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Article

Audra Diers-Lawson

For organizations, crises are pervasive, difficult to keep quiet in today’s global multimedia environment; they are challenging, potentially catastrophic; they can even be opportunities for organizations to thrive and emerge stronger. Crises come in many shapes and sizes including media blunders, social media activism, extortion, product tampering, security issues, natural disasters, accidents, or negligence, just to name a few. The first research on crisis communication appeared in 1953, and since then the field has grown steadily. However, in the last five to six years there has been an explosion of theoretical development, international engagement, methodological diversity, and topic diversity within the field to reflect the growing multinational and multiplatform environment in which organizations and people interact. Therefore, in order to understand the field of crisis communication, as a public relations and management function, it is important to focus on the critical factors that affect our understanding of the concept and proliferation of research and practice in the area. There are five critical factors that drive our understanding and research in crisis communication: (1) issues and reputation management as crisis mitigation and prevention, (2) crisis types in a modern global environment, (3) organizational factors affecting crisis response, (4) stakeholder factors affecting crisis response, and (5) response factors to consider in crisis response. In addition, it will review the critical trends in crisis communication research, challenges within the field, and resources for further development.

Article

Given the scope of various ethical scandals in a wide range of organizations over the last several decades, research on organizational ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) has grown significantly. Scholars have sought to better understand factors related to ethical awareness, judgment, and action through descriptive, normative, and analytical approaches. Organizations have established extensive policies and practices to enable employees to address the ethical dilemmas that they experience, drawing upon theories of duty, rights, utility, virtue, and care to facilitate compliance and, ultimately, produce aspirational ethics. In recent years, scholars have argued that organizational ethics is not only an individual-level phenomenon but also one influenced by organizational practices and societal expectations. As a result, debates regarding the role of businesses in society have also proliferated under the umbrella term of CSR, with attention paid to business initiatives such as philanthropy, volunteerism, cause-related marketing, and, most recently, strategic CSR. To better understand the opportunities and challenges of CSR, advocates and critics have turned to theories of shareholder value, stakeholder theory, corporate social performance, and corporate citizenship. In doing so, they have reintroduced an age-old question regarding the rights and responsibilities of business in society.

Article

The concept of publics and related notions such as receivers, audiences, stakeholders, mass, markets, target groups, and the public sphere are central to any discussion of formal communication programs between organizations or other strategic communicators and the individuals or groups with which they strive to communicate. The concept explains why individuals and collectivities of individuals are motivated to communicate for themselves (to seek or otherwise acquire information), with similar individuals to form organized groups, and with formal organizations to make demands on those organizations or to shape the behavior of the organizations. Theories of publics originated in the 1920s as the result of debates over the nature of citizen participation in a democracy, the role of the mass media in forming public opinion, the role of public relations practitioners in the process, and the effects of communicated messages on publics, audiences, and other components of society. J. Grunig developed a situational theory of publics in the 1960s that has served as the most prominent theory of publics for 50 years, and J.-N. Kim and J. Grunig recently have expanded that theory into a situational theory of problem solving. These theories have been used to identify and segment types of publics, to explain the communication behaviors of those publics, to conceptualize the effects of formal communication programs, to understand the cognitive processes of members of publics, and to explain the development of activist groups. Other scholars have suggested additions to these theories or alternatives to more thoroughly explain how communication takes place between members of publics and to identify latent publics that are largely ignored in the situational theories.