Author(s), Title and Publication
Opitz, M., Chaudhri, V., & Wang, Y. (2018). Employee social-mediated crisis communication as opportunity or threat?. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 23(1), 66. doi:10.1108/CCIJ-07-2017-0069.

The ubiquity of social media has given way to a marked paradigm shift in organizational crisis communication. Whether through LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, employees of organizations in crisis can, with little effort communicate with an organization’s internal and external publics.  Organizations are in turn increasingly faced with the decentralization of crisis communications as employees intervene as either advocates or detractors of their organization through social media. To determine whether organizations should deem this diffuse and largely uncontrollable phenomenon as opportunity or threat, the authors compare the roles of two groups of stakeholders, consumers and employees, in effort to gauge the effect of employee social-mediated crisis communication on organizational reputation. The authors accomplished this through an online survey of 386 participants constituting the external publics of an organization.

On balance, it was found that the impact of employee messages was dependent on moderating conditions, such as message framing and medium. Moreover, in contrast to previous research which suggests employees are strong organizational advocates, this study found employees are not the most effective advocates of their organizations but can in fact be the most effective adversaries. Employee attacks on their employer routed through social media cause organizational reputation to suffer disproportionally. Results of the study thus bolstered extant scholarship insofar as employees’ defense of their organization correlated with moderately higher organizational reputation as compared to consumers’ crisis messages. This is to say, that when adversarial to the organization, employees’ communications relative to consumers’ communications resulted in lower organizational reputation and moreover, employees’ attacking communications had a more deleterious effect on the organization than the employees’ defense of their organization.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should (1) consider cultivating employees as boundary spanners and facilitate organizational channels to enable them to flag potential risks, (2) consider the use of specific employees to represent the organization in crisis-communication settings, (3) enlist employees preemptively in crisis-management preparation, (4) consider the benefits of allowing employees to use public networks instead of organization-owned platforms to enhance authenticity of communications, and (5) provide space for internal disclosure of wrongdoing to assist in problem solving at organizational level and minimize employee sharing of negative information on social media sites.

Location of Article
This article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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