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How focusing positively on errors can help organizations become more communicative: An alternative approach to crisis communication

Charlotte Simonsson (Department of Strategic Communication, Lunds Universitet, Lund, Sweden)
Mats Heide (Department of Strategic Communication, Lunds Universitet, Lund, Sweden)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 8 May 2018

1853

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to gain new knowledge of how organizational errors can be used to early detect signals of impending crises and thereby develop internal crisis communication. Three communication processes – organizational culture, leadership and learning – that are particularly important for the development of internal crisis communication are focused. The paper also discusses what kind of learning error management supports, and suggests how crisis communication as a practice can be developed. The thesis is that intensified work of improving internal crisis communication is a vital step of becoming a communicative organization, where all coworkers are understood and act as strategic communicators.

Design/methodology/approach

This empirical study is part of a three-year research project on internal crisis communication within a Swedish university hospital. This paper is based on a sub-study with 37 qualitative semi-structured interviews with nurses, physicians, managers and crisis management specialists within the hospital.

Findings

The paper offers knowledge about how internal crisis communication can be developed by focusing on errors as resource to anticipate a crisis and as material for organizational learning. Coworkers are mainly focused in the article and are seen as important sources and strategic communicators. It is further emphasized that error management is not a matter of technological solutions, but rather a question of communicative aspects of leadership and organizational culture.

Practical implications

It is suggested that initiatives to develop internal crisis communication is an important step for organizations in becoming communicative organizations, and communication professionals have an important role to facilitate this development.

Originality/value

This paper gives a new understanding of internal crisis communication and the importance of leadership and culture.

Keywords

Citation

Simonsson, C. and Heide, M. (2018), "How focusing positively on errors can help organizations become more communicative: An alternative approach to crisis communication", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 179-196. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-04-2017-0044

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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