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It is worth noting that anger and alertness were differently expressed by general public and journalists within each crisis phase. This finding implies that the conflicting emotions during the “No-action” and “Apology” phases can pose threats to Samsung, thus significantly influence the organization’s reputation. Public relations managers are encouraged to monitor different types of emotions expressed on the Internet as well as main-stream media, and to develop postcrisis communication strategies for reducing the level of anger and alertness.
In testing RQ2, examining perceived responsibility of Samsung by crisis phases and by different publics (general public/blogs vs. journalists/online newspapers), before Samsung was revealed as a cause of the oil spill, there was little responsibility of Samsung; however, after Samsung was found as a cause, the perceived responsibility increased. Moreover, even after Samsung’s apology, there was greater perceived responsibility of Samsung than before. This finding may imply that Samsung’s late response caused more responsibility to be placed on Samsung. This study also revealed that Samsung’s perceived crisis responsibility increased as general public’s anger was continuously expressed. This study suggests that public relations 409 managers need to monitor people’s perceptions of crisis responsibility, which can be different from journalists’ framing of news coverage in post-crisis communication.
Regarding the Korean government’s perceived crisis responsibility, the perception of crisis responsibility was decreased at the second phase, while it was slightly increased at the third phase. This result shows that in the case of high-profile crisis such as the oil spill, the government has to manage the crisis situation, despite the fact that they are not the direct cause of the crisis. With regard to the journalists’ and general public’s perceptions of crisis responsibility, journalists reported more crisis responsibility toward Hebei Spirit, which was another cause of the oil spill, and toward the Korean government than general public. According to this result, it is assumed that journalists try to find various causes of a crisis rather than focusing on a main culprit of the crisis. On the other hand, on blogs, people tend to focus on the main public, who takes in charge of the crisis.
In examining what contingent factors (RQ3) were shown differently in blogs and online news coverage, among five external variables only external public characteristics factor and issue under consideration characteristics factor were significantly differentiated in terms of crisis phase. That is, public’s concern and argument about the possible cause of the oil spill was increased over time. This may be due to the fact that as the three crisis phases passed by from when Samsung’s possible source of the crisis was unrevealed to the time when Samsung actually shared its responsibility, general public’s discourse regarding the issue and concern for victims (e.g., fisheries of Taean) cannot be but increasing.
In terms of two different publics, industry specific environment, general political/social environment and external public factors were differently reflected between journalist and bloggers insofar as journalists contained more factors respectively than blogger. It is reasonably assumed that journalists’ distinctive role for delivering exact information let them include more contingent factors in writing their news articles. In other words, while on blogs, people tend to focus more on expressing their thoughts from their own viewpoint, journalists tend to balance the news story by considering more contingent factors.
Finally, in order to see how Samsung’s CRS were covered differently in regards to crisis phases (RQ4), as time goes by, both public’s and journalists’ perceived CRS of Samsung shifted from more advocate strategies to more accommodative strategies, which supported the division of three crisis phase. However, at the third phase, although Samsung accepted its responsibility and publicized their official apology in national newspapers, both general public and journalists perceived that Samsung utilized excuse or justification at the same time. This study implies that although Samsung officially apologized at the third crisis phase, Samsung’s perceived CRS toward general public and local residents were varied and even included more advocate strategies such as denial, excuse, or justification. That is, while journalists (online newspapers) perceived that Samsung employed more accommodative strategies, especially corrective action or full apology, general public (blogs) assessed Samsung chose more advocate strategies such as denial or excuse. This finding suggests that public’s attribution of CRS can be dissimilar to what an origination actually employed.
The public might contemplate that Samsung only accepted their ethical responsibility, not their legal responsibilities, thus public’s perceived CRS of Samsung could be less accommodative. It may be supported by the fact that Samsung only publicized a brief apology in the national newspaper without mentioning their compensations or actual plans for the victims.
In sum, this study emphasized the importance of understanding a novel factor in speculating the actual crisis, different public’s emotions by comparing blogs and online 410 newspapers. Moreover, this study indicated that general public and journalists produced different level of emotions and perceptions of crisis responsibility as well as reflected different contingent factors and an organization’s CRS in each crisis phase. These results provide meaningful insights to public relations practitioners. In times of a crisis, public relations practitioners should not overlook general publics’ emotions and perceptions toward an organization online by assuming that their emotions and attribution of the crisis could be identical to how media actually framed them.
Limitations and future research By examining both of online news coverage and blogs regarding the Samsung oil spill crisis, this study shed light on understanding general public’s and journalists’ emotions and perceptions toward the organization’s CRS in a given crisis and within each crisis phases.
However, this study has several limitations. This study only employed the quantitative content analysis of news articles and blogs of the Samsung oil spill crisis. Future study may contain 1) direct news releases of Samsung to better understand the organization’s responses to the crisis before they are reflected in the public’s eyes and journalists’ frame of news articles, and 2) online posting of more involved publics (e.g., online community for Taean residents or for shareholders of Samsung) to reflect much variation of other public groups and their similar/dissimilar reactions toward Samsung as well as the crisis itself. Additionally, as Taylor and Perry (2005) illustrated, many organizations cannot but be integrating the Internet into their crisis response. From our findings, further experimental research examining in a given crisis that can show how dissimilar emotions and perceived crisis responsibility pouring out from different publics affect an organization’s reputation, credibility, attitude, and even purchase intentions is needed to corroborate and develop the current study. The future empirical research will also contribute to advancing a theoretical framework for the application of either the contingency theory or the SCCT.
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Eunseong Kim, Assistant Professor, Journalism Department, Eastern Ilinois University, Charleston, IL, USA.
email@example.com Terri L. Johnson, Associate Professor, Journalism Department, Eastern Ilinois University, Charleston, IL, USA.
This study reports the uses of and attitudes toward new media technology among public relations practitioners. The online-based survey among the PRSA members conducted in 2009 found that the most frequently used technologies among respondents were e-mail, web browsing, and intranet. Social media technology tools were not yet frequently used, but their use is in an increasing trend. Respondents believed that new technology has had a positive impact on their work, and they viewed on-site technology support and on-site technology workshops most useful in helping them learn new technology. Suggestions for employers were discussed.