Crisis communication: organization's reactions to unexpected events

Alves, Mário Aquino
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Reputation is considered the most important asset of companies. It enables to set up business relationship and ensure the good functioning of the organization. When an unexpected even crops up, reputation could be threatened. Managers, leaders of the organization, need to demonstrate reactivity, a capacity of responding to stakeholders‟ requirements and a capacity to detect and to rectify faults within the organization through a learning process, in order to avoid negative consequences. The latter could tarnish reputation and impact the operational development of the company. Through crisis communication, we observed that Air France adopted different postures after the crash of the flight 447. These ones were adapted to stakeholders‟ requirements and to the degree of threat that the company suffered. Just after the accident, the company decided to use the recognition strategy by assuming a symbolic responsibility and by communicating uppermost to the families of victims and to the media. The following weeks, the company privileged the strategy of silence which consists in not to communicate directly with the media. Finally, Air France used the 'scapegoat' strategy when the company was subjected to direct attacks. Companies‟ reactions summed up to the advance of the ongoing judiciary investigation revealed 'historical' organizational faults within the company, as for instance, the lack of communication between pilots and managers or the managers technical and operational insensitivity. Although internal and external issues, Air France demonstrated that a well managed crisis communication limits financial and reputational impacts. Consequently, the company suffers limited negative consequences of this crisis.

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