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Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Qingwen Dong

First Committee Member

Carol Ann Hackley

Second Committee Member

Kenneth Day

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of social media on crisis communication. To evaluate this impact, a case study method was utilized examining the crisis communication response of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on April 20, 2010. This study focused on the response of the responsible party, British Petroleum, and the general public over three social media: Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Through extensive analysis of both the company's and public response to the Gulf spill, nine implications were identified regarding social media's influence on crisis communication.

These implications highlighted the potential for organizations to build interpersonal relationships with its publics. These relationships were found to be crucial in times of crises. The implications of this study also pointed to interactivity, using a "human voice," trust, and credibility as crucial factors in building these relationships and leading an effective crisis response across social media. This study also noted the new stress for organization's to respond quickly to crises as a result of instant news brought by social media. Implications of this study also highlighted social media's influence on

individuals becoming contributing members of a crisis response. While social media has influenced the practice of crisis communication in many ways, this study found that the principles and ethics of the field have remained the same. In conclusion, analysis suggests that BP neglected using social media in its crisis response, a channel which has entered the mainstream of crisis communication. As a result, this study recommends the use of social media before, during, and after a crisis to ensure the welfare of a company and its relationship with its publics.

Pages

128

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