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The role of social media in crisis communication from a democratic perspective : a qualitative case study of the fire in Moerdijk and the shooting incident in Alphen aan den Rijn in 2011

Bakx, M. (2012) The role of social media in crisis communication from a democratic perspective : a qualitative case study of the fire in Moerdijk and the shooting incident in Alphen aan den Rijn in 2011.

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Abstract:The increasing popularity of the social media is shown by the fact that they are nowadays playing an increasing role in people’s everyday life and have become an important way of communicating with each other. This increasing popularity also has consequences for crisis communication. Where crisis communication was previously conducted by making use of the traditional media, the social media provide a whole now perception. Not only new media devices can be used in crisis communication, but also a pressure on the quick dissemination of information can be seen as a result of the social media. This research focuses on the role the social media can have in crisis communication from a democratic perspective. The main research question in this research therefore is: “Which role can the social media from a democratic perspective have as an instrument for crisis communication in crisis situations?” This democratic perspective is important since especially in crisis communication one can speak of a tendency between providing quick and sufficient information in combination with making important decisions in a limited time span on the one hand, and including the public in this crisis communication which can be seen as a time consuming process on the other hand. This research gives insight in why it especially in crisis communication is important to also pay attention to this inclusion of the public from a democratic point of view. The above stated question is elaborated in this research by means of a qualitative case study which consists of two incidents in the Netherlands which both had great impact on society. These incidents are the fire in Moerdijk on the 5th of January 2011 and the shooting incident in Alphen aan den Rijn on the 9th of April 2011. The data collected for this research is retrieved from interviews being held with communication advisers of the different involved authorities in both incidents as all as from a document analysis. The analysis shows that the social media are a good addition to the traditional media devices which are being used in crisis communication and can be used to achieve the three objectives of crisis communication; meaning, providing sufficient information and limitation of harm. The social media are also in accordance with the three key principles of crisis communication, openness, honesty and speed, what especially from a democratic transparency perspective is important in crisis communication. To increase the legitimacy of the crisis communication being performed, it is important to make sure that the public has a positive opinion about this crisis communication. In order to accomplish this, it is important as authorities to listen to the questions and feelings of the public. This can first of all be done by paying attention to these public opinions in the social media in an environmental analysis. By knowing what is going an among the public, one is able to adapt the conducted crisis communication to the specific needs of the public. Secondly authorities can interact with the public by making use of the social media which can also increase legitimacy. Last of all it is important in crisis communication to be as transparent as possible at any time. Even when no information can be given yet, it is important to inform the public that you are working on providing this answer. The social media can also be of relevance in providing this up to date information by making use of small messages in which limited information can be provided or one can be directed to locations where more information can be found. Concluding it can be stated that especially in times of a crisis, when important decisions need to be made in a limited time span, it is still very important to pay attention to the democratic aspect which includes the needs of the public. Especially in the public sector the ‘citizen’ is central in crisis communication, therefore it is important to constantly keep the needs of the public in mind when performing crisis communication.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:88 social and public administration
Programme:Public Administration MSc (60020)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/62391
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