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Recently, a strategic approach to communication has become more significant than ever before (Walker, 2015). The reasons for this fact imply “trends in the workplace,” “the evolution of our understanding of the communication process,” and “the greater appreciation for the centrality of communication” (Walker, 2015, p. 5). A proper communication strategy is important for many circumstances. However, it becomes crucial in case of a crisis. Communicating information to interested audiences in a crisis is important. According to Putnam (as cited in Hagar, 2012, p. 1), “management of information before, during, and after a disaster can have a direct influence on how well the crisis is managed.”
In the case study under consideration, communication with the airbus of World Wide Airlines was lost. It was a critical situation because the plane was carrying 598 passengers from a minimum of thirteen countries. Thus, the primary task of the Vice President of Communication was to develop a communication strategy to deal with all interested parties including passengers’ family members, business associates, shareholders, INTERPOL, etc. The creation of such a strategy implies defining responsibilities, singling out main audiences to contact, outlining purposes and focuses, creating and maintaining credibility, and deciding on channels to contact people.
Discussing the Biggest Responsibility
According to Ulmer, Sellnow, and Seeger, responsibility “is a broad, ethical concept that refers to the fact that individuals and groups have morally based obligations and duties to others” (2013, p. 217). Responsibility also implies a person or a factor that conditioned the outcome of the situation. In the case of analysis, the company bears the biggest responsibility before its customers.
When they choose the company, they demand safe travel. Thus, the communication strategy should include the acknowledgment of the company’s responsibility before the people and affirmation of a successful crisis solution. The success of the selected communication strategy will determine the status of the company and the loyalty of its customers. Moreover, it will influence the reputation of the company in general and predetermine the attraction of new customers.
Audiences to Contact
The choice of audiences to contact is an integral part of a communication strategy. It is important to define audiences and their demographics, attitudes, and concerns to provide audience-centered communication (Walker, 2015). It should be mentioned that crisis communication is more complicated due to the involvement of diverse audiences with different cultures, experiences, and backgrounds (Sellnow & Seeger, 2013). Thus, all the mentioned factors should be considered in the development of a communication strategy.
The major audiences to contact in the case under analysis include the relatives of passengers on the plane, the global audience, and the international police. The family members of the passengers should be informed the first to avoid panic and misinterpretation of information. As for the global audience, it is necessary to contact them to maintain trust in the airline industry in general. Finally, contacting international police will be useful for the investigation of the case.
Purposes and Focuses
The establishment of purposes and focuses of communication would make it more efficient and informative. According to Walker (2015), there are four major purposes of communication. They are “to inform, to convey goodwill, to establish credibility, and to persuade and influence” (Walker, 2015, p. 58). Concerning all the selected audiences, one of the purposes is to inform them about the current state of things. It is one of the most obvious purposes but not the most important one. The purpose of conveying goodwill is related to the global audience. In this case, the speaker is focused on the creation of “positive, productive relationships with others” (Walker, 2015, p. 58), which can be treated as an asset in the field of business.
Any company is interested in retaining loyal and attracting new customers, and in a crisis, it is necessary to demonstrate benevolent intentions and make the audience trust the company. One of the important purposes of crisis communication is to persuade and influence. It relates to communication with the passengers’ family members and the global audience. Its major focus is to persuade these audiences that everything possible is done to resolve the situation with the airbus and provide evidence of active actions. It is crucial for the reputation of the airplane industry in general and World Wide Airlines in particular.
Creating and Maintaining Credibility
Creation and maintaining credibility is among the purposes of communication. Walker claims that “credible people demonstrate that they have strong emotional character and integrity; they are known to be honest, steady, and reliable” (2015, p. 62). Credibility is related to the reputation of the company. When customers choose a company to provide them with some service, they are not likely to consider its competitive advantage but they will pay attention to the company’s reputation (Walker, 2015). There are some factors that create the company’s credibility. They are “expertise and competence; personal ethics and integrity, or trustworthiness; control of emotions; development and maintenance of a professional image” (Walker, 2015, p. 62). As applied to the case, it is important to present expert information.
Channels to Contact people
The selection of channels to contact people is meaningful in a crisis. Walker singles out four channels of communication which include written, oral, nonverbal, and visual ones (2015). Each of them can be divided into a wide range of forms. As for the written channel, press releases and company web site might be efficient forms. Press releases are ways to spread information to mass media. They should include distinct information and be unbiased. The news of TV and radio companies and newspaper issues will be based on press releases.
The company’s web site should contain the latest information which will constantly be updated. It is the source of official information without journalists’ interpretation. The company’s web site is the place where everyone can find the latest news on the case online. Oral communication can be executed through videoconferences and speeches. Videoconferences and speeches of the company’s officials should be used in presenting information on crisis situations to avoid ambiguity. Finally, visual communication can include videos both in the news issues and on the Internet. In fact, as applied to the case, the forms of oral and visual communication will coincide.
On the whole, the development of a communication strategy in a crisis situation is more complicated than in normal conditions. It demands quick but thoughtful actions and involves more stakeholders than a common business case. First of all, it is necessary to define the spheres of responsibility of the company or other parties engaged. They also have an impact on the specification of the primary audiences to contact. The selection of audiences which are the most important is a necessary step in the creation of a communication strategy because it helps to concentrate on major issues of interest. Communication with every audience implies certain purposes and focuses.
They have to be clearly set to provide better contact with this or that audience. One of the core purposes of the communication process is creating and maintaining the credibility of the company. Within this purpose, the personality of the speaker and his or her qualities are crucial for the image of the company. The ability of the company’s representative to be persuasive is often decisive. Finally, after the audiences and communication purposes are defined, it is necessary to select channels to contact people. This stage is particularly important in case big audiences are involved. Communication channels should consider the needs of diverse audiences and be easily accessible. It is better to use different channels of contacting the audiences to provide good access to the information. It can be concluded that the success of crisis resolution greatly depends on the proper development and implementation of a communication strategy.
Hagar, C. (Ed.). (2012). Crisis information management: Communication and technologies. Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing.
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Sellnow, T.L., & Seeger, M.W. (2013). Theorizing crisis communication. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
Ulmer, R.R., Sellnow, T.L., & Seeger, M.W. (2013). Effective crisis communication: Moving from crisis to opportunity (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Walker, R. (2015). Strategic management communication for leaders (3rd ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.