The indigenization of crisis response strategies in the context of China
Date of Issue2015
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
By an indigenous approach, the study seeks to explore: 1) the indigenous corporate crisis response strategies in the context of China; 2) the social contextual factors that may contribute to the employment of these strategies. For a clearer understanding of the distinctive features and characteristics of the Chinese corporate crisis response practice and style, the author proposes to classify Chinese domestic companies into two groups in terms of their ownership structures and to examine how they perform when confronted with an environmental crisis and also when confronted with a crisis that involves food and drug safety issues. The study comprises two parts. In Part 1 of this Study, the three unique Chinese strategies that are not featured in Western theoretical frameworks of the IRT and SCCT, are identified through qualitative content analyses of corporate crisis response. These strategies are “barnacle”, “third-party endorsement” and “setting up new topics or launching new projects”. The data sampling comprises 533 news articles, 61 Weibo posts and two official statements from companies’ official websites. In Part 2, the author conducted 20 in-depth interviews for the primary data collection with the objective of examining the opinions of Public Relations (PR) practitioners and government officials about these strategies and to discover the underpinning social contextual factors that may contribute to the employment of these strategies. These three strategies are primarily recognized in China by Chinese PR practitioners and government officials. The “barnacle” strategy is recognized as an institutional communication tactic and generally such behavioral patterns were confined to the SOEs and government. The SOEs take advantage of the government’s political power. The government, as the ultimate protector, media administrator and resource provider would instruct the SOEs to downplay the crisis. The SOEs’ responses generally would take the form of brief Official Statements and/or Press Releases. After the initial responses, subsequent news and media reports would then be dominated with positive news. Third-party endorsement is more like a “panacea” because it can be applied to meet varied situations and when combined with different strategies would enhance the effectiveness of these communication efforts. As seen from the perspective of the Chinese public, third parties are seen as specialists, authoritative experts and collective power sources. Setting up new topics is described as a public relations stunt mostly created by the POEs while the SOEs are more likely to launch a new project to mitigate the negative effects in the long term. Besides these strategies, other tactics, which are frequently used by Chinese companies to deal with crises, are also unearthed. Political power, cultural backgrounds, media natures, public idiosyncrasies and companies’ problematic status are found to have contributed to the employment of these strategies.
Nanyang Technological University