans of Diet Pepsi. Their crisis management team used media technology as the answer to the issue. They let film crews into their factories and record the whole soft drink manufacturing process (Dezenhall & Weber, 2007: 131). Aside from their press releases in newspapers, they gave visuals in television to prove their company’s cleanliness and safety codes.

The media coverage may well influence their community and the nation. The depiction of a particular person or company in any given situation is reflected as the court of public opinion. Information like this has influences on the possible outcomes (Mackenzie, 2007: 1). At the same time, the media also serves its purpose in crisis management to the company as an indicator of what their state in the society is.

The media should always be viewed as “a potential friend rather than potential foe” (Regester & Larkin, 2002: 140). Members of the public relations and crisis management departments regularly mix with reporters to find out what concerns them and what news they expect to hear next. This helps shape what is and will be said at press conferences and written in press releases (140)—in this level, there can be damage control, and the reputation of the company and its good relationships with its clients and affiliates can be restored.


            The main method of the research is through intensive research and analysis on two parts. One research will be for crisis management teams of some famous/ national companies. I will be researching on such incidents when they encountered a crisis and how they utilized the media in their damage control. If possible, I will try to acquire their media outputs, if any (example: press releases, newspaper articles, video footages, etc.).

            The next part of the research will focus on intensive research with the different types of media (television, radio, newspapers/ magazines, trade publications and the internet). I will be listing down their unique elements, strengths and weaknesses in terms of crisis management and their relationships with one another, about how they influence each one’s information. Again, examples will be researched on to prove the power and use of each type of media.

Limitations of the Study

            There may be some limitations in looking for companies willing to be interviewed. Some might not want to reveal their media relations plans. For such situations, I plan to get just an overview and an idea.

            Also, local companies may not face as big as crises as the national companies, but nonetheless, the measures that they take in times of crises are sure to be similar, as they both involve damage control.

List of References

Bivins, T.H.
Mixed media: moral distinctions in advertising, public relations, and journalism.

New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Caywood, C.
The handbook of strategic public relations & integrated communications.

U.S.A., McGraw-Hill Professional.

Dezenhall, E. & Weber, J.
Damage control: why everything you know about crisis management is wrong.

Massachusetts, Portfolio

Fallon, L.F. & Zgodzinski, E.J.
Essentials of public health management.

Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Heath, R.L. & Vasquez, G.M.
Handbook of public relations.

California, SAGE

Johnston, J.
Media relations: issues and strategies.

Australia, Allen & Unwin.

Kovacich, G.L. & Halibozek, E.P.
The manager’s handbook for corporate security: establishing and managing a successful assets protection program.

Massachusetts, Butterworth-Heinemann.

Liberatore, A.
The management of uncertainty: learning from Chernobyl.

The Netherlands, Routledge

Luecke, R.
Crisis management: master the skills to prevent disasters.

Harvard Business Press.

Mackenzie, M.A.
Courting the media: public relations for the accused and the accuser.

Greenwood Publishing Group.

Regester, M., & Larkin, J.
Risk issues and crisis management. 2nd ed.

London, Kogan Page Publishers.

Reid, J.L.
Crisis management: planning and media relations for the design and construction industry.

Canada, John Wiley and Sons.
Wells, A. & Hakanen, E.A.
Mass media & society. 5th ed.

Greenwood Publishing Group.

Zdziarski, E.L., Dunkel, N.W. & Rollo, J.M.
Campus crisis management: a comprehensive guide to planning, prevention, response, and recovery.

California, John Wiley and Sons.

Cite this What Roles Does the Media Play in Crisis Management?

What Roles Does the Media Play in Crisis Management?. (2017, Feb 18). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/what-roles-does-the-media-play-in-crisis-management/

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