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Facebook and the public framing of a corporate crisis

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Purpose

– It is crucial for corporate communication to know how different public sources frame a crisis and how these sources influence each other. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of Facebook by examining – if the public represented on Facebook contributes distinct frames to the discursive negotiation of a crisis at all, and whether the public represented on Facebook is able to influence the crisis framing of news media.

Design/methodology/approach

– The authors compared how four different public sources framed the NestlĂ© Kit Kat crisis: news media, corporate communication, NGOs, and Facebook users. The authors therefore, coded 5,185 sentences from the four sources and conducted a frame-analysis through the detection of co-occurrence between actors and attributions. A cross-correlation with a seven-day lag in each direction was applied to detect the frame-setting effects between the public represented on Facebook and news media.

Findings

– While the public represented on Facebook is found to apply distinct crisis frames in comparison to conventional sources, its frame-setting power is limited. In contrast to findings from political communication, it is rather the news media that influences the crisis framing in social media. The role of the public represented on Facebook, hence, appears marginal in comparison to news media that remain a major force in the discursive negotiation of a corporate crisis.

Originality/value

– As a first study, crisis framing in social media is compared with that of news media, NGOs, and corporate communication. Second, so far there have been no studies in the corporate communication field investigating the frame-setting effects between social media and news media. Contrary to social media’s promising frame-setting power ascribed by some scholars, the authors do not find such effects with Facebook, the most popular social media tool to date.
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Keywords: Corporate communication; Frame setting; Framing; NGOs; News media; Social media

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department for Intercultural Communication and Management, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark.

Publication date: April 7, 2015

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