1 Department of Business Communication, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University2 IULM University, Milan3 Department of Business Communication, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
Abstract: Can communication with employees lessen the negative effects of a crisis? In the pre-crisis stage, employee communication can strengthen internal commitment, while in the crisis stage it can reinforce the commitment by means of accommodative crisis communication strategies. Employee commitment is at the basis of positive employee communicative actions, like advocacy and positive referrals, which finally protect the company’s reputation. After a theoretical exploration of these issues, this chapter presents first a case study showing how continuous internal communication efforts and factual communication based on managers’ and company’s actions are crucial in order to build quality relationships with employees. In turn, this leads to positive employee communicative actions when a crisis occurs. Second, it illustrates a survey of Italian companies which examined internal crisis communication strategies during the 2009 global economic crisis, based on a model on possible strategies that range from most accommodative to defensive. The main empirical results show that companies have mostly used defensive internal communication strategies that may damage their intangible assets, namely reputation. The chapter concludes that employee communicative actions are fundamental in order to protect the company’s reputation in case of crises. In addition, during crises it is important to sustain the positive relationship capital developed during the pre-crisis phase by means of accommodative strategies.
Organisational and Strategic Communication Research: European Perspectives, 2013, p. 47-67