Vaasan yliopiston opinnäytteet

Filosofinen tiedekunta, 2015

Lahti, Elsi

Social media and crisis communication: A case study on Germanwings' and Lufthansa's use of social media in crisis communication

Ohjaaja/Valvoja (DI):
Esa Hyyryläinen
Hallintotieteiden maisteri
Master's Degree Programme in Intercultural Studies in Communication and Administration
Tutkielman kieli:
Social media has become an integral part of communication, both among the public and organisations. Traditional theories on crisis communication are challenged by the emergence of social media and the active participation of citizens. Social media allows information to be shared quickly across communities and even countries, having the power to turn local crises into global ones. The thesis will focus on how organisations can use social media in crisis communication.

Crisis communication is an integral part of crisis management. Theories of crisis management and crisis communication will be discussed in the thesis, crisis communication forming the main theoretical framework. In addition to crisis communication, the concept of social media will be examined and how it has affected crisis communication strategies. The role and functions of social media in crisis communication will also be discussed.

The research methods used in this thesis are qualitative and descriptive. A case study was chosen as a research method to provide an example of how an international organization has used social media, or more specifically Twitter, in its crisis communication. The data for the case study was gathered from The organisation’s Twitter account, consisting of posts made by the organization in the first months of the crisis.

What became evident during the research was that it is crucial for organisations to use social media as a crisis communication tool to communicate effectively. During crises, social media functions as a platform for people to look for and share information, find support and discuss what has happened, for example. Organisations should not only be present in social media but actively participate in conversing with the public. Social media is about interactivity, openness, communities and transparency and organisation are expected to behave in such a way too when in social media. However, traditional media should not be forgotten in crisis communication. Organisations are required to incorporate different channels of communication, which creates new challenges but also opportunities.

To conclude, social media should not be ignored when planning crisis communication. To meet the needs of the public and to save an organisation’s reputation, organisations are recommended to incorporate social media in their crisis communication. Organisations have several ways of doing that, by getting to know the logic behind social media and how they can most effectively communicate with the public.
crisis communication, social media, crisis management
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