Week 6 Blog Journal: Crisis Management and Issues in the Internet Era

Mediated Crisis Management on the Internet

In the essay “Taxonomy of mediated crisis responses”, published in Issue 33 of Public Relations Review, Taylor and Kent argue for the usage of the Internet as a medium of mediated crisis response. They also offer several suggestions for the best practices and individual details of individual steps and actions that can be taken during each phrase of a crisis.

In putting forth these tactics and suggestions, Taylor and Kent constructed their findings from the empirical research conducted into a study of 175 profiled crises and over 100 internet responses. The method of epistemology is historical in nature, relying on existing evidence to extrapolate a number of “best practices”. The primary method of data collection was discourse analysis, particularly with netnography(Internet-ethnography).

Taylor and Kent contend that the best crises responses involved the following activities or strategies:

  1. uploading of traditional tactics to the Web site:
    Existing crisis mediation materials such as press releases, Question and Answer sheets, fact sheets, transcripts, letters, et cetera are uploaded onto the internet in varying formats. Most commonly, the .pdf format is used.
  2. integrating innovative tactics: various technologies are brought together under web code, such as:
    Interactive features that promote 2-way communication(<form> tags in html, submissions in Flash, .php, et certera)
    Outward Links towards useful, respected material: demonstrating openness and transparency by readily directing users to external sources such as government agencies’ own mediums
    Real-time updates that allow for synchronisation of latest updates to reduce the delay in reporting and response
    Video/Audio effects such as recorded and real time images and sound can be published without the editorial filters associated with mainsteam media, thereby aiding both journalists and other stakeholders
  3. reducing uncertainty during product recalls
    The flow of information to the client’s customers is especially important during product recalls because of the need for the customer to specifically identify any problems with the select units they own. Websites with graphical, user-friendly and intelligent content enable customers to get information, inquire about replacement status, and hence relieve uncertainty.
  4. using of client’s Web site to tell the client’s side of the crisis
    the controlled platform of a website allows a client to attain a soapbox platform on which the only editorial filters are that of the web server. Thus it has the freedom to post any content it wants, limited only by the availability of bandwidth and existing web technologies. The client is therefore able to form a cogent narrative, include cross-referencing links to boost credibility, incorporate user input, and archive the entire response.
  5. creating different Web pages for different stakeholders
    Different stakeholders can be directed to difference pages on the same website, thereby allowing them to avoid content they do not need and streamlining user experience.
  6. working with government agencies and their websites during the crisis
    Websites of Governments and related entities can be drawn in to direct traffic of stakeholders to the appropriate website, without the client having to host potentially damaging materials themselves.

These are evidenced in the various case studies reviewed by Taylor and Kent.

In addition to these, Taylor and Kent introduce some 14 specific tactics to use in the difference phrases of an issue/crisis, specially tailored for mediated crises on the internet.

The entry finds the points raised to be generally appealing to common sense, although not all of the points raised seem to have sufficient empirical backing. This is acceptable as the authors do not claim concrete knowledge but only a list of suggestions.

In addition to these suggestions, this entry would like to suggest two major do-nots for any sort of crisis media on the internet.

  1. Do not lie, mislead, misrepresent, or misdirect of either your own intentions or what you have.
    In the case of Nvidia, a graphics card and computer chip manufacturer, their attempt to cover up a lack of a new chip was exposed when their PR photos were used to expose their falsely made “Fermi” boards at a Graphics card show (Demerjian, 2009) . Although this happened chiefly because Nvidia made a fake in the first place, their PR efforts in uploading photos and in publicly denying came back to haunt them. Anything posted onto the internet can be assumed to be forever given to the publics, because it can be archived and used against a client later. Hence the evidence of their deception became readily available later, readily dissected by the numerous technical experts on the various internet communities. It is therefore extremely unwise to doctor or misrepresent anything online.
    This dealt a further blow to their public image when they again tried to misrepresent what they had (Demerjian, Nvidia’s CEO has another ‘woodscrew moment’, 2011). Likewise with the scandal surrounding BP’s repeated doctoring of photos of it’s efforts in relieving oil spills(Wit, 2010), a moderate crisis can easily develop into the questions of the very integrity of the entire organisation when it persistently misrepresents its intentions and activities.
  2. Do not attack any internet community.
    Aaron Barr, the chief executive of HBGary Federal, an internet security firm, had threatened to release the personal information of members of Anonymous(an anonymous group of Internet hactivists) to the FBI, taunting them with Tweets implying he had power over them and that they were simplistic (Anderson, 211), whilst putting up a “research” front to them in personal correspondence. Anonymous responded by promptly hacking into his HBGary Federal information systems and showing FBI that the information Barr had was nonsensical. They also hacked his twitter and uploaded the entire cache of emails on his web server, revealing much scandalous material for the mainstream media to follow up.
    As above, one lesson learnt is that embellishment of any sort is going to cause a lot of trouble on the Internet, because of the mass of technical experts around. The second lesson is that it is a massive mistake to pick a fight with any internet community, regardless of whether they are anonymous or not.


Anderson, N. (2011, February 11). How one man tracked down Anonymous—and paid a heavy price. Retrieved November 03, 2011, from ars technical: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/02/how-one-security-firm-tracked-anonymousand-paid-a-heavy-price.ars

Demerjian, C. (2009, October 1). Nvidia fakes Fermi boards at GPU Technology Conference. Retrieved November 3, 2011, from SemiAccurate: http://semiaccurate.com/2009/10/01/nvidia-fakes-fermi-boards-gtc/

Demerjian, C. (2011, March 11). Nvidia’s CEO has another ‘woodscrew moment’. Retrieved November 3, 2011, from SemiAccurate: http://semiaccurate.com/2011/03/11/nvidias-ceo-has-another-woodscrew-moment/

Kent, M. L., & Taylor, M. (2007). Taxonomy of mediated crisis responses. Public Relations Review(33), 140-146.

Wit. (2010, July 21). BP’s ‘incredibly amateur’ Photoshop scandal . Retrieved November 3, 2011, from The Week: http://theweek.com/article/index/205197/bps-incredibly-amateur-photoshop-scandal


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