• Jens Mathias Kjær Jensen
The practice of corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be considered an organizational asset in the development and preservation of an organization’s image and reputation – also signifying its potential relevance in a crisis situation, where the image and reputation may be threatened. If an organization finds itself in the midst of a crisis, an efficient communicative crisis response, accommodating the nature of the crisis and the interests of its stakeholder, is essential. If the crisis is inflicted by social responsibility issues, the discursive advantages of CSR may constitute an efficient crisis response – if represented in the right way.
The study deals with the communicative challenges of an organization during an organizational crisis, and is directed at an organization’s implementation of CSR discourse to constitute an efficient crisis response. To shed light on this area of interest, the study revolves around the organizational crisis of the Mozilla Foundation in 2014, where CSR discourse was extensively applied in its crisis communication. The crisis absolved with a full apology by Mozilla for mishandling the situation, meaning that its crisis response failed. This opened up the study question of, whether the occurrence of CSR-related discursive misalignments in its crisis communication could have caused this outcome, and to what extent. To further elucidate this question, the study examines how these conflicting discourses may arise in Mozilla’s crisis communication.
Following the hermeneutic and interpretive scientific approach, the study relies on the principles of the hermeneutic circle and social constructionism – complementing the set analytical frameworks of the study. William Benoit’s image restoration theory, Timothy Coombs’s situational crisis communication theory and Finn Frandsen and Winni Johansen’s rhetorical arena model constitute the analytical framework of crisis communication – used in the analysis of Mozilla’s overall crisis communication. Norman Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis theory, supplemented by Laclau and Mouffe’s Discourse Theory, constitute the analytical framework used in the analysis of discursive properties within the CSR-infused crisis communication.
Through the analysis of Mozilla’s crisis communication and the discursive properties thereof, the study reveals that discursive misalignments are apparent in Mozilla’s representation of its social responsibility – creating an ambiguous message in its crisis response. The cause of these misalignments is primarily found within the active role of several communicating actors with authority (CEO, Executive Chairwoman and the organization), whose identities are conflicting, resulting in the presence of different ideological and social purposes. The study finds that the observed misalignments are too indistinctive to be measured in terms of crisis communication theory in its current form. Accordingly, the study is inconclusive in determining the extent to which the revealed discursive misalignments caused the outcome of the crisis. However, it does point to an insufficiency in crisis communication theory – so as to accommodate more complex discursive structures in organizational crisis communication. Moreover, the findings of the study provide valuable insights in the usage of CSR discourse in crisis communication, even though these may be limited due to the scope of the study. Nevertheless, it contributes to a research area that is seemingly unexplored and opens up potentials for further research, which may be considered the academic purpose of the study.
Publication date26 Jul 2015
Number of pages113
ID: 213333061