This study aims to develop a framework in the field of crisis communication by understanding and creating a measurement outline that articulates the impact of social media on the organisation during and after a crisis.
Social media plays a central role in crisis communication management. Crisis communication research has primarily focused on strategies to protect organisational reputation (Frandsen & Johansen 2011). Research in this area has mainly focused on incorporating social media analysis of stakeholder perceptions to inform crisis response strategies (Lambret & Barki 2018; Stieglitz et al 2018) and the development of the interactive crisis communication model for social media for crisis communication response (Cheng 2018). Most recently the success of using social media analytics to inform crisis communication during the Covid-19 pandemic methods were discussed in various papers, including those of Chon and Kim (2022). In the disaster management field, social media information has been used together with CyberGIS information to provide a deeper and real-time understanding of disasters (Huang et al 2015). Various theories to this extent has been developed including social-mediated crisis communication (SMCC), the STREMII model, the social media crisis management matrix/framework (SMSMF) (Bukar et al 2020). However, all these studies focus on how social media can assist reputation protection in a crisis.
This study, however, wants to forward theory development in crisis communication by not investigating the use social media as part of the crisis response plan, but rather understanding and creating a measurement framework for the impact of social media on the organisation during and after a crisis. It therefore aims to articulate the impact that social media can have on an organisation in crisis, in order to contextualise the role of social media in a corporate crisis. The framework for measurement is expected to include elements from cost to business, reputation impact, changes in goodwill and so forth. Measuring this important element of communication during a crisis, could help organisations to determine their success or failure in managing the crisis, based on various organisational elements like reputation, cost to the business and so forth.
When considering the current measuring frameworks available in corporate communication, two main tools need to be mentioned: the AMEC framework and the Corporate Reputation Quotient. The AMEC framework provides clear guidelines to organisations on how communication should be measured, including the communication output through to the final outcomes and societal impact (AMEC, 2023). This accepted corporate communication measurement framework, based on the 3rd iteration of the Barcelona Principles of measurement in communication (AMEC 2023b), provides guidance to the industry, but lacks a specific view of how to quantify crisis communication impact, specifically social media impact on an organisation.
In addition, the Corporate Reptation Quotient (Forbrun et al 2000) has provided organisations with a measurement tool to judge the growth or decline of their reputation, which could be applied for crisis situations, but to date has not been applied to this context. Within this model, the impact of the social media element during a crisis has also not been explored.
This study will be theoretically framed by crisis communication, strategic communication management and social media theories, as viewed from a reflective paradigm.
The overall research objective would be to:
Develop a measurement framework to assess the impact of social media on organisations during and after a crisis.
The specific research objectives will be:
1. To determine the relationship between crisis communication, social media and strategic communication management elements of measurement that can be used to understand the impact of social media during and after a crisis, from a theoretical perspective
2. To determine elements of measurement that can be used to understand the impact of social media during and after an organisational crisis, from the perspectives of CEOs, CFOs and Chief Communication Officers from energy providers globally
3. To distil insights on elements of measurement that can be used during and after an organisational crisis, by analysing social media posts and reactions from energy providers globally
To provide a broad view across industries on a measurement framework to determine social media impact during and after a crisis, a mixed method research will be used that combine qualitative and quantitative elements. The specific methods used will include semi-structured interviews, social media content analysis and questionnaires. For the qualitative part of the study, a total of 20 CEOs, CFOs and Chief Communication Officers across energy providers across the globe, will be selected based on their knowledge and experience in crisis communication. A social media analysis across a stratified sample from the same organisations, will provide further insights on the published crisis communication and reactions to this communication. The quantitative part of the study will include a representative sample from the energy providers, stratified geographically. The top managers in these organisations will be targeted with the questionnaire. Training and support will be given to the candidate to support them in complete a mixed method study.
The outcome of the study would be the development of a measurement framework to determine the impact of social media on organisation during and after a crisis. The contribution of the study academically would include theory development in this new field, whereas the practical contribution of the study would enable global organisations to track the impact of social media on their business during and after a crisis, and isolate the measurement of the social media impact for improved management.
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The closing date for applications is 10/12/2023
Before stepping into academia, Tanya worked as a communication professional in South Africa and the UK. She worked for large and small companies, and consulted on issues from strategic communication, communication in change management, to identity creation – and all the other communication management issues in-between. She has lectured strategic communication management for 13 years in South Africa before joining BU. Tanya strongly believes in combining academic work and practical experience, locally and internationally, in order to benefit both academia and professional practice. She shares her knowledge through the journal articles and chapters she has published, as well as through presentations at conferences. Tanya serves on the global Blue Ribbon Panel that evaluates the yearly international IABC (International Association for Business Communicators) Gold Quill Awards. Her research interest is focused on strategic corporate communication management, and specifically the application thereof within the field of disaster risk reduction.
A fully-funded Studentship includes a maintenance grant of £18,622 per year to contribute towards living expenses during the course of your research, as well as a fee waiver for 36 months.
Associated costs, such as for fieldwork and conference attendance, will also be met under the Studentship.
The Research Development Programme, developed by the Doctoral College in line with the Researcher Development Framework (Vitae).An added benefit is the opportunity to meet researchers from other academic schools at BU through the activities of the Doctoral College and benefit from their experiences, skills, and perspectives.
Full entry requirements
The BU PhD and MRes Studentships are open to UK, EU and International students.
Candidates for a PhD Studentship should demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 4 years and must demonstrate:
- Outstanding academic potential as measured normally by either a 1st class honours degree (or equivalent Grade Point Average (GPA) or a Master’s degree with distinction or equivalent
- An IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 6.0 in each component, or equivalent) for candidates for whom English is not their first language and this must be evidenced at point of application.
In addition to satisfying minimum entry criteria, BU will look closely at the qualities, skills and background of each candidate and what they can bring to their chosen research project in order to ensure successful completion.
Applicants will be asked to submit an online application form and a proposal (approximately 1500 words) outlining their understanding of the project for which they are applying, the approach they would envisage taking and what qualities they will bring to the research community.
- current BU Doctoral students are not eligible to apply for a Studentship
- current MRes/MPhil students can apply, subject to satisfactory completion of their Research Degree prior to being able to take up the award
- PhD Studentships cannot be used to support BU staff to complete doctoral programmes.
Additional entry requirements: Degree in a related discipline, which could include strategic communication, public relations, crisis management, organisational strategy or business disciplines
International entry requirements
If English is not your first language, you will need to provide evidence that you can understand English to a satisfactory level. English language requirements for this course are normally:
IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 (with a minimum 6.0 in each component) or equivalent.
View further information about our English language requirements.
A number of pre-sessional English and preparatory programmes are offered through our partner institution, Bournemouth University International College, and will get you ready for study at BU at the appropriate level.
You can also find further details of the international qualifications we accept, and what level of study they apply to, on our postgraduate entry requirements page.
How to apply
Click the green ‘Apply now’ button at the top of the page and complete the online application form. You can find further guidance about applying for a postgraduate research degree in our Postgraduate Research section.
The closing date for applications 10/12/2023.
A research degree can open new career opportunities in commercial research and development, consultancy, or could lead you to starting your own business. You may alternatively consider a career in academia. You may wish to undertake research to contribute to your knowledge of a specialist subject, or develop your employability by enhancing your skills in project management and analysis.