Crisis Communication: Case Studies
Virginia Tech Massacre
Dishonest Hong Kong leaders during the SARS crisis
During the 2003 outbreak of SARS in Hong Kong, government leaders were more concerned with their reputation rather than alleviating the publics’ fears. Kaman Lee (2007) writes that there are eight factors that characterize a country is in crisis; his explanations of these characterizations show that the Hong Kong government avoided the media and people living in Hong Kong, eliminating the use of rhetoric during a crisis situation (p.74). The leaders largely misjudged how concerned people were when SARS first surfaced in Hong Kong; instead of alleviating peoples’ fears, the leaders avoided making public statements, would not cooperate with the media, and only contacted their audiences through press releases. In fact, Lee (2007) writes that one Hong Kong leader even “scolded the media for ‘exaggerating the situation’” (p.75). Lee’s examples display what little regard the Hong Kong government had for their audience because they were too concerned about putting up a good front to actually take care of the situation.
Inconsistency damages reputation of authorities in Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina shows the effect of inconsistent messages given to the public. In the chaos after Katrina blew through New Orleans, views about how authorities were handling the situation clashed, creating further public confusion and distrust of authorities (Littlefield & Quenette, 2007, p. 27, 42). According to Littlefield & Quenette (2007) the media’s mismatched messages “result[ed] in the premature placement of blame by the public and the effectiveness of those in authority [being] compromised” (p. 42). The media further undermined authorities’ credibility by showing their ineffectiveness while the authorities themselves tried to cast themselves in a positive light (Littlefield & Quenette, 2007, p. 42). In an already uncertain situation, these opposing views invited audiences to question who they should believe. Thus, questionable accuracy and lack of coordination led to a largely negative image of authorities.