Category Archives: Risk and Crisis

Risk, crisis, and social media

New pub with Joel Rasmussen: The literature on social media use in risk and crisis communication is growing fast, and it is time to take stock before looking forward. A review of 200 empirical studies in the area shows how the literature is indeed increasing and focusing on particular social media platforms, users, and phases from risk to crisis relief. However, although spanning 40 countries, a large proportion of the world’s social media users are under-represented in the research. In addition, little attention is given to the question of who is actually reached through social media, and the effects of the digital divide are rarely discussed. This article suggests that more attention is given to the questions of equal access to information and ICTs, complementary media channels, and cultural diversity.

Rasmussen, J., & Ihlen, Ø. (in press). Risk, crisis and social media: A systematic review of seven years’ research. Nordicom Review, 1-17. doi:10.1515/nor-2017-0393

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ICA2015 x 3

ICA 2015 is on! I am packing two papers and a panel and will be heading for Puerto Rico in May. Together with Abbey Levenshus, I will present a paper that continues our work on dialogue and social media. The paper Extolling and extending dialogue: Proposing new directions for research on corporations’ use of social media includes six propositions about the social media’s dialogic potential for corporations.

Fresh off from the DIGICOM-project, Joel Rasmussen and I will present a paper called Risk, crisis and social media: A meta-study of six years’ research. The paper illustrates how the literature has increasingly focused on causality, explaining the impact of different communicative choices on citizens’ perceptions of organizations in crisis. We also found that there are certain aspects that are largely missing. In addition to the lack of generalizable samples and studies of actual, preventive risk communication, very little attention is given to the effects of the digital divide on social mediated risk and crisis communication.

Finally, together with Magnus Fredriksson I proposed a panel called “Typology Teasing: Extending on Sociological Approaches in Public Relations.” In the wake of recent theory development in the field there is a need for public relations to come to terms with itself as a multi-paradigmatic discipline. This panel will focus on the sociological research strand in particular, which includes widely diverse approaches to social problems and different solutions for these.

The panelists will include such renowned scholars as Derina Holtzhausen, Magda Pieczka, Vilma Luoma-aho, and Finn Frandsen. Magnus will present a paper, while I will be chairing the panel.

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Presenter commendation

Forever blowing my own trumpet… After the Conference on Corporate Communication 2014 in Hong Kong, I landed an ACORN™ presenter commendation. “It is given to presenters whose conference presentations engage, lead and inspire.” The paper presented was Ihlen, Ø., & Levenshus, A. (2014, June). Digital dialogue: Crisis communication in social media. The Corporate Communication International Conference on Corporate Communication 2014, Hong Kong.

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Against the grain

Had fun at the International Conference on Corporate Communication in Hong Kong yesterday in the social media and crisis panel. I was pushing the idea, developed together with Abbey Levenshus (U of Tennessee), that there are certain limitations for dialogue in the organizational setting and within social media use. Our paper was called Digital Dialogue: Crisis Communication in Social Media. While organizations can and should cultivate a dialogic culture, they should also try to reconcile themselves with the fact that it is difficult for them not to instrumentalize the dialogue, thus running against the grain of (genuine) dialogue theory.

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Digital dialogue – in HK

A consistent finding in the crisis communication literature is that organizations should attempt to have a well-established relationship in place with stakeholders before a crisis occurs. Organizations need to engage in dialogue in advance of crisis situations. I have written a paper on this topic together with Abbey Levenshus (U of Tennessee), and it has just been accepted for the CCI Conference on Corporate Communication. 

The paper is called “Digital Dialogue: Crisis Communication in Social Media” and summarizes and discusses the literature that gives advice on how to use social media in this regard. It is argued that there is still a lot to learn from the more sophisticated theoretical conceptions of dialogue. Dialogue can be seen as a quality of communication and of relating with others, and/or an ideal to strive for. Here then, notions like mutuality and reciprocity are discussed in the context of social media and crisis. Practical suggestions are made for how the dialogue ideal can be approached, while at the same time recognizing the limitations imposed by the organizational context.


New research project: “Communicating Risk in the Digital Age”

I am involved in a new research project called “Communicating Risk in the Digital Age”. The primary objective of the project is to better understand how the digitalization of communication impacts the way we understand, communicate and act upon risk.
 The project has just received funding from the SAMRISK program of the Research Council of Norway. It will be led by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) with cooperating partners from the U of Oslo, NTNU, University of Montreal
, University of Westminster
, and Vrije Universiteit Brussels. A post.doc.-position is tied to my department and we will be looking to recruit next year.

The project has three secondary objectives:

(1) To clarify, document and analyze who the new actors in communication of risk are,
 (2) to explain how new technological means for communicating risk knowledge impact traditional and official understandings of what risk is and how it should be communicated, and (3) to draw well-informed conclusions about how risk communication can and should be best carried out in the new technological environment.


Social media, risk and crisis: It’s on!

The good people of the Norwegian Research Council has decided in favor of a pre-project proposal on social media, risk and crisis. Mike Palenchar (U of Tennessee), Andreas Schwarz (Ilmenau U of Technology), Gus Pang (Nanyang Technological U), Abbey Levenshus (U of Tennessee) and Elin Strand Hornes (U of Oslo), and myself will have a workshop where we write an application to the SAMRISK II program.

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