Media coverage about organisations in critical situations

Christine Korn (Department of Communication, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany)
Sabine Einwiller (Department of Communication, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Publication date: 7 October 2013

Abstract

Purpose

This research aims to investigate how critical media coverage of an organisation affects its employees. The authors expect the effects to be similar to the way media coverage about an individual would affect this person, termed “reciprocal effects”.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on a framework for the analysis of reciprocal effects of mass media by Kepplinger and qualitative interviews among employees of 14 different organisations undergoing a crisis, the authors develop an employee-model of reciprocal effects for the context of organisational crises.

Findings

This qualitative research shows that employees are affected by media coverage on a critical issue about their employer. Mass media are an important source of information for employees in critical situations. The data indicate interpersonal conversations with colleagues are also important for obtaining information and coping with the situation. Employees show emotional reactions, such as helplessness or shame, and a tendency to defend their employer. The better employees feel informed by their organisation's internal communication, the better they know how to cope with the situation. The data indicate that the effects vary with the employees' level of organisational identification.

Practical implications

The findings imply that open and constant internal communication with employees during a crisis fosters reactions that stabilise the organisation in critical situations.

Originality/value

The study presented here is the first systematic analysis of the impact of media coverage of an organisation on its employees.

Keywords

Citation

Korn, C. and Einwiller, S. (2013), "Media coverage about organisations in critical situations", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 451-468. https://doi.org/10.1108/CCIJ-04-2012-0036

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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