Social science research sometimes seems to confirm the obvious, but it doesn't hurt to be mindful of well-intended studies like this one from the University of Missouri's journalism school. There, the importance of "properly framing" the response to a crisis is being emphasized by focusing on "sadness-framing" of the mishap and avoiding "anger-framing." Having the results available might cheer crisis-response planners.
Focusing on the victims of a crisis and what's to be learned from it — the sadness-frame approach — is vastly preferable to responding in a manner that gives rise to the anger-frame, in which the organization or company involved is blamed for reprehensible conduct.
"It is important for corporations to put on a human face during crises," says Glen Cameron, the journalism professor who led the study, "If a corporation can focus on the wellbeing of the victims and how the corporation will improve following the crisis, they have a better chance of influencing 'sadness-frame' news coverage as opposed to 'anger-frame' coverage. If the news coverage remains 'sadness-framed,' public perception will stay more positive."
Cameron notes that the research is not intended to help corporations shirk responsibility, but rather to handle crisis situations in the best way possible.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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