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Social Media in Crisis Management of Restaurants


Background of the Study

The world is increasingly getting com

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The French Revolution: Causes, Outcomes, Conflicting Interpretations

petitive due to various dynamics in the business world. In this competitive environment, crisis is a factor that a firm may not precisely predict, and neither can it be overly prevented. Crisis management is one of the most challenging tasks in any organization. Most organizations would always make an effort to ensure that a crisis is avoided. Barthe (2010, p. 89) defines a crisis as an event or a situation that may lead to dangerous or unstable situations, which may affect an individual, organization or the entire society. In every organization, a crisis would probably crop up and the management team would be called upon to come up with mitigation measures. As Bennett and Strange (2011, p. 36) observe, a crisis cannot be avoided, yet it can be predicted. The management cannot say for sure that the firm has eliminated all forms of crises because a simple insensible action from one of the employees may lead to a crisis, which would affect the entire firm.

When such an incident arises, there would be need to ensure that measures, which would help mitigate the crisis, are developed so that the effect of such a crisis is made less serious.

Scholars and management professionals have developed various approaches aimed at solving various forms of crises. Most of the approaches were based on the premises of Total Quality Management principles, which proved useful in the nineties to the Japanese firms and later to other firms in the international forum. However, technological changes have forced the management teams to look beyond TQM and various approaches have been devised, which are expected to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive market. Emerging technologies have completely redefined marketing approaches in the global market (Solomon 2011, p. 116). Firms have currently come to the realization that the internet is one of the key pillars of marketing in the current world. As such, many management professionals and scholars have tried to develop ways through which new technologies could be used to manage various forms of crises in the organization.

Social Media is one of the new technologies that current firms have found relevant. Bennett and Strange (2011, p. 67) note that when Facebook was introduced as a social media, very few individuals thought that it could be relevant to firms. The management staff of various firms thought that it was a site where lazy youths could go to spend their time, especially when they lacked serious activities at hand. Such firms believed that brick-and-moter was the way to go and when it came to marketing, mass media was the preferred mode of reaching out to customers. However, this changed slowly, as many firms realized that such social Medias as Facebook would form a community to be targeted by marketers. This was especially so because in these social media, Shelley and Maria (2011, p. 27) report that over 75 % of the visitors are youths.

This community therefore, has a clear market segment, which a firm could target with appropriate products. One such firm to realize the potential of the social media was the Coca Cola Company (Bennett & Strange 2011, p. 79). This firm realized that most of its customers were the youths. As such, this firm developed television commercials that would appeal to this market segment. Many firms followed suite and currently, the social media is one of the most preferred marketing sites for many firms. However, not many firms realized that the social media could do more than just market products of a firm. According to Wright and Hinson (2011, p. 29), it is a perfect site for marketing products; the use of social media to manage a crisis is increasingly becoming relevant in the current market.

Many firms currently prefer using the social media in managing crisis.

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The management would reach out to the customers and try to explain some facts that could have led to the crisis. Such crises would have effects to the firm and to its customers. They would also explain some of the measures that the firm would put in place not only to ensure that such incidents do not recur, but also compensatory measures it would plan to undertake in case customers were affected by such a crisis. This approach is turning out to be very popular as major businesses apply it in managing various crises, especially those that concern customers (Bennett & Strange 2011, p. 69). This paper seeks to investigate the use of social media in crisis management.

Problem Statement

Social media is increasingly becoming relevant to business units in various capacities. Many business organizations have come to the realization that social media is the answer to various management problems. However, scholars and management professionals are yet to come out with clear strategies on how to use social media in other areas besides marketing the products of the firm. Crisis management is one of the managerial activities that could use social media, especially if the crisis would be expected to have an impact on customers or other stakeholders, who are not immediate members of the business unit. There is need to ensure that there is a clearly defined approach that firms would take when it comes to managing crisis through the social media.

This would help eliminate the current confusion that exists in this particular area. Bennett and Strange (2011, p. 49) note that although some firms have successfully managed to implement social media as a marketing strategy, attempt of others have totally failed, leading to further crises in the firm.

This scholar notes that there is information that should reach customers and other stakeholders, while some should be retained even if they would cause the crisis. This is because by releasing some information, Barthe (2010, p. 83) notes that the firm would be exposing its weaknesses to customers, a fact that may lower their trust and hence loyalty towards the firm. Such information may also be taken up by competitors to bring down the firm, especially if such information may reveal the competitive advantage and the possible strength it has towards other firms. On the other hand, (Bennett & Strange 2011, p. 37) note that when using social media to reach out to the customers, the management should take into consideration the characteristics of the target market based on their demographics before formulating approaches on how they can best be reached. In order to come up with appropriate solutions to some of the mentioned problems, the researcher developed research questions and research hypotheses as stated below.

Research Questions and Research Hypotheses

Hakim (2000, p. 59) says that a research is like a journey to the unknown. When a researcher sets forth to conduct a research, it may not be possible to determine the exact outcome of the research, although it may be possible to make a guess. As such, a researcher would need to develop a research question that would help define the path that would be taken during the research. Research questions also help in avoiding irrelevant information that a researcher may come across while in the field. Shelley and Maria (2011, p. 79) say that in most occasions, a researcher would come across a lot of irrelevant but very interesting information that would destruct him or her. It is necessary therefore, that the researcher develops some research questions that would help in avoiding irrelevancy. The following are some of the research questions that the researcher developed for this particular research.

  1. How relevant is social media in managing crisis within a given firm?
  2. What are some of the advantages of social media in managing crisis within an organization?
  3. Why do the current management units of various corporate firms prefer the use of social media in managing crisis?

The above three questions are expected to guide the entire research, as the researcher seeks to find comprehensive answers to them. From the above questions, the researcher developed the following hypotheses that would either be confirmed or be rejected from the analysis of both the primary and secondary data.

  • H1o. Social media is not relevant in managing crisis in an organization.
  • H1a. Social media is very relevant in managing crisis in an organization
  • H2o. The managements of various organizations around the world increasingly do not use social media in the management of crisis.
  • H2a. The managements of various organizations around the world increasingly use social media in the management of crisis.
  • H3o. The future of crisis management does not lie with the development of the social media.
  • H3a. The future of crisis management lies with the development of the social media

The researcher hopes to accept the alternative hypotheses by rejecting the null hypotheses in each of the three sets.

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Justification of the Research

A number of researches in this field have been done. This research is not intended to duplicate such works, neither is it intended to be a piece of academic report that would be kept in shelves after the concerned authorities have gone through and approved it. This detailed research is intended to have a positive implication to the management of various firms across the world in a market that has gotten increasingly competitive, with new inventions and innovations (Roxana & Valentin 2011, p. 113). The following are the factors that motivated this research.

Managements of organizations (both profitable and non-profit making organizations) are increasingly finding it very challenging to manage crisis especially when they were least expected. Such crisis always gets them unaware and their effects are always massive. Some organizations end up creative more crises in their attempt to manage the same. For this matter, various organizations have been grappling with the idea of developing the best strategy that would help them manage crisis in successful manners. Social media is one of the recent technological inventions that have had huge impact on the marketing sector (Solomon 2011, p. 29). Various firms have come to appreciate the fact that social media is can go beyond just marketing a firm to the target audience. Social media is gaining a new role in the corporate world. Various firms are considering the use of social media to manage crisis, especially if this involves rebuilding the image the firm that could have been destroyed by a negative publicity. This research therefore is focused on investigating the use of this new technology and its relevance in this new field. The researcher plans to draw recommendations to managements on the relevance of the social media and the best approach to take when using it to manage crisis.

Literature Review

Definition of Crisis

In order to understand the concept “crisis management” in organisations, a clear definition of “organisational crisis” must be given. Crandall et al (2010, p. 3) defined organisational crisis as “is a low probability, high impact event that threatens the viability of the organisation and is characterised by ambiguity of cause, effect, and means of resolution, as well as by a belief that decisions must be made swiftly.” Thus, organisational crisis is a situation that occurs in unexpected circumstances and it should be addressed rapidly in order to lower the effects of the outcome. Seeger et al (1998, p. 49) noted that in the light of this definition, four important elements are highlighted including threat, surprise, need of change and limited time. Canton (2007, p. 96) asserts that, to achieve successful results in crisis management, knowledge of history, understanding of human nature and technical expertise play key roles.

According to Brändström et al (2002, p. 58), the past is a huge database as it includes experiences of both individuals and organisations, collective components which is the main domain of everything that happens in the world. It is believed that history highlights what happened before, what actions were taken and the outcomes (Canton 2007, p. 115). In this sense, history could be seen as very important source for the solution for crisis occasions. Although in theory it may seem to be a simple to plan of crisis management strategies based on historic events, it gets complicated when it gets more depth in the term “organisational crisis”.

Shrivastava (1993, p. 91) noted that as large organisations operate in multiple areas/industries including marketing, finance, public relations/FMCG, the integration between them is important for success. Thus, there are more to come rather than history. Pauchant and Mitroff (1992, p. 82) observes that there are three main aspects that should be taken into consideration which are the main causes of any type of crisis, including psychological, social and technological. According to Pearson and Clair (1998, p. 18), despite the fact that these aspects should handled together, most of the organisations and researches mainly focus on only one aspect.

From the psychological point of view, it is essential to mention that crisis mostly consists of cognition and trauma, based on individuals’ experiences (Pearson & Clair, 1998, p. 82). These individuals could be either employees or other stakeholders which includes customers. Domino’s Pizza’s crisis in 2009 was caused by an uploaded video on YouTube that was about contamination of pizzas in one of their branch. This could be a good example for this point of view. Park et al (2012, p. 119) stated that this crisis was caused by ill-minded employees. It spread to more than half million people, and this affected cognition of customers to Domino’s Pizza and caused trauma. As a result, although Domino’s successfully managed this crisis with use of social media, people started to blame Domino’s Pizza management, and this threatened their loyalty to Domino’s Pizza.

When it comes to social point of view, the reasons for emergence of crisis could be collective breakdown which consists of collapse in the social order, followership, ordinary beliefs and values (Pearson & Clair, 1998, p. 17). Moreover Pearson & Clair (1998, p. 48) argues that the end result of social crisis would be replacement of old beliefs and values. Thus, crisis happens in order to change beliefs and values, especially when the public is not satisfied anymore and asks for something new. The First French Revolution which happened in 1789 – 1799 could be a great example of social crisis. According to Schwartz (2012, p. 89), there were mainly six reasons for the crisis including clash between aristocrats and bourgeoisies. As a result of this revolution, new models of government and civil rights were established, there were socio-economic changes, and there were great changes in ideas and political culture (Schwartz, 2012, 90).

The technological point of view suggests two points. First, rather than understanding technology as advanced tools; it is understood as advanced management policies, procedures, routines and practices (Pearson & Clair 1998, p. 73). Second, it is seen as great production, for example advanced way of communicating with customers, and at the same time it is seen as a great destruction. Thus, technology could either be crisis controller or be crisis creator. In Exxon case in which one of their tankers spilled at least 500,000 gallons, this was caused by technological advances. Similarly, Toyota’s success story in recall crisis which was caused by technology again, solved by advanced communication systems, could be good positive example. According to Hines (2010, p. 39), Toyota used social media to address to problems of their customers by being active 24/7, responding to all problems they face during this process in both Twitter and Facebook. Moreover, Hines (2010, p. 57) observes that this effective use of social media sites give boost to Toyota’s word of mouth reputation and volume of social searches.

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Definition of Public Relations

According to Pelsmacker et al (2005, p. 28), marketing communication mix is a mixture of activities that is used in order to increase sales and brand equity. Pickton and Broderick (2005, p. 19) states that marketing communication mix or promotion mix consists of six important elements which are advertising, personal selling, direct marketing, internet promotion, sales promotion and public relations. Moloney (2000, p. 29) says that there is no clear definition of practice and theory of public relations as there is cultural differences between lands. However, Vercic et al (2001, p. 58) says that it is possible to get a universal definition with the help of two approaches in public relations which are United States approach and European view. Vercic et al (2001, p. 38) notes that United States based definition are only based on relationship management. Hutton (1999, p. 28) explained that public relations should be defined in three-dimensional framework in order to analyse theory and practice of public relations by encouraging integration in the field. Thus, combination of United States approach and European view could give a clear definition. In this sense Jobber (2010, p. 595) defined public relations as follows:

“A company is dependent on many groups if it is to be successful. The marketing concept focuses on employees and distributors, but the needs and interests of other groups such as customers, shareholders, the local community, the media, government and pressure groups are also important. Public relations are concerned with all of these groups and may be defined as: The management of communications and relationships to establish goodwill and mutual understanding between and organization and its public.”

The definition above includes more than marketing as it goes beyond marketing and changes into whole business. White (1991, p. 117) noted that public relations prepares a great ground to execute marketing strategies with the help of good communication with interior and exterior subjects of the company including media, public, government, customers, distributors, suppliers/stakeholders, shareholders, banks. In order to provide good communication with interior and exterior subjects, companies use several activities.

These activities include publicity, corporate advertising, seminars, publications, lobbying and charitable donations (Jobber, 2010, p. 29). Lesly (1998, p. 68) discussed that companies need good public relations and doing these activities in order to increase prestige and reputation, promote the products, deal with issues and opportunities, show kindness to government, employees, customers, suppliers and distributors, overcome misconceptions, deal with unfavourable publicity and finally to attract and keep good customers. The main purpose of this dissertation is to understand how public relations strategies deal with issues and create opportunities. As all these purposes are integrated each other, if company dealt with issues and as a result if they could create opportunities, they would provide aid for all other missions partly.

Theoretical Approach to Public Relations: Open Systems Approach & Two-Way Symmetrical Communication

Before mentioning “Open Systems Approach” (OSA), it essential to explain “Closed Systems Approach” (CSA) in order to understand differences and benefits that they provide in different ways. First, in thermodynamics it is assumed that closed systems will never transfer matter inside or outside, so the system will always keep the same amount of matter (Perrot 2008, p. 58). Thus, the reaction completes without changing in terms of the amount of matter. According to Cutlip et al (2006, p. 93) some of the public relations strategies are just like closed systems in thermodynamics and they give their reactions regardless of the occasion. Thus, it could be same and routine. Another point, closed systems give reaction when the system receives a new input, in thermodynamics case it could be change of pressure or heat (Perrot 2008, p. 18). When it is looked from the public relations point of view, it is rational to mention that these strategies are highly based on the changes of input (Cutlip et al 2006, p. 29). This type of public relations strategies called reactive programs and they are set to give reaction when there is something to respond.

As this dissertation’s main purpose is to highlight how use of social media affects crisis management strategies, the theory open systems should be mentioned as it contains a feedback system which exactly public relations strategies need and involves social media in it. Unlike closed systems, in thermodynamics it is assumed that opened systems can transfer matter inside or outside which means it can be different in terms of the amount of matter at the end of the reaction. Center & Jackson (2003, p. 30) stated that oppositely to CSA, the companies which adopted OSA – proactive programs are eager to regulate and modify themselves according to changes in the environment. Lerbinger (2006, p. 18) noted that OSA could be achieved by integrating public relations and public affairs. As a result of this integration, organisations can attain absorbency through interacting with environment and society. Hendrix (2004, p. 37) argued that companies sometimes can choose CSA over OSA as it seems cheaper in terms of management in the short run, however most of the times responding to a spontaneously emerging crisis with reactive program costs much more expensive. Furthermore, proactive programs provides companies to deal with a problem and can arise opportunities out of that crisis (Hendrix 2004, p. 61). As it is one of the most important tasks for public relations and crisis management, it is essential to say being proactive is very important.

In order to apply proactive programs two-way symmetrical communications becomes crucial (Grunig 2002, p. 72). Before explaining two-way symmetrical communications, its base concept, dialogic communication theory should be explained. It is essential to mention dialogic communication theory as Kent and Taylor (1998, p. 38) mentioned, it is the product and two-way symmetrical communications is the process. If the product itself is not understood clearly, it would be hard to understand process. Johannesen (1971, p. 93) defined dialogue as a conversation between 2 or more people and described dialogue perspective as focusing on behaviours of those participants to each other. According to Kent and Taylor (1998, p. 118), in order to have a successful dialogue, the participants’ main objective should be communicating with each other. Thus, if there was a misunderstanding between parties, it would become useless to have that dialogue. Also, Habermas (1984, p. 82) supported this view by stating that there could be a dialogue if and if only parties agree to work together in their way to goal. To sum up concept dialogue, it is an occasion where parties should have common goal which is to have a communication and should cooperate in the means of this goal. This is the first step to have two-way symmetrical communications.

According to Wilcox et al (2003, 92), the main purpose of two-way symmetrical communications is to ensure communications is two-way with impartial effects. With the aim of this purpose, it is important to understand how public identifies the organisation and to highlight what end results companies do have for the public regarding to public relations strategies of the company (Wilcox et al 2003, p. 48). As two-way symmetrical communications system is mainly based on a feedback program which involves sender and receiver, Hendrix (2004, p. 36) promoted two-way symmetrical communications system to most effective system of persuasion as it includes great level of engagement. Besides it has great level of source and receiver engagement, according to Gonzalez – Herrero & Pratt (1996, p. 58) if company is clearly seen as proactive, the company can minimise to get into crisis and it can lower the perception of guilty simultaneously. Wilcox et al (2003, p. 31) noted that this system has been used since 1960s and 1970s by several organisations and is the most effective system that Grunig proposed when it is compared with other three systems. This system is very crucial for the use of social media for the companies, as the use of social media necessitates good feedback mechanism as well.

Definition of Social Media

The term social media was broke down into two parts, social and media by Safko (2010, p. 56). It is stated that first term, social, meant to be human-beings’ need of get in contact with other human-beings. Second term, media, is the tools that human-beings use in order to get in contact with other human beings. Hence, as a whole social media means, using of all technologies effectively to create a bound between human-beings in order to satisfy basic social needs such as creating a connection and relationship between them. As a part of social media, there is a term called by social network sites and defined by boyd and Ellison (2008, p. 211) as: “social network sites as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site.” There are many social network sites currently such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram etc. and there were many social network sites as well before these social network sites emerged including SixDegrees, Live Journal, MiGente etc (see figure 2.4.1.). Figure 2.4.1 only shows the important social networking sites, however according to Kaplan & Haenlein (2009, p. 48) it started in 1979 with the launch of “Open Diary”. Same authors stated that the social media that we know shaped after the invention of MySpace and Facebook.

As the definition suggests the backbone of the system is the same for all network sites however aim and nomenclature could make difference. According to Tuten (2008, p. 20) the main similarity of social communities is they are social. Moreover Tuten (2008, p. 21) stated: “they thrive when the members participate, discuss, share, and interact with others as well as recruit new members to community.” Sunden (2003, p. 49) noted that very basic feature that all social network sites have is, “unique profile page” where people construct themselves in online environment. The necessary information is age, location, sex, interest and a section to add extra points to explain more about them (Sunden 2003, p. 49). For example, in Facebook people type additional info in the “about me” section and in Twitter people type their additional info in the “bio” section which appears in their profile page.

Next step that Boyd & Ellison (2008, p. 29) explained is the having connection in these sites which refers to “friends” most of the time. However, people do not have to be friends necessarily, the term “friends” refers to any connections even those people had only met and have nothing beyond (Boyd 2006, p. 49). For instance, in Facebook these connections called “Friends”, in Twitter it is “Followers” and in LinkedIn it is “Connections”. According to Safko (2010, p. 110) there are 15 social media categories including social networking, publishing, photo sharing, audio sharing, video sharing, microblogging, livecasting, virtual worlds, gaming, productivity applications, aggregators, Really Simple Sindication, search, mobile and interpersonal. Every sub social networking is for different purpose. In example, through YouTube; people can share, promote and comment on video clips, through Decision Virginia; people can discuss political issues, through Facebook; people can share their life events with others including photo, video posts and comments.

Social Media’s Relationship with Marketing

According to American Marketing Association (2007, p. 119) marketing is: “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” As it was explained in the theoretical approach to public relations, dialogue happens between 2 or more people and to have successful dialogue people should share same targets. Marketing’s very main objective is create and increase the value by exceeding customer expectations, however communicating and delivering play key role in this process. As there is misunderstanding between parties, brand image will be misleading as well.

As it was noted in 2.4 definitions of Social Media, people started to use several abstract, web based social environments. They started to share memories, life experiences by posting photos, videos and texts, started to share their taste of music or started finding jobs by creating their business profiles in business network sites. As a result of this, a new era in the Internet started and people are not only using internet for information, they started get in contact with each other through web.

Few years ago, marketing experts were discussing companies should not focus purely on social media as people assume that everybody was involved in social media. Forbes (2011, p. 39) discussed this matter under the heading Myth 1 and stated that although 80 per cent of the people heard about social media, everyone is not involved in with it. Meredith (2012, p. 28) discussed that currently the situation rapidly changed and it is a common decision that many people use social media however, now there is a discussion that only young people use social media. Same author stated that this belief is wrong and 50 per cent of the users of Facebook are older than 35 and Qualman (2012, p. 28) noted that fastest growing age range in terms of membership age is 55 – 65 years old range. According to Noor Al – Deen & Hendrics (2010, p. 117), social media websites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace and others have grown and still growing sharply and at the same time adoption of the organisations and people is incredible. Here are the some facts about social media stated by Qualman (2012, p. 39).

  • Social Media become number 1 activity over porn.
  • In terms of weekly traffic in the United States, Facebook is much busier than Google.
  • 20 per cent of heterosexual couples and 60 per cent of gay couples meet on Facebook.
  • 20 per cent of divorces acclaimed that they divorced because of Facebook.
  • Facebook’s members’ number is twice of the population of United States.
  • 80 per cent of companies use social media websites for recruitment.
  • LinkedIn registers one member in every second.
  • More than 32 million people saw Volkswagen’s Star Wars themed advertisement on YouTube.
  • 50 per cent of the mobile internet traffic happens on Facebook in UK.
  • Groupon is the fastest company in history in terms of reaching to 1 billion sales.
  • Now, YouTube is the second largest search engine.
  • Social media accelerated the speed of communication which substituted word of mouth the world of mouth.
  • People are not searching for products anymore; products find people via social media websites.
  • Reaching to 50 million members:
    • Radio: 38 years
    • Television: 13 years
    • Internet: 4 years
    • Ipod: 3 years
    • Facebook added more than 100 million users in less than a year.

These facts show that, social media is rising very rapidly and as it is huge, it became a great source to execute marketing plans as although everyone is not involved in it, it is obvious that there is a great potential (Socialnomics 2010, p. 31). On the other hand, social media provides great communication tools as the main purpose is interaction and interaction necessitates two-way communication. Safko (2010, p. 59) noted that in today’s world, executing marketing strategies in social media is more effective than conventional methods as it is possible to create pure two-way symmetrical communication strategies.

Kaplan & Haenlein (2009, p. 38) noted that companies should be careful about in five points when they decided on applying marketing strategies through social media. First, companies should carefully choose the social media tool which suits best with their target. In example, if a company want to attract booklovers it would be useless to advertise in virtual world games such as World of War craft.

Rather than that company should go with a community social website where people share their ideas about novels. Second, in order to be efficient, rather than creating a new platform, companies should pick right application. Third, companies should ensure that their activities are consistent. Thus, company could launch its marketing strategy in more than one social networking site, however all these must be consistent. Forth, consistency is the first step to provide integration between projects. In order to create stable brand image, projects launched in different social media tools must be integrated. Finally, it should be easy to access. Moreover Kaplan and Haenlein (2009, p. 38) discussed that in order to satisfy these five points, companies should be active, interesting, modest and honest at all times.

Communication in Crisis Management

As it was noted in section 2.1, there are mainly three types of crisis which are psychological, social and technological. According to Canton (2007, p. 49), there are three main similarities between these types of crisis which are the three questions asked from the public and the answers. These questions are “What happened?”, “How did it happen?” and “Who’s to blame?” Same author explained, what will happen basically after each specific question. First, when the question “What happened?” is asked people will start to highlight every detail in the situation including the definition, place, people who were involved, measures that were taken and what happened as a result. Second, the question “How did it happen?” would be answered by experts and detailed analysis would be done on the news with formal presentations. Third and this is to be only matters, “Who is to blame?” In this phase, public opinion would chose guilty person/people/organisation behind incident by analysing if the incident was preventable and after the incident happened, how well the reaction was. In crisis management, it is important to take these points into consideration when the communication strategy is planned.

According to Leighton & Shelton (2008, p. 28) these points should be carefully analysed and a crisis plan must be applied with a backbone of “communicating with right message at the right time to the right people.” It was noted in previous sections, Social Media’s Relationship with Marketing, social media gets larger and gets stronger as people interact with each other more and more. According to Bridgeman (2008, p. 29) as the Internet gets larger and developed like social media does, both the scope and speed of crisis get faster. In today’s world people can reach and share info 7/24 and an average income person who owns Smartphone or internet-connected computer becomes citizen journalist (Bridgeman 2008, p. 118).

In the light of these facts, it is essential to be prepared and take precautions becomes essential. Taylor and Kent (2007, p. 38) stated that their findings show, preparing an internet website before crisis management according to risks that company, is one of the best practices. Both customers and website should be fulfilled in the means of risk. Moreover it is the best if this website is always active with honest information, so people can be assured that if they had any problems, they could find their answers in that website. In this dissertation’s case, social networking sites could be a great source. As it was noted in section 2.5, Social Media’s Relationship with Marketing, marketing strategies applied through should be active at all times. In this case, if a company can apply active and honest marketing strategy in social networking sites, it is possible to prepare a trusty ground for such crisis.

When crisis emerged, initial response is very important. According to Grunig (1992, p. 27) when there is a conflict between organisations and customers, public will start to make an issue out of the problem which can get out of control. So Coombs (2007, p. 19) stated that the initial response should be quick, accurate and consistent. The scholar argued that if organisation did not take the first step, people who want to attack the organisation could comment on the situation inaccurately and organisation could go under threat that Grunig stated. With the help of initial quick response, organisation can gain control over the problem. Carney and Jorden (1993, p. 39) supported this notion as well by telling that being passive will not have any help on crisis management and organisation can fully lost its control. As this process will be like Q&A session which askers are customers and answerers are people from organisations, two-way symmetrical communication will play key role. According to Jordan-Meier (2012, p. 93) social media is the source of news as people are in the social media. When there is something people like or dislike it appears in social media which means that every minute can cause a crisis. Also, as it was noted before it is very important to take first step in crisis situations. In this sense both during pre-crisis and initial response it is important monitor social networking sites in the solution of crisis (Hearit 1994, p. 39).

Finally, after the organisation solves the crisis situation, it will experience post-crisis phase which means that the problem is not over yet. Although after crisis is over organisations do not need to fully focus on the subject, still there has to be attention. There are two reasons for that attention. First, in the means of solution, crisis managers could give a promise about providing additional information during the first or second phase (Coombs 2007, p. 69). Second, organisations should give updates to customers on post-crisis phase so as to ensure that problem is fading away (Coombs 2007, 70). This phase is very important if the organisation would not keep its promise it could lose trust which could be worse than crisis itself. In this problem, social media will get into play. As it was noted in section 2.3, there could be successful dialogue if and only if people and organisations have a mutual goal to reach. As in crisis situations parties aim to get over it with less damage, it is important to ensure that both parties are satisfied with the end result. Thus, companies should ensure that customers are satisfied and this can be achieved with the help of two-way symmetrical communications.


This chapter focuses on various aspects of research development. It includes methods of data collection, analysis, and presentation. Every research project applies a certain research method to achieve its objectives depending on its goals. The methods used to conduct research in this project compared closely with the methods proposed in the project proposal. In research, design deals primarily with aims, uses, purposes, intentions, and plans within the practical constraints of time, location, money, and availability of respondent (Hakim 2000, p. 29). In this study, respondents were briefed in advance. The officials of Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell were given relevant notice by the researcher.

The paper deploys two approaches to generate data in this research dissertation. These are primary data and secondary data collections methods. Secondary data is collected from the immense scholarly researches available in Learning Resources Centre, University of Hertfordshire: books, journals, and other publications. This is represented in the form of an in depth literature review. Primary data is collected via online interviews. The study population was amicably informed for them to get prepared for the study. Briefing was important because it could enhance reliability of the study. It is also ethical to inform people before researching on them. The findings were also made public to the researched as one way of ensuring morality in the study. Furthermore, the researcher observed researcher-researcher ethics by keeping away from criticism.

Research Model

Secondary Research: Literature Review and Case Study

According to Cambridge Dictionary (2012, p. 17), the term “case study” defined as: “a detailed account giving information about the development of a person, group or thing, especially in order to show general principles”. However this conventional dictionary definition of “case study” becomes insufficient as Gillham (2000, p. 49) suggests understanding the term “case” in “case study” is important and way different than it is perceived. He explained “case” as an activity which takes place in real world and can be studied in context. This activity can affect individuals, groups, institutions or communities. Soy (2012, p. 39) noted that most of the times, case study research is a great tool when the questions starting with “why” and “how” are wanted to be answered. Since the general topic of this dissertation is how social media is used in crisis management strategies, it could be seen as an important tool for dissertation. Besides it is an accurate tool for answering questions starting with “why” and “how”, Zainal (2007, p. 58) stated that case study research method recognised as a secondary research tool as most of the researchers are concerned about the weakness of quantitative in presenting facts about the social and behavioural problems in a question. In literature review, it was explained that although crisis can occur in terms of psychological, social and technological, it is all about people and the consequences are determined by the actions of those people.

According to Soy (2012, p. 71) most of the critics of case study research method suggests, as the number of case studies increase the accuracy of findings on specific research topic increase as well. In the light of this fact, this dissertation is planned to explore two case studies from two different companies. Taco Bell and Domino’s Pizza are two different companies that operate in fast-food industry and both of them operate in United States. In the process of choosing these two case studies, three criteria which are expected to be consistent for both case studies were taken into consideration. First, companies operate in the same industry and this criterion is important for to apply cross-case analysis. Second, time of the crisis arise is another important factor in order to prevent the discussion of different use of social media in different years which could be another dissertation research topic. Third, crisis that they faced is in the same country so as to avoid getting out of context as if the selected case studies were in different countries then cultural differences should be taken into consideration as well.

Primary Research: Personal Online Interviews

This research utilized qualitative research methods in conducting the study and collecting data. However, the researcher also applied some elements of quantitative research, especially at the analysis of some hypothesis. In this regard, the research took the form of a survey, whereby the researcher identified some individuals and posted questionnaires to them. The sampled population was selected randomly in order to eliminate biases. The researcher made follow-ups by conducting respondents on phone. Interviewing is another method of data collection that was used in this research. The researcher extracted more information from respondents by calling them (Brooke & Sora 2011, p. 81).

There were two key methods used to gather information in this report. The first one was through questionnaire, which was administered online to the customers of Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell. The questionnaire sought to capture various attitudes of customers of the Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell regarding the relevance of social media in managing crisis at their firms. The second source of information used for the research was literature on various aspects crisis management and the emerging trends in this field, especially the use of social media in managing crisis. The focus of the literature review was to find information on the application of social media techniques in managing crisis and to determine the current state of research in the use of social media to manage crisis.

The questionnaire had four Parts. The first part sought to capture the bio-data information of respondents. The second part dealt with the demography and gender of the respondents. This was to ascertain the prevalence of views in various categories in order to ensure that if any differences came about, then they would be captured in their demographic space. The third part dealt with academic credentials of the respondents, and how their experience with the firm. The motivation for this section came from the understanding that different sections of population respond differently to different questions, based on age and academic credentials. The fourth part delved into the specific issues relating to application of social media in managing crisis, starting from the understanding of the concept to the possible effects it would have on employees, customers and the entire firm.

The questionnaire also employed a mix of open ended and closed ended questions to capture different aspects of issues studied. Open-ended questions were used because they give respondents more time to figure out their opinions, which would make them volunteer more information related to feelings, outlooks, and comprehension of the subject (Brooke & Sora 2011, p. 51). This would allow a researcher to understand the position of respondents as regards to feelings. Open-ended questions minimize some errors that could have been created in the course of research. Respondents rarely forget answers if given an opportunity to respond freely. Furthermore, respondents cannot ignore some questions because they must go through all of them. Open-ended questions generate data that can be used in data analysis by other researchers. In other words, they allow secondary data analysis. On the other hand, closed-ended questions are analyzed easily. That is why they were used in this study. Each response can be coded for statistical interpretation. Nonetheless, closed-ended questions are compatible with computer analysis package. The technique is more specific, meaning that its answers are consistent in all conditions. Finally, closed-ended questions take less time to administer unlike open-ended questions, which are detailed hence time consuming.

The questionnaires were sent to the respondents online and the respondents filled the questionnaires and sent them back via the same channel. The researcher arrived at this decision after considering time and resources. The method is not costly and it is less time consuming, but very effective. Furthermore, the method allows respondents to reflect on the questions and answer them accurately. Employing research assistants would be problematic because of the sensitivity of the study (Hakim 2000, p. 118). Many people would be reluctant to give their views freely. The method is effective because answers are not dependent of themselves. The respondent might not have filled the questions themselves. Moreover, the method is not affected by the respondent’s level of literacy. One big disadvantage of the technique is that there is no interaction between the researcher and the researched. This means that respondent’s reactions are not captured. Reactions are important because they give more information regarding to the feelings of respondents. Generally, the technique is more applicable where the researcher is interested in descriptive research than numbers, and deep feelings of the respondent (Brooke & Sora 2011, p. 34). In this study, the researcher is interested in identifying the effectiveness of using social media in managing crisis at the two firms that were identified for this study.

The literature collected provided information regarding various approaches to crisis management. This provides a historical perspective to crisis management and makes it easy to understand how social media can be relevant in this field. Secondly, the literature availed a number of ways in which social media can be relevant to crisis management, especially in this twenty first century where many people, especially the youths, are hooked on the social media. The Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell fit well within this parameter. Finally, the literature provided information on the state of research on the field. Various researchers have conducted studies on various elements of social media and its relevance to the management of crisis in a firm. This gave the study a sound academic backing and a strong basis for drawing comparisons and conclusions.

The use of the questionnaire made it possible to capture issues that are unique to the Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell. This is because there was no accessible literature with required degree of relevance to the subject matter about the Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell. The targeted respondents responded to the questionnaire online and then sent them back. The availability of respondents influenced the choice of this method because the Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell operates throughout and therefore it is not possible at any one time to find all of them in one place. Ten questionnaires were mailed to another sample of respondents. An online questionnaire reduced the costs of data collection, assured confidentiality, and was available throughout for the respondents for a fixed period (Werner & DeSimone, 2008). After collection, the data went through analysis, culminating the observations and conclusions discussed in remaining chapters.

Role of literature review in data collection requirements

Literature review plays a vital role in data collection process. As noted above, research has been going on for some time now. Every field of study has some relevant previous bodies of literature that other researchers had conducted before. This information is very important to a researcher. As Wisker (2008, p. 20) observes, in the process of gathering data, the first source that any researcher should not assume is the secondary sources of information. It is important to note that the studies were done after careful collection and analysis of relevant data. When taking literature review as part of the sources of data, it is important to note that they are secondary sources. Unlike the data that would be collected from the fields which is raw, literature provides data that is already processed.

According to Wickham (1999, p. 28), literature review plays an important role in determining how data collection would be done. Because the bodies of literature provide information that is already synthesized, and with clear steps that were taken to reach the results, the researcher may consider taking an approach used by one of the researchers that may lead to generation of required answers. Alternatively, the researcher may consider integrating a number of methods employed by different previous researchers to come up with his or her own technique that incorporates all the desirable concepts used by the available literature. According to Kothari (2004, p. 32), a good research project should not purport to be basing its arguments on the scratch. It is important that a researcher engage closely with the works of previous researchers from an early stage of data collection. With this, the researcher would be informing the consumers of this document that there was an effort from the earliest stage of the dissertation that closely compares the works of other researchers, and how they relate to the current research. This would not only enhance the validity of the report, but also demonstrate that the research seeks to develop the works of previous researches (Pointer 1991, p. 73).

Quantitative research method

Quantitative research is a kind of study that utilizes figures to arrive at certain conclusions (Hakim 2000, p. 16). In this regard, the research will take the form of a survey, whereby the researcher identifies the sample and posts questionnaires to them. In this research, there was need to compare the relationship between variables in order to establish cause and effect. This demanded for a method that would be objective and able statistically to generalize the findings. Quantitative method was found to be the most appropriate method to use in this research.

Quantitative research involves systematic empirical study of a phenomenon by use of statistical tools. Its main objective is always to employ mathematical theories and models in developing its generalization (Anderson 2004, p. 10). Therefore, quantitative method would help in this research. It would enable the researcher test the hypotheses put forth for validity and allow the use of a sample as a representation of the entire population. It would help the researcher to use the data to compare different variables. Although qualitative methods was traditionally used in social science and would be appropriate in this research, it is not able to give empirical support for research hypothesis. Qualitative methods explain why a given pattern of events has taken place the way they have (Vogt 2007, p. 114). On the other hand, quantitative methods explains what and when of a phenomena. Ethnographic research and phenomenology as approaches of qualitative research would have been appropriate. Ethnography would help in investigation of culture of the American society and the world at large (Denzin & Lincoln 2011, p. 51). Phenomenology would have helped investigate realities of the two firms; and how it affected its operation. However, because the process may not empirically support the hypotheses put forward to help guide the research, it was not used in this research. Due to these reasons qualitative method was not employed in the research and the researcher opted for quantitative research.

Alternative methods of data collection

Appropriate alternative methods

This research used the questionnaire in the process of gathering data. However, other alternative methods exist, which would be suitable data collection methods in for this research. Struwig (2001, p. 73) observes that interviews are very popular with many researchers. Interviews would be applicable in this research, especially when gathering data from customers, who are readily available within the firm’s premises. Observation is another method that would be applicable here. Although popular with scientific research, this method has been used by social scientists in various occasions. Opinion surveys and performance tests would also be applicable in this research. Physical evidence and case studies would also apply. However, because of the reasons cited below, and the varied characteristics of the methods, the researcher settled on the questionnaire as a means of data collection.

Advantages and disadvantages of the alternative methods

Walizer (1978, p. 92) notes that the interview is popular because it allows the interactivity between the researcher and the respondents, hence creating an environment that would help generate appropriate answers. Through interviews, it is also easy for the researcher to gather more information by observing non-verbal cues of the respondents. However, this method is time consuming hence the researcher avoided it. Observation would help the researcher gather first hand information without distortion or biases from the respondents. However, this method is also time-consuming. To gather information from customers, opinion surveys would be used. It would easily allow respondents to give their views without any external influence. This method was not used because it is open to bias from the respondents. In cases where the research is organization-based and is done by the management, performance test would be appropriate (Anderson 2004, p. 39). To an external researcher, this method would practically be impossible because setting the modalities of the test may not be possible. Case studies are always used in some researches. However, it can only be applicable in a simple research that does not require a high level of accuracy. Murray (2006, p. 30) explains that case studies are always appropriate when conducting a study of a firm for academic reasons.

Hypotheses content

Data generation

The research was done on a sample of the entire population. From this sample, the researcher generated data by formulating questions that would lead to the desired answers. To help focus this research, hypotheses were developed in order to create a vision of the research. Questions were therefore designed to respond to them. The questions were meant to generate answers that would either confirm or reject the hypotheses. The questionnaire was designed to reflect on this requirement. A sample questionnaire used to generate this data is shown in the appendix section (Appendix I).

Relevance of literature review to the research questions

Literature review is a very important guide to any new research. It always shows the researcher the path that was taken by other researchers, and how such paths led to the findings (Hakim 2000, p. 51). Through this, the researcher would be in a position to determine the new path that would be appropriate for the current research.

In every research, it is very important for the researcher to formulate questions that would help in guiding the steps towards data collection and analysis (Murray 2006, p. 67). In this research, literature review was very important in guiding the process of data collection. Through careful analysis of the literature, the researcher was in a position to determine the research gaps. Studies are always meant to advance existing ones or develop new ideas. Through analysis of the existing literature, it was possible to develop questions that would generate new information, as well as advance new ideas in the field.

Scope of Data Collection

Primary data for this research was collected from the customers of the two firms. This data was collected with the help of a questionnaire. The scope of data collection was limited to the two categories of individuals. This was because of the time that was available for the research. Because most of the customers locals of this country, they clearly understood the social structure of this society and therefore were in a position to respond appropriately to questions regarding the society. They also understood how this affected the performance of the firms. The level of accuracy needed in this research would be achieved within this scope. Secondary data was gathered from existing literature about crisis management and social media management.

Format for the questionnaire

Questionnaire design

There were two key methods used to gather information in this dissertation. The first one was through a questionnaire, which was delivered online to the customers of Taco Bell and Domino’s Pizza. This questionnaire is attached to this document at the appendix section (Appendix I). The questionnaire sought to capture various attitudes of customers of Taco Bell and Domino’s Pizza regarding their opinions on crisis management using the social media, and how the two compared in terms of the use social media in crisis management. The second source of information used for the research was literature on various aspects of crisis management in general, and the operational activities that takes place within the two firms in specific. The focus of the literature review was to find information on the application of social media in crisis management within the workplace and also to determine the current state of research in relation to the topic. The questionnaire had four parts.

The first part sought to capture the background information of respondents. The second part dealt with the demography and gender of the respondents. This was to ascertain the prevalence of views in various categories in order to ensure that if any differences came about, then they would be captured in their demographic space. The third part dealt with academic credentials and work experience of the respondents. The motivation for this section came from the understanding that different sections of population respond differently to issues, based on age and academic credentials. The fourth part delved into the specific issues relating to Taco Bell and Domino’s Pizza as institutions under our investigation, starting from the understanding of the concept used to solve the crisis using social media, and how effective this was.

The questionnaire also employed a mix of open and closed ended questions to capture different aspects of issues studied. Open ended questions were used because they give respondents more time to figure out their opinions, which would make them volunteer more information related to feelings, outlooks and comprehension of the subject (Hakim 2000, p. 59). This would allow a researcher to understand the position of respondents as regards to feelings. Open ended questions minimize some errors that could have been created in the course of research. Respondents rarely forget answers if given an opportunity to respond freely. Furthermore, respondents cannot ignore some questions because they must go through all of them.

Open ended questions generate data that can be used in data analysis by other researchers. In other words, they allow secondary data analysis. On the other hand, closed-ended questions are analyzed easily. That is why they were used in this study (Taylor 2005, p. 98). Each response can be coded for statistical interpretation. Nonetheless, closed-ended questions are compatible with computer analysis package. The technique is more specific meaning that its answers are consistent in all conditions. This aspect is impossible with open-ended questions because each respondent is allowed to use his or her own words. Finally, closed-ended questions take less time to administer unlike open-ended questions, which are detailed hence time consuming.

The questionnaire was sent to respondents using drop and pick method. The researcher arrived at this decision after considering time and resources. The method is time consuming, but very effective. Furthermore, the method allows respondents to reflect on the questions and answer them accurately (Andrzej, & Buchaman 2007, p. 9).

Moreover, the method is not affected by the respondent’s level of literacy. One big advantage of the technique is that there is interaction between the researcher and the researched. This means that respondent’s reactions are easily captured. Reactions are important because they give more information regarding the feelings of respondents.

The literature collected provided information regarding various theories related to banking, which is spread across the last century. Finally, the literature provided information on the state of research on the field. Various researchers have conducted studies on various elements of social segregation and its effects on motivation (Taylor 2005, p. 47). This gave the study a sound academic backing and a strong basis for drawing comparisons and conclusions.

The use of the questionnaire made it possible to capture issues that are unique to Taco Bell and Domino’s Pizza. This is because there was no accessible literature with required degree of relevance to the subject matter of Taco Bell and Domino’s Pizza. The targeted customers responded to the questionnaires, which were delivered online to them. The availability of respondents influenced the choice of this method. Online delivery of the questionnaire reduced time the researcher used on data collection process (Hakim 2000, p. 26). After collection, the data went through analysis, culminating the observations and conclusions discussed in chapter four and five respectively.

Case Studies

Analysis of the Two Cases

Dominos Pizza’s crisis

On 13 April 2009, two employees posted a video on YouTube describing what they called the style of rolling out Dominos. In the video, the employees did some disgusting stuff on pizza including sneezing, shoving various ingredients on their noses and then placing them on a pizza and “cleaning the pots and pans with a sponge they used to clean their, well, nether regions.” In less than 8 hours, the video had been ranked having over 100,000 viewers. Local news stations were running the story and several people reported the franchise to the health department. In matter of about 48 hours, the video had recorded thousands of hits, within a few days, the hit counts had reached to millions. What this meant to the company’s communication staff is that the organization had a mega crisis on its hands and it needed to respond appropriately and speedy enough to restore norm.

Indeed, after the video attracted national headlines: within 48 hours of release, the health department ordered closing of the franchise. Latter, YouTube removed the original video, following a request from the top management of Domino’s Pizza, while the responsible employees fled from the area after they realized that they were facing charges. Nevertheless, the damage had been done and it was irreversible. The video seemed to arouse the public nerves to the extent that even after the original copy was removed, people reposted it. Negative news, as Bennett and Strange (2011, p. 68) says, would always reach a large number of people, especially if it is about a firm of good reputation. To the Dominos, this brand image is not the one that the company wanted engrained in the minds of the consumers whenever they placed an order of a pizza. Thus, it was crucial that the company responded- YouTube being the best social media channel to do this since it was through it that the harm was accomplished.

Taco Bell crisis

Taco Bell is a large American fast food restaurant with a chain of stores and subsidiaries in this country and many other countries around the world. It is a huge franchise network that has about 5800 restaurants within the United States, most of which, (about 80%) owned by the individual franchisers, and operated as such (Bennett & Strange 2011, p. 119). By 2005, the company had in excess of 175,000 employees and revenue of over $ 1.8 billion. The company was very successful and the growth was poised to increase in the coming year. However, this was not to be the case. In early December 2006, about 71 Taco Bell’s Customers were struck by an outbreak of E. coli.

There was no denying that the firm was responsible as most of those who suffered from the outbreak reported that they had visited the restaurants a few moments before they developed the condition. A further investigation revealed that the green onions at its New Jersey establishment confirmed presence of E. coli. This unfortunate incident was also discovered at other franchisers of Taco Bell in Delaware, New York, and New Jersey. These were the exact locations where customers had reported having visited hours before the outbreak of the disease. This unfortunate message about Taco Bell soon reached the mass and social media. This news spread very fast as soon as it reached the social media. Many people shared the message about this unfortunate incident at this firm. The news was fast reaching sensitive customers of this firm at a rate that the management had not predicted.

Upon the realization of the gravity of the matter, the management of Taco Bell swung into action. They developed a similar message explaining what took place, delivered it as a paid television commercial, and subsequently posted the same on YouTube. This paid off as customers regained their confidence on the firm and continued purchasing the products of the firm. With their message of ‘we are on top of it’, customers soon forgot the incident and operations of the firm soon became normal.

Barely a month after the incident, another major incident threatened to ruin the image of the firm once more. A security video surfaced on the YouTube with a rat infestation at its New York franchise. This was a great blow to the firm, which was recovering from a near similar negative public relation. However, the firm once again came out strongly to counter this negative image (Bennett & Strange 2011, p. 29). They purchased key word searchers on all the main search engines. Such key words like Taco Bell Rats would lead the searcher to the company’s website where the firm would explain the incident and assure of them of the safety of the foods served in their restaurants and the hygienic standards maintained by all the franchisers around the country. This case clearly demonstrates the danger posed by the social media based the viral messages posted on such sites as YouTube. It exposes the vulnerability of food stores and minor incident, which may as well pass as a joke, can potentially shake or even bring down the entire firm. This case threatened to throw this firm out of the market. It took this firm a lot of time and resources in order to be in a position to convince its customers and the corporate world that all the information in the social media was all rumours.

Role of social media in crisis management in the case study companies

Both Dominos Pizza and Taco Bell recognized that social media constitute a major part of communication of an incredibly large number of people. This role of social media was particularly significant to the organizations during crisis. Both companies realized its significance and deployed it as a fast means of handling and ensuring that public questions were addressed proactively. In this context, social media served as tool for reaching many number of people who are geographically separated within a short time. The main goal of any company like Dominos Pizza and/or Taco Bell is to ensure its vision is realized and be put into action through programs. Environmental stewardship, activities to benefit society, as well as commitment to build shareholder value, by making the company a truly sustainable one would be another focus. As stipulated in this goal, it is clear that companies recognize that their main reason of being in operation is to confer benefit to their owners (Doorley & Garcia 2011, p. 25). Therefore, any impediment to this goal is an immense organizational crisis that needs mitigation by deploying concepts of risk management like social media in its corporate governance strategies. Further, companies like these need to enumerate these goals and strategies in their philosophy statements.

In this extent, any event or act such as fraud that may erode the force of accountability constitutes an organizational crisis that needs mitigation probably by social media. In fact, incorporation of appropriate social media measures for mitigation of fraudulent activities within the organizations constitutes one of the strategies that ensure the realization of sustained growth of the organizations. With sustained growth, more innovation can be done through research and design with a consequence of even more enhanced growth of both the customers and the company in terms of increased organizational performance (Solomon 2011, p. 40). For Dominos Pizza and Taco Bell, empowering people is particularly critical since the firms came to the realization that in the current twenty-first century, success is only realizable by maintaining integrity.

Similarities and differences between the cases

An organization may take a valid position in the quest to ensure that it responds ardently to risks exposures. A means of responding to risks is critical since no organization is principally immune to crises. However, before deriving such a means, it is necessary to qualify the organization’s capacity to tolerate crises. This happens by determining the company’s position on either side (tolerance and appetite) of the neutral point of risks scale. On the other hand, tolerance is the extent to which a particular organization attempts to make transfers of its risks volatilities to external parties among them being the insurers.

Fundamentally, companies approach volatile situations that may result into exposure of the company to risks from the dimension that no negative impact may result (Grunig 2002, p. 27). However, the volatility of the situation, depending on the degree of the volatility, may produce varying impacts to the organization- both positive and negative. With incorporation of innovative strategies, companies have always anticipated positive volatilities for some situations such as the likelihood of professional malpractices such as engagement of fraudulent activities, particularly with the overwhelming embracing of integrity as both organizational culture and value. Arguably, for companies to ensure that all their stakeholders are subtly protected from imminent risks, it is crucial that the organization prevents them from the action of all volatile situations.

With this in mind, although the two cases have negative impacts to the image of the companies affected, they are similar yet different in a number of ways. This implies that the mechanisms that were employed to respond to the volatile situations were also different (McGriff 2012, p. 36). One of the striking similarities is that both companies realized that to enhance ardent communication between PR staff and public, openness coupled with transparency are essential and credible tools for dealing with crisis. This infers that the companies never considered denying the situations; rather they sought to enhance two-way communications. Apart from choosing social media to execute this task, it was perhaps the most subtle tool to change the images created by the crisis on the minds of the consumers.

This follows the idea that social media brings in a completely new world of openness. According to Doorley and Garcia (2011, p. 52), with the emergence of social media, information can flow freely from one place to another and management units of various firms must realize and appreciate this. In this end, the companies considered to monitor the information that was circulating in the social media before taking action. This was ideally achieved through the PR or communication department staff of the respective companies. However, it imported to note that, although the communication department needed to counter the negative comments posted by the social media users, it would have done more harm than solve the problem in case the communication staff considered treating the situation as defamation and attempt to spread the same message across the social media. The viral load would have increased substantively.

For the case of Dominos, to counter the negative impacts of the crisis, the organization never posted its response immediately as it took time to work for a strategy forward. Two days after the crisis, the communications team features in YouTube their president, Patrick Doyle.

The president thanked the community interacting online for ensuring that the situation came to the attention of Dominos. This is opposed to what other execs had been doing in case of organizational crisis. Now, it is clear that the president of Dominos inculcated in the minds of the social media users that the company is indeed as concerned about the situation as they are. This is a plausible measure to ensure that consumers retain their confidences on the organization’s products. Precisely, he is particular on this issue and reckoned that “there is nothing important or sacred to us than our customers trust.”

Perhaps to assure the brand consumers of the need to correct the situation and ensure that the product remains of high quality, the president admitted that the crisis had caused a severe damage to the company’s brand. Mr. Doyle categorically retaliated that “125,000 employees will be impacted by a few individuals” (Roxana & Valentin 2011, p. 45). This shows that the company appreciated the magnitude of the impact of the crisis. Consequently, it is possible for the social audience viewing this video to be rest assured that the company would rectify the situation. Arguably, despite the fact that Dominos never responded immediately to the crisis, the communication personnel did an incredible work in responding positively to the situation. In fact, after a few days of release of this video, it ardently promoted the organization on YouTube. This was made possible by the social media facilities rapid movement of information.

The case of Taco Bell is not very different from that of Domino’s Pizza, as they also used YouTube and Twitter page to fight back. This depicts how companies may become vulnerable in case something about a company becoming viral. This makes Taco Bell case much similar to Dominos case. In this context, both companies attempts to use social media to lower the degree of their vulnerability. The manner in which the company fights back portrays how social media may be imperative in helping to launch a far-reaching defence. Different from the Dominos case, Taco Bell indulged in a rebuttal that was potentially dangerous. Taco used both the mass and social media with the message, “we are on top of it.”

The danger in this advert is that, it may appear that the company has something to hide about the incident or that the management is not taking the issue with the seriousness it deserves (Solomon 2011, p. 42). This may further reduce the consumers trust. Furthermore, in the YouTube and Facebook postings, the company featured the president of the company: Greg Creed, tying to convince the public that the situation was under control. However, two things give him away to the audience. His accent clearly reveals that he is not an American, making the message irrelevant to the target audience. Moreover, he appears relaxed, further bringing to question the sincerity of his message. This introduces another difference between the Dominos and Taco Bell’s case. Dominos came out clearly on social media through its president accepting that the situation leading to the crisis actually took place. On the other hand, Taco Bell continued to cling on the idea that circumstances leading to the crisis are not actually true initially before proceeding to accept it.

The aftermath of this strategy taken by the communications personnel of the company is that, in case the claims raised in the laws suit are actually proved as being true, it is likely that engineering another strategy to restore the consumers’ trusts and reputation of the organization may be challenging. Additionally, as opposed to crisis management strategies deployed by Dominos, Taco Bell went on to include the key words ‘bell’, ‘taco’ and ‘rat’ in the search engines so that the they divert those searching for the scandalous message are directed to their site. The company decided to spend as much as was within their capacity to restore their reputation which was on the edge (Jargon et al 2011, p. 38).

This is an indicator of the ability of social media to help an organization to mount a substantive defence in case of crisis. The idea here was that, the communications department of an organization can only move swiftly and fast to counter negative impacts of messages about an organization spreading in the social media or it are trampled. Via the social media, Taco Bell altered the anticipated repercussions of the viral information spreading in the social media, to become an opportunity where the company could talk about the quality of their foods. In this context, the company managed the crisis by spreading the argument that the incident was just an unfortunate occurrence by individuals who were intending to harm the image of the company.

This was meant to counter the impact of the crisis and the management decided to counter it through the same channels that this negating message was reaching customers (Roxana & Valentin 2011, p. 112). This statement means that Taco Bell admits that indeed, a crisis at one of its franchises exited but commits that it is out to ensure that all its customers are provided with high quality products at their restaurants. In this context, the manner in which Dominos counters the volatile situation leading to organizational crisis become similar to the way Taco Bell counters the same: turning around a negative situation to be positive situation.

Findings and Analysis

Findings from the Primary Research

To get a clear understanding of the role of the social media on the management of crisis, the researcher conducted an online interview to get the information direct from the customers of these two firms. Therefore, upon conducting a thorough analysis of online interviews of 50 respondents on the strategies deployed by both Dominos Pizza and Taco Bell to mitigate crisis risks and restore consumers’ confidence, various results were obtained. In these sections, these results are discussed. This is done by considering the roles of social media in organizational crisis management as developed in the literature review section coupled with the responses from the interview of customers of the two firms. In terms of the application of social media in crisis management, the two respondents confirmed that organizations have adopted the new strategy of social media to counter most of the crises they face. For instance, most respondents from Domino’s Pizza pointed out how social media is a working strategy of keeping in touch with the audience of any company so that, in case of any alarm, the audience may air out their opinions on what to do counter such a crisis to maintain the value of the organization.

The values of the organization form the frameworks upon which specific goals cling (Bennett & Strange 2011, p. 48). These include vision statements and objectives of all departments that must work collaboratively to deliver high quality beverage products while not negating the overall corporate strategies coupled with managerial tactics. In the quest to mitigate crises within any organization, organizations determine quantitatively or qualitatively the extent to which they have accomplished their visions and values. In the formulation of such values, attention goes to strategies and visions to ensure that the organization in question can reduce the degree of its susceptibility to risks.

Social media, as confirmed by the interviewees from the two firms, is such an effective strategy in responding to this case, especially if the social media fan the crisis (White 2012, p. 62). Likewise, the respondents agreed that social media is one of the best platform where crisis can be managed particularly in circumstances where the organization reacts quickly and acts honestly and communicates precisely with its audiences. This qualified as serious issues the two companies faced, but through their determination and effective use of this media, they successfully managed to come through the experience successfully.

Many crisis communication specialists, According to Bennett and Strange (2011, p. 37) are criticized for their ‘managerial bias’ and for their tendency to ignore or marginalize some of their audience. It is important that the management understands how the public interprets and copes with a crisis message to enable it enhance its communication. The case study of Dominos pizza and Taco Bell demonstrates how the public perceived social media messages and how it used it to communicate the thoughts shortly after it was aired. This concurs with the response from most of the respondents from Taco Bell who pointed out how social media keeps people up-to-date. The crisis in the Domino Pizza company resulted from a posting on the internet about an employee who did not observe cleanliness when preparing pizzas.

This video caused a lot of heat within a short time after its posting. The company communication officers and CEO did not respond immediately to the message since they had a low opinion on the repercussion of the video (Roxana & Valentin 2011, p. 78). However, within duration of two days, the management was under no obligation rather than to reply to the many messages from the audiences who were also the clients that demanded clarity of the matter (Bennett & Strange 2011, p. 92). The CEO also appeared in the video that was then posted on YouTube restating the issue and apologizing for the problem that was facing his company. The appearing seemed to cause a change in the perception of the people. The two employees in the company lost their employment as they flew away for fear of reprimand. This bored fruits as the public was convinced that they acted out of malice and with pure intention of harming the reputation of the firm. The CEO decided to use the social media to communicate and show direction to avoid further misinformation. This strategy helped to reduce the tension and the attitude of the clients who had depended on the company’s pizza supplies.

On the other hand, the Taco Bell Company used social media to manage its crisis by taking control of the situation and convincing the public that all was under their control and that the incident was an unfortunate case that they could easily rectify. The company refuted the allegation on the social media telling its clients that the allegations were malice. The CEO instead used the platform to build company’s image by reiterating that the company highly valued health of the customers and was committed to ensuring that their products observed this. The CEO of the two companies used social media including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to convey the message to their audience. The strategy worked for the company since it managed to convince the public that its beef met the threshold set by the health ministry of the country.

In this era of technological advancement and innovations, there is increasing need for social media users to be cautious with any information (Shelley & Maria 2011, p. 84).

As revealed in the response from the interviewees, one has to be fully updated in terms of technology for him/her to apply social media effectively and better when it comes to countering crises. The public may use information generated from individuals or people with malice thinking that the information is from credible sources. Likewise, in the two case studies provided, people shared information with one another after the video was uploaded on YouTube. This sharing of information triggered the company management to use social media to leverage their communication with the clients. Taco Bell CEO reiterated the allegations posted on the social media, by using the same means. He also appeared on YouTube clarifying the facts. For instance, he refuted the allegation levied against his company as false and misleading even after agreeing to some facts. The main research question that the researcher posed to the respondents was as stated below.

Do you believe that social media helped your firm manage crisis that the firm faced?

This question was reflected on the questionnaire that was sent to the customers. The result was entered into the SPSS sheet and the data on the table below was found. From the data, it was evident that of the 50 respondents, 44 of them stated that they felt social media played an important role in the crisis management. 87.5 percent of the respondents strongly believe that they have very strong trust in social media in managing crisis. In the study, 12.5 percent felt otherwise. The accompanying pie chart demonstrates this.

Frequency Percent Cumulative Percent
Yes 44 87.5 87.5
No 8 12.5 100.0
Total 50 100.0
Do you believe that social media helped your firm manage crisis that the firm faced?
Source: Analysis of survey data.

Findings from the Secondary Research

Many researchers support the influence and the impacts that social media has when dealing with emergencies and disasters (Shelley & Maria 2011, p. 49). The Haiti scenario is one of the illustrations on how social media has a potential of solving a crisis and reaching a wider audience. During the earthquake that hit Haiti, government agencies used social media and found out that it provided a platform to share knowledge between people around the earthquake prone areas. Likewise, it is true and evident with the case study on the two companies provided. The companies used social media effectively to handle their crisis and this strategy worked effectively. The CEO used social media including, YouTube, Facebook, and others to reach millions of users. They also ensured immediate response to questions about the company that were raised and this served to avoid speculation and rumours that could have affected negatively the reputation of the companies.

Crises that emerge online may not be considered as real crisis by the management in some instances (White 2012, p. 62). It is true to some extend that with the increase in internet use and advancement in technology, many people are coming up with cyber crimes and tricks and this has tended to make people cautious about any information that they receive through online. However, the allegations that were levelled against these two companies were true and therefore presented a crisis in the organization. Therefore, they needed to react quickly to ensure that it did not indent their image and reputation. Therefore, the managements had to evaluate the threat potential of the information and look for ways to respond to the accusations (Werner & DeSimone 2008, p. 28).

The increasing growth of social media, according to Barthe (2010, p. 73), challenges crisis communicators in their quest to disseminate safety messages to the affected audiences faster and in a manner, which ensures maximum compliance. People respond quickly to organizational generated messages as opposed to users. Therefore, when an organization sends a message to the third party through the internet, the audience will believe in the message and even have trust in it compared to when one of the users generate it. The two companies under this study employed this strategy in disseminating information to the third parties. The messages came from the top most management of the companies who communicated the views and ideas of the company. Therefore, by using social media, many of the audience that had earlier own been changed on how they perceived the company products changed their minds again.

Bennett and Strange (2011, p. 50) assert that social media is an effective avenue that supports information sharing, communication and collaborations especially during times of crisis. This was evident during the September 4, 2010 earthquake that struck Canterbury region in the Island of New Zealand. Social media was used to communicate the incident and trigger response from the students to help in the evacuation efforts. This example of how social media can assist in relaying and managing crisis helps to authenticate on the two case studies that guides this study. The two companies Dominos Pizza and Taco Bell used the same strategy to mitigate the effects of negative presentation or representation on the social media. The two companies employed the same strategy, used social media platform to explain the situation the circumstances, which saw them successful, manage to quell the tension that had been ignited from the negative publicity through social media.

Crisis management is a distinctive concept that relates to the process whereby organizations prepare for crisis before the occurrence so that they can manage the crises when it occurs. Therefore, to prepare for a crisis, an organization needs to have a crisis management plan for every kind of a risk in the industry that it operates (Maren Løwén Heradstveit 2011, p. 64). The companies in this discussion, even though they experienced the crisis, did not have formidable plans on how they could mitigate the crisis. They thought about using social media at the last point, which helped them to manage the crisis that was escalating quickly through the social media. Even though they managed, a good number of clients who depended on their products changed their loyalty because they could not trust and believe in the CEOs messages.

From the interview conducted with participants from the two companies and users of heavy social media, larger percentage of them agreed to the opinions that social media if well used can help to manage a crisis. However, they had reservation that the method could only work effectively if the medium was used well. For instance, Bennett and Strange (2011, p. 38) observes that the duration that the organization trying to create positive image takes to counter the claim, and the way the message is drafted are important to changing the perception of the people. Respondents claimed that they only believed in the truth of the information when they trusted the source. For instance, when they viewed the video footage of the employees washing dishes using dirty clothes, they were first astonished and did develop instant negative attitude towards the products of the company.

When they identified the name of the company from which the pizzas were prepared, they developed negative attitude towards the products of the company because they were convinced that this was a common practice of the firm’s employees. This triggered their thoughts and perception about the company. However, after some hours, they saw the CEO of the company speaking in person and admitting that it was true, but the CEO assures them that immediate measures will be instituted and all employees behind it were to face the law. Such enouncement helped to regain the lost faith in the public about the products of the company. Therefore, the sincerity and commitment of the CEO helped to reinforce the reputation of the company. It is therefore imperative that, with some flaws and disadvantages, social media is one of the best avenues through which organizations can use to manage crisis (White 2012, p. 118). It requires understanding, keenness, precision, and sincerity to achieve the best result just like the two companies; Dominos Pizza and Taco Bell did.

Analysis of the Research Hypotheses

The research hypotheses were analyzed based on the response received from the respondents from the two companies: Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell. The researcher developed three hypotheses, which guided the researcher, and the study sought to either confirm or reject them. The first hypothesis was developed to help determine the relevant of social media in managing crisis. The respondents from the two firms clearly stated that social media was very relevant in managing crisis. The respondents reiterated the incidents that took place in the firm leading to crisis, and the fact that the management had to resort to social media to salvage the situation. The respondents were categorical that although social media may not be appropriate in managing some form of crisis, such as internal crisis, it would be very effective when managing external crisis that is spread through the social media.

Social media is not relevant in managing crisis in an organization

The above null hypothesis would therefore be rejected based on the response gotten from the selected respondents. This would therefore mean that the research accepts the alternative hypothesis below.

Do you think social media is relevant in managing crisis in an organization?

Frequency Percent Cumulative Percent
Yes 44 87.5 87.5
No 6 12.5 100.0
Total 50 100.0
Do you think social media is relevant in managing crisis in an organization?
Source: Analysis of survey data.

It is evident from the analysis above, that social media is very relevant is managing crisis in an organization. This confirms the alternative hypothesis below.

H1a. Social media is very relevant in managing crisis in an organization.

This would therefore give the research more focus on the relevance of social media in managing crisis.

The second hypothesis below wanted to determine the prevalence of the social media as a tool for the management of crisis. Various respondents noted that their respective organizations had not considered using the social media to manage crisis. The respondents noted that their companies were forced to use the social media because their firm’s reputation was at jeopardy through the same media. In both cases, the management was reluctant to use the social media. This therefore confirms the null hypothesis below.

H2o. The managements of various organizations around the world increasingly do not use social media in the management of crisis.

The result were analyzed as below.

What is the impact of social media in crisis management?

Frequency Percent Cumulative Percent
Very poor 1 3.0 3.0
Poor 10 30.3 33.3
Average 10 30.3 63.6
Good 8 24.2 87.9
Very good 4 12.1 100.0
Total 33 100.0
The managements of various organizations around the world increasingly do not use social media in the management of crisis.
Figure 2. Source: Analysis of survey data.

It is evident that many of the respondents stated that social media was fairly good in managing crisis management. This confirms the alternative hypothesis below.

H2a. The managements of various organizations around the world increasingly use social media in the management of crisis.

Despite the rejection of the above alternative hypothesis by the primary research, secondary research shows that in a near future, firms would heavily depend on the social media to manage their crisis, more so if the crisis involves the public.

This last research hypothesis was developed to predict the future of crisis management in respect to social media. The respondents were unanimous on the fact that managements would find social media very relevant in managing crisis, especially after the two cases. The null hypothesis would therefore be rejected.

H3o. The future of crisis management does not lie with the development of the social media.

Do you think the future of crisis management lies in crisis management?

Frequency Percent Cumulative Percent
Yes 46 91.7 91.7
No 4 8.3 100.0
Total 50 100.0

Graphical presentation

The future of crisis management does not lie with the development of the social media.
Source: Analysis of survey data.

From the analysis above, it is clear that many of the respondents felt that the future of crisis management lies in social media. This confirms the alternative hypothesis below.

This would mean that the alternative hypothesis below would be accepted based on the results from the primary data.

H3a. The future of crisis management lies with the development of the social media

The confirmation of this research hypothesis confirms the fact that the future of crisis management lie with the development of the social media.

Sensitivity Analysis

In every research findings, the correctness is always very important because an action may be taken upon the findings and recommendations of a given research. In case the result deviates from the truth by a considerable wide margin, it can result into serious consequences, especially if the action taken is of great impact (Barthe 2010, p. 94). However, it is worth appreciating that human being is prone to making errors in a number of occasions. This error can be in the process of input of the data or its analysis. Whichever point it may arise from, the consequences of such errors may be adverse if action were to be taken upon its recommendation. Sensitivity analysis is therefore important in mitigating such errors in a report. It helps in determining how robust a given research is.

In this study, the researcher appreciates the fact that such errors may occur. For this reason, there is need to develop measures that would help validate this research. In this research, the main aim was to determine the relevance of social media in crisis management. However, this could only be done if there was a clear information about firms that had used it (either successfully or otherwise) Manage crisis. Reliability and Validity studies below help further explain how this research ensured that it maintained correctness of the findings.


The validity of a measuring tool can be determined by the degree to which the tool calculates correctly, what it is believed to quantify. In this survey, content validity was measured where the representativeness or sampling adequacy, of the content of the measurement instrument was checked with the help of experts in the field. In this study, the validity of the instruments was preserved ensuring the accuracy of the measurement where each variable’s indicators of existence were extracted solely from the literature of the work of previous researchers in well-established papers. The features of the study population, subject choice, study setting, researcher consequence, data collection methodology, and the consequence of time have all been considered in the study. In this study, internal validity was ensured through checking the representativeness of the sample (Toth 2007, p. 18). The researcher ensured that the sample used, captured all-important characters at Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell. External validity was ensured through triangulation that is, the researcher used more than one technique in collecting data. Other than the questionnaire, the researcher observed the two branches to assess if there was a difference in facilitation. External validity was also guaranteed by asking respondents to give their views.


Reliability means appropriateness, applicability, and truthfulness of a study. It refers to the ability of research instruments to produce results that are in agreement with theoretical and conceptual values (Proulx 2011, p. 26). The consistency of the measure, the probability of obtaining the same results again if the measure was to be replicated is referred as reliability (Oppenheim 1992, p. 72). It is the relationship between the true underlying score and the observable score. Internal consistency is also important for the survey since it indicates the extent to which the items in the measurement are related to each other. The most commonly used index of internal consistency is Cronbach’s alpha coefficient. This index ranges from zero to one, where a reliability of zero means no relationship, and reliability of one indicates a perfect and positive relationship. Since the reliability declines as the length of the question increases, the questions would be designed to be straight to the point. The idea behind internal consistency procedures is that questions measuring the same phenomenon should produce similar results. In internal consistency reliability estimation, single measurement instrument is administered to a group of people on one occasion to estimate reliability.


Social media is increasingly becoming relevant in the management of crisis, especially in cases where a crisis is spread through the above-mentioned channels. When it first appeared, Facebook was considered one of those emerging technologies that were meant for the youths who had more time to waste in chatting or sharing information. YouTube would soon follow, and yet the corporate world never considered them as potential media that could be relevant in management, let a lot crisis management. However, firms would soon realize that social media had great potential of reaching out for the customers, specifically the youths who were techno savvy. They soon became aware of the impact that social media would have on their firms in case it had to be used in various aspects of management.

As a result, it is crucial to note that the hypothesis that, in case of organizational crisis, social media plays significant roles in enhancing rapid spread of information that may hinder the success and image of the organization becomes justified. Therefore, it is plausible to make various recommendations in line with the above findings. These recommendations also follows from discussions of how social media may be utilized to handle organizational crisis as developed in this research. A number of lessons can also be learnt from this research. These lessons are subtle in aiding organizations to mitigate the negative impacts of crisis arising from viral information that may spread across social media tarnishing the brand name of an organization’s product.

Communication or public relations within an organization must ensure that it monitors completely all information that is being circulated concerning the organization across the social media: Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others. This recommendation is made with the light that many organizations are already doing this.

In the pre-crisis period, it is also important that the communications people also post information about certain sensitive issues that may end into public hand. This is vital since if the consumers from the organization trace a situation that may be viral, it is likely that people would ignore it when it starts being distributed by malicious people. This would make crisis period much easier to manage and hence produce milder effects. However, it is important that most qualified people within the communications handle such a strategy since it may be too risky in case undue mistakes are made.

Secondly, accuracy of information is a critical issue to pay incredible attention to while attempting to handle organizational crisis through social media. This means that organizational communication or PR needs to “know how openness of these media and the anonymity of users raise real concerns about the accuracy of the data on them” (Bennett & Strange 2011, p. 37). Apparently, also significant to note is that many of the professionals that consistently follow Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are more concerned with trends as opposed to posts by individuals. Another critical issue is that, PR needs to appreciate and consider determining the authenticity of the information distributed via social media that may lead crisis. This needs to be done before deriving the plan to handle the crisis using social media (Toth 2007, p. 81). This is because many of the viral information, as evidenced by the two case studies manly emanate from the customers and the contractors among other people who have higher degrees of accessing the information on practices of an organization. In this extent, it is paramount for the management to make sure that it makes customers fully acquitted with the fact that undue activities on social media may form subtle ground upon which the decisions to dismiss them may get pegged on. This helps in enhancing the organizational policy and in mitigation of likelihoods of crisis instigated by viral information emanating from the organizational staff.


Various management units should therefore take social media seriously when it comes to management of crisis. Based on the above findings, the following recommendations should be considered by the management of organizations and other concerned units within a firm.

  • It is not easy to manage a crisis when there is one already. As such, it is recommended that the managements should always perceive possible crisis and develop mechanisms of how they can be countered to ensure that they are ready when the crisis occurs.
  • Information is very important to any organization. It would therefore be required that a firm ensures that it keeps all its information is safes, where a rival cannot reach them easily.
  • Action of a single employee would always have an impact to the entire firm. The employees should therefore be made to appreciate their role in the organization and be made to feel responsible.
  • Managing crisis through the social media would require the management team to be quick in action, and articulate in their message to customers.
  • Social media would be most appropriate in managing external crisis that mostly involve the public, and the message should be appropriately coined based on the target audience.

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I graduated with Materials Science and Engineering degree. During and after my undergraduate degree I have been running my own business which is holiday tour organisations for university students in Istanbul. I was responsible for sales in very first years but currently I am running marketing and sponsorships branch of the organisation. Although I am coming from a different background, I have wanted to draw a career path line in marketing since I started my own business. Coming from a different background helped me to gain variant skills. With analytical approaching skill that I gained from Materials Science and Engineering, leadership skills by creating and executing social community in Sabanci University, and being conscientiousness and achievement-oriented person, I want to draw a career path in marketing where I will get a chance to utilize my skills and my experiences. I am very interested in marketing and love to broaden my knowledge through reading and new experiences. In order to follow a career in marketing in corporate business and develop my business I had chosen to study M.Sc. Marketing.

The reason I had chosen social media and crisis management might be complicated. I was always curious about social media as it was getting larger day by day and I was obsessed how it did get this popular. Our generation is living with this tool and people started to communicate, socialise and literally started to live in it. Actually reason was simple: people can show themselves in a way that they wanted to be seen. This virtual world was worth to inspect but I wanted to look in for it in more business bases. Successful companies have good marketing strategies, nice HR connections; good communication teams however superior companies have good plans for crisis situations. When I was intern at BASF Chemicals, my supervisor showed me a video of CEO talking about how sailor can cope with unexpected waves coming up at ocean. He told that if a company does not have good captain in their boat, that boat can easily sink and none would remember those. This notion of CEO was stacked into my mind and I was always curious about how companies can prepare themselves for crisis. After years I saw that many companies started to face crisis and solved them with social media.

I thought the combination of social media and crisis management could be a great topic to inspect. During the time I made this research I spent too much time to find reliable and academic resources and within this time I read many blogs about the situations. As these blogs were written by people who are interested in these topics and these people have variant of qualifications. Thus, it was possible to research the topic from many different points of views. Moreover, these readings were not just including case studies related to my dissertation. It also includes crisis about Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell, however I also read many things related to crisis were experienced by Toyota, General Motors, KLM, Air France, Nestle, Greenpeace and many others. This helped me to understand the perception of different companies and observe how crisis occurred in different industries behave differently.

I am glad to complete my dissertation in this topic as I researched a topic that is really attracts me. Furthermore, the topic is not only attractive to me; it is also useful in business life. In example, although I did not finish my dissertation by the time I was looking for a job, with the help of my knowledge about use of social media in crisis management I attracted many companies and discussed about this topic in interviews for hours. This also helped me to widen my knowledge in this topic and contributed to both my intelligence and my dissertation.

Appendix – A: Research Questions

Domino’s Pizza

Personal Data

  • What is your gender?
    • Male
  • What is your level of education?
    • University graduate
  • When did you first visit the firm?
    • In 2004
  • Why do you prefer this firm?
    • They value customers
  • How effective is this firm in using modern technologies?
    • It has embraced new technologies in the recent past and it has been effective in this.

Crisis in the Firm

  • What led to the crisis of that this firm faced?
    • Two workers posted a video recording handling food in unhygienic manner.
  • Do you think that this crisis would have blown up if social media was not in place?
    • No.
  • How did social media lead to the spread of this crisis?
    • It provided the channel through which this defaming message reached the customers and the corporate world.
    • Management of the Crisis
  • Do you think the crisis was solved successfully?
    • Yes, though it would be better if action were taken immediately.
  • Did the management consider the crisis as serious as it later turned out to be?
    • At first, the management never thought that it was not very serious.
  • Did the management respond in time to manage this crisis?
    • The management took time to respond to the crisis.
  • How relevant is social media in managing crisis within a given firm?
    • Social media proved to our firm to be very relevant in managing crisis, especially if social media is involved in this crisis.
  • What are some of the advantages of social media in managing crisis within an organization?
    • Social media offers managements opportunity to reach numerous customers in a very short time. It is also relatively cheap as compared to an attempt of using the mass media.
  • Why do the current management units of various corporate firms prefer the use of social media in managing crisis?
    • This is because they have come to the realization that social media has huge potential in managing crisis.
  • Do you think that social media is the future of crisis management for corporate bodies?
    • Yes. Many firms are considering social media in the management of crisis.

Taco Bell

Personal Data

  • What is your gender?
    • Male
  • What is your level of education?
    • University graduate
  • When did you first visit this firm?
    • In 2006
  • Why do you prefer this firm?
    • Their products are of good quality
  • How effective is this firm in using modern technologies?
    • In order to satisfy customers and sustain satisfaction, it is really important.

Crisis in the Firm

  • What led to the crisis of that this firm faced?
    • Green onions that we used in our food sickened the customers, E.coli. After a month, in one of our New York franchise, a rat was recorded which could highly damage our image.
  • Do you think that this crisis would have blown up if social media was not in place?
    • Yes it can, however the spread of the news could be slower, so we can handle much easier.
  • How did social media lead to the spread of this crisis?
    • YouTube. After people uploaded the video, they started to talk about incident day and night. We were trying to handle E.coli crisis but after that we had another crisis.

Management of the Crisis

  • Do you think the crisis was solved successfully?
    • Yes.
  • Did the management consider the crisis as serious as it later turned out to be?
    • Management was always aware that this was serious. They deployed strategy in a mindset that “we are on top of it.”
  • Did the management respond in time to manage this crisis?
    • The management took immediate action.
  • How relevant is social media in managing crisis within a given firm?
    • If social media is involved in this crisis, you should use it. You can’t imagine how fast information flows. After people saw that video on YouTube, they started type in “Taco Bell Rat”, “Rat in Taco Bell” etc. They took advantage of this, and to explain themselves, they bought those keywords and directed people to their virtual house to explain the matter.
  • What are some of the advantages of social media in managing crisis within an organization?
    • Like I said in previous question, information flows very fast. You can reach millions of people just in a short period of time. It was easier to handle the situation but of course it can go the other way. Because not only positive messages go fast.
  • Why do the current management units of various corporate firms prefer the use of social media in managing crisis?
    • It has great potential. The thing is simple, “people you reach”/”time”=efficiency.
  • Do you think that social media is the future of crisis management for corporate bodies?
    • Definitely.

Appendix – B: Dissertation Proposal

Overview of your Dissertation/Integrated Project area

  • Family Name: Erturk
  • Given name: Efe
  • SRN: 12017950
  • Programme: M.Sc. Marketing

(NB Please respond to all the sections below and remove the prompts before submitting)

Section 1: This must be completed on the first page of your submission. Please complete carefully

Academic area within which your research will fall – tick ONE ONLY as appropriate:

  • Marketing
  • Accounting and Finance
  • Economics
  • Human Resource Management
  • Tourism
  • Project Management
  • Strategy
  • Information Systems
  • OR/Mgt Science

The key aims and objectives of your research are to:

  • This thesis will aim to cover how social media is used for the solution of crisis occasions.
  • “The social media” will be defined.
  • Crisis management will be defined and how/when marketing strategies will be applied in such circumstances.
  • “How social media can be used in crisis management” will be discussed.
  • Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell’s case study will be discussed in order to observe “how social media was used in crisis management”.

Section 2: Key questions to answer

2.1 Within what academic area will your research be?

The key academic area of this research will be about “Marketing”.

A study on how social media is used in crisis management.

2.2 Will your research be industry based? If yes, which industry or industries will your research focus on? If no, what will your research be based on (e.g. stock market data, a particular company, a particularly country, etc)?

This research would be mainly based on how use of social media affects crisis management’s strategies. It will focus on fast-food industry with the help of Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell.

2.3 What will the general topic area be, and can you give us a general overview of the developments to date in this area? What is already known about the area/industry/issue?

This paper will be constructed on two main fields including social media and crisis management.

In today’s world social media started to play key role in marketing strategies’ of companies. It became a great tool for companies to advertise, provide a good position for to create good customer relationship which leads to great customer service. Twitter, YouTube and Facebook could be seen as the most important social media platforms. Using social media in crisis management is not a new trend. In past few decades, companies used social media in their crisis management strategies. In example, Domino’s Pizza faced “dirty food” accusations as their employees uploaded a video which shows how they contaminated pizzas they were delivering to YouTube. The company handled this crisis in a very sensitive way by broadcasting apology videos which was recorded by the CEO himself. However, social media does not always work on the behalf of corporate companies, it sometimes can cause problems. In example, Greenpeace is one of the oldest communities which use social media. Most of the Greenpeace campaigns are executed in social media to take attention of people and proceed in their projects.

In this paper, general topic will be constructed on social media and crisis management. After explaining social media and crisis management, specific examples from case studies will be given in order to highlight how theory is applied and evolved to real business life.

2.4 What issues and objectives are to be included in this research? NB: this section should be between 3 and 8 bullet points

  • This thesis will aim to cover how social media is used for the solution of crisis occasions.
  • The social media” will be defined.
  • Crisis management will be defined and how/when marketing strategies will be applied in such circumstances.
  • How social media can be used in crisis management” will be discussed.
  • Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell’s case study will be discussed in order to observe “how social media was used in crisis management in real business life”.

2.5 How, precisely, are you going to tackle this work?

  • Both secondary research and primary research will be done in order to gather data and information.
  • Secondary data is necessary to draw a map and understand the basics of the topic where primary data will be used to get in depth.
  • For secondary data, case studies, journals and company reports will be used. Case studies will play key role in order to explain how social media is effective in the use of crisis management. Journals will help to explain the theory and define basic terms of the subject.
  • For primary research, this research will be done with professionals. Case studies will be enough to explain how social media is used for crisis management; however crisis management strategies are very sensitive. In order to understand in more depth, highlighting the details of decision making process will be crucial. As Domino’s Pizza and Taco Bell will play crucial in this research, customers of these companies are also important. So, it is planned that there will be interviews with social media managers of these companies.

2.6 Identify relevant sources (at least six, ideally more) and summarise what information these will generate (this is the beginning of your literature review)

See Chapter 7: Bibliography

2.7 What academic models and writings would be useful in your research?

  • There are some relevant researches which have broader perspective. Most of these researches show that social media plays key role on crisis management strategies.
  • These researches will show/not show social media is an effective tool in the strategy of crisis management.

2.8 Using the pro-forma provided, complete a time line/Gantt chart

Gantt chart
  1. Clarifying thesis topic.
  2. Questionnaire for Professionals.
  3. Questionnaire for Customers/Consumers.

Appendix – C: Ethics Approval Form

Please complete this form by ‘tabbing’ your way through each answer box using a word processor. Save a copy of the completed form entitled as follows – ‘Family Name, Ethics’. Return the completed form as per instructions U

  • For official use only
  • Protocol Number
  • Date emailed to student niversity of Hertfordshire

Business School

Where any research involves the use of human subjects there is always the possibility that the subjects may be exposed to procedures, which may be harmful to them. These possibilities might include; exploitation, physical harm, emotional harm or intrusion of their privacy. The University must ensure that these possibilities do not occur. This application form enables the Ethics Committee to monitor your research so that it complies with the University of Hertfordshire ethical protocols.

It is important to note that you should not proceed with your research without clearance from the University. The assignment for which the research is carried out will not be processed for examination without Ethics Committee approval.

Your application for ethical approval should be completed as early as is practicable whereupon you will be supplied with a protocol number or referred to your supervisor. The above is an abridged version of the University’s regulations regarding “…studies involving the use of human subjects”. Please refer to UPR AS/A/2 for a full explanation.

Section A. This Section Should Be Completed by All Appicants

A1 Details

  • Name of Applicant: Efe Erturk
  • Student Number (if appropriate): 12017950
  • UH Email address: [email protected]
  • (Note: we will only correspond with you on a UH email address)
  • Programme (if appropriate): M.Sc. Marketing
  • Name of Academic Supervisor: Sally Bunce
  • Proposed research title: Use of social media in crisis management
  • Reasons for research
  • If other please explain

A2 Status of Application – Tick as Appropriate

First application for Ethics approval
Referred application
Revised application when research approach changes
Minor changes need to be notified, but the same Ethics number will usually apply. Major changes of approach or academic focus will result in the issuing of a new Ethics number

A3 Primary or Secondary Research?

Primary research involves gathering new information from interviews, observation or questionnaires. This includes research done face-to-face, by telephone or email. Secondary research involves using publicly available information that has already been collected by other people, organisations or academics.

Is your research to be based solely on secondary information?

Even if secondary research only is being proposed, students will still need to obtain an Ethics number in order to submit their dissertations

If the answer to A3 above is YES, proceed to SECTION C. and certify the declaration. If the answer is NO, complete the rest of the application, and then certify the declaration.

Note: If you are a student on the DMan programme, intend doing action research or research that involves participant observation then Ethics Form B should be completed. This can be obtained from Ruth Grillo in the administration office ([email protected]).

Section B: Only Complete This Section if You Are Conducting Primary Research

B1 Description of Study

Briefly describe the study:

We need a short overview (approximately 150 words) of the subject area in order to put the proposed methodology into context. This should be available from the proposal already submitted.

If your research is addressing any contentious issues which may disturb or distress informants, then you must provide (in this form) details of relevant support organisations or individuals who can provide counselling if required: so, for example, research into such topics as gambling or drinking would need this kind of backup, referring to Alcoholics or Gamblers Anonymous.

Any research into health issues – including stress in the workplace – must be handled extremely carefully and any potential research focusing on these areas must prepare a very detailed proposal for consideration by the Ethics Committee.

Please note that researchers should not accept contractual conditions that are contingent upon a particular outcome from a proposed inquiry

I am planning to investigate at what extend social media would be used in crisis management. From my findings so far, I have several case studies which involves corporate companies, however those case studies do not include sufficient information. In order to provide sufficient and reliable information, I need to conduct interview with social media managers from specific companies which are to be included in my research. Also I need to find out what consumers think about the efforts of companies in such crisis on social media so I am going to conduct personal interviews and focus groups.

B2 Informed Consent

This is a process whereby a participant voluntarily agrees to willingly participate in a piece of research once they have been fully informed of what it entails and its purpose. The Applicants should give details of the purpose of the research and how long an interview/ questionnaire will take. Further, the participant should be assured of anonymity and informed that they can withdraw at any time. These details can be given by letter. In the case of questionnaires, telephone interviews or focus groups a verbal explanation can be given, but MUST be supported by written information about the project that is offered to participants. A respondent information sheet must be provided to all respondents, giving them clear information about the research and the need for their consent to be given, and a copy of this sheet included in an appendix in the final report. Written information must be available for participants in research via the internet. Additional Guidelines for Ethics includes a specimen letter that should be used. Hard copy may be used or an electronic attachment in the case of email surveys.

B2 (I) Applicants Declaration

  • I confirm that I have read and understand the instructions above on informed consent.
  • I agree that written information will be available for all participants and that verbal or written consent will be obtained from all participants
  • I agree that this written permission MUST BE included in the final copy of the report

B3 Participants: Selection and Approach

B3 (i) Complete the table:

Method Proposed Sample Size? Issues to think about:
Paper / Postal Questionnaires 0 How will you make contact?
Face to face interviews / questionnaires 50 How will you make contact?
Telephone Interviews 0 How will you obtain the required telephone numbers? Who, precisely, will you want to speak to?
Focus groups 20 How many groups and how many in each group? How will you recruit people? Where will the focus groups be held?
Email 10 How will you get email addresses? Check that if all informants are emailed out then names are ONLY included in a blind CC listing
Web based / On line Questionnaires 0 How will you ensure an appropriate sample?
Other 6
If other please explain: Facebook, LinkedIn

Please note that you are not required to use all of these methodological approaches – you need to discuss with your supervisor and select that approach/s which will be most appropriate to your research. Think carefully here about such issues as: how many questionnaires constitute viable research? How easy will it be to identify informants? How will you obtain email addresses/telephone numbers? Do not assume that people or organisations will hand over customer lists or be willing to see you at your convenience!

B3 (ii) How will your respondent(s)be selected?

Delete the answer not applicable
Family/ friends
Students at UH*
(Please give full details of who your respondents will be and how they will be selected. For example, how will you get email addresses or where will you put the online survey?)
I will get in contact with social media managers who work for such comapnies and I will made aware that they are taking part in research. I will get in contact with them via Facebook and LinkedIn.

If using family and friends then this is specific enough BUT if you say, for example, ‘Respondents in Shanghai’ then we need information on precisely who will be targeted, how they will be identified, and how you will get their addresses/email addresses/contact details

Please note that applications will be rejected which claim to use family and friends for informants when this group is clearly inappropriate to the research area identified.

Research such as giving out questionnaires can be carried out in town centres and high streets, although the Ethics form should give some indication of precisely where and when the research will take place. This approval DOES NOT include research in shopping centres, as for this you need the permission of the Management of the Centre.

B3 (iii) If you are carrying out primary data collection, where will this research take place?

Delete the answer not applicable
At your home/ student accommodation
At UH (but not in the LRC)*
(Please give full details)
Internet – by contacting via Facebook, Linkedin.
Will it be necessary to get the permission of the owner/manager?
(i.e in the case of shopping malls)
If you are carrying out research within an organisation’s building then you MUST get written permission evenif the owner/manager is afriend or relative and this should go into into an appendix in the final report

Please note that sections B3(ii) and B3(iii) should reflect section B3(i) – if you have selected more than one methodology then it should be clear how informants will be selected in each case, and where the research will take place. ote: * Informants are not to be recruited in the LRC, although you may of course book a room in the LRC to conduct interviews or questionnaires with informants recruited elsewhere.

B4 Research in Organisations

B4 (i) Do you intend conducting research in: private firms, public sector organisations, charities or NGOs? If yes, you MUST complete B4(ii)

If NO, proceed to B5

B4 (ii) If known, give the name of the organisation(s) in which you will be conducting your research.

B4 (iii) If the organisation(s) in which you will be conducting your research is not yet known please explain how you will find and select your sample.

Based on my secondary research which will involve a study of the use of social media in the crisis management, I will select organisations to get in contact. These contacts will be choosen to get in more detail for case studies that will be analysed in dissertation.

Be careful about research that involves assessing individual’s work within an organisation: this can present problems, as they can worry that results can be fed back to their employers or that it may affect their standing.

Applicants Declarations

B4 (iv) I agree to get written permission from an appropriate senior manager if I intend collecting data from employees in any organisation.

Written permission MUST be obtained even if the owner/manager/director of the company is a friend or relative and this written permission MUST be included as an appendix in your final report.

B4 (v) I agree that it will be made clear to customers in an organisation that their participation is voluntary.

B5 Minors and Vulnerable Groups

You are advised not to include minors (under 18 years) and/or members of other vulnerable groups in your research.

A clear definition of vulnerable groups is difficult: minors are an obvious example, but in some cases groups are vulnerable because of their situation, not because they are vulnerable per se. So, for example, migrant workers, not in their home countries, would be vulnerable; workers who are possibly in a country illegally would be vulnerable; people living in one country, who are encouraged to express political or social views at odds with their home government, could be vulnerable.

There may also be a problem with possible coercion. So, for example, if one of your family members runs an organisation, including their customers in the research must be very carefully handled as they may perceive that they are being coerced or pressured to take part, and will then provide answers which they think the researcher/manager wants to hear.

Anything to Do With Researching Stress or the Health Service Is Very Difficult and Will Only Be Approved With Extreme Caution! Any Health Service research involving patients also has to submit a separate ethics application to be dealt with by the National Research Ethics Committee

We appreciate that some of the sensitivities we have outlined may be less important in other countries, and that different ethical standards and codes of behaviour apply. Nonetheless, you are carrying out research as a student of the University of Hertfordshire and, as such, your research must abide by the ethical guidelines set out by the University.

If your research involves participant observation then you must abide by the guidelines set out by the University.

Please see the following web site for detailed guidance.

Do you intend including minors and/or member of other vulnerable groups?

Please be aware that if the answer is YES you will be required to present a justification report to the Ethics Committee. Your supervisor may be asked to attend for that item of business.

Do you intend to use participant observation? :

If yes, do you agree to abide by the university guidelines?

B6 Anonymity

The anonymity of Respondents anonymity must be preserved. This involves not only withholding their names and addresses, but also other information provided by or about them which could in practice identify them (for example, their company and job title) must be safeguarded.

Do you agree to preserve the anonymity of participants both individuals and organisations?

Even if informants appear happy for their identity to be known, you should still ensure anonymity

If the answer is NO, discuss with your supervisor and detail reasons:

B7 Access to Data

I agree that access to the data gathered and final report will only be made available to the University, participants, participating organisation(s) or client(s).

I understand that information gathered or the final report should only be used for academic purposes and should not be used for commercial purposes without the express permission of the client or your academic supervisor.

B8 Confidentiality

Your research will be confidential in exceptional circumstances. Some firms or organisations may make this a precondition of allowing access. Research that is confidential will contain sensitive information which will mean that there can be only limited access to the results. This must be discussed with your supervisor.

Confidentiality should not be confused with anonymity.

The rights of facilitators or sponsors to be consulted before publication should be respected.

Can you confirm that your research will not be considered confidential as defined above?

If NO, please detail the reasons. This MUST be discussed in detail with your supervisor and may delay allocation of an Ethics number

B9 Studies Undertaken Without an Approved Protocol

UPR AS/A12 states that;

‘Any employee of the University who acts in contravention of these regulations will normally be subject to the University’s disciplinary procedures. Any student acting in contravention of these regulations may be penalised by having his or her programmes of study declared invalid and may not be permitted to graduate or may have his or her award revoked’.

I have read the UPR above and understand the implications of undertaking studies without approved protocol. Date: 30/03/2012

Section C. Signatures and Declarations (This Section Should Be Completed by All Applicants)

C1 Applicant’s Declarations

I understand that my research should not proceed until my application has been approved and a protocol number received Date: 30/03/2012

I undertake to inform my supervisor at every stage of the research and to gain approval for each part of the research process (introductory letter/ questionnaire /interview design) and that I have read and will abide by the ethical guidelines of the University of Hertfordshire. Date: 30/03/2012

I understand that Ethics protocol is given for a specific research project and methodology as detailed in this Ethics Form and that if I want to change my project or methodology then a reapplication for Ethics protocol must be made. Date: 30/03/2012

Students or customers failing to get new approval may be subject to the procedures in UPR AS/A12 (see B9).

C2 Host Organisation Supervisor’s Declaration (Mainly Applicable for Placement Students).

Name of host organisation supervisor:


Signature (or attach an email):

Now Return the Form as per Instructions.

PLEASE NOTE: The Ethics Committee are concerned with ensuring that your proposed research meets university-required ethical standards. This approval does NOT imply that your methodology is appropriate or suitable for the proposed research.

C3 Ethics Committee Decision (Please Circle)

  • Accepted
  • Accepted with conditions (see below)
  • Referred (see below)

Signed on behalf of the Ethics Committee: Date:

C3 (I) Ethics Committee Comments

Signature:C3 (ii) The applicant has read and accepted the conditions as laid out above:


Appendix – D: Dissertation Log

University of Hertfordshire

University of Hertfordshire

Business School

Dissertation Log

This is an important document, which is to be handed in with your dissertation. This log will be taken into consideration when awarding the final mark for the dissertation.

Student Name: Efe Erturk
Supervisor’s Name: Sally Bunce
Dissertation Topic: Use of Social Media in Crisis Management

Section A. Ethics

Ethics Form Protocol Number:- BS/P/164-9/12

Section B. Record of Meetings.

Meeting 1

Date of Meeting 26/03/2012
Progress Made -Proposal is completed
Agreed Action -Topic should be narrowed.
-New topic is going to be chosen.
-Proposal will be written.
Student Signature

Meeting 2

Date of Meeting 26/04/2012
Progress Made -New proposal is completed.
-Brief research had been done.
Agreed Action -Literature Review will be completed until next meeting.
-Ethics Form should be filled and submitted before meeting.
-General outline should be clarified.
Student Signature

Meeting 3

Date of Meeting 31/05/2012
Progress Made -Literature Review is completed.
-Ethics application is approved.
Agreed Action -Write up the rest of dissertation according to plan that is explained to supervisor.
-Find appropriate case studies which will support the dissertation.
Student Signature

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