Organizational Ethos in Crises Management
Posted by rebeccab2828
Crises Management in the Shadows of Self-Promotion
Melody Bowden’s Tweeting an Ethos: Emergency Messaging, Social Media, and Teaching Technical Communication focused on the ethos that organizations encourage through their social media posting. Her viewpoint that such groups have a duty to put their audience’s needs first was eye opening. Meeting the reader’s expectations contributes to the organizational ethos, but Bowden also suggested that organizations have some responsibility in facilitating an informed community.
I think that most of us anticipate that an organization or corporation, when communicating via non-cyber media, will put their own agenda first. Oh, sure… We expect them to spin their message so there is the appearance of truly caring about the audience; but, we still notice the shameless plugs, the product placement, or the solicitation for a donation. We get glimpses of what the organization is really after and usually it isn’t just to be helpful, devoid of an ulterior motive.
Bowden’s study revealed that in a time of crises the Twitter posts by both CNN and the American Red Cross had the highest concentration of tweets fall into the category of “self-referential posts designed to promote the organizations’ programming and accomplishments” (P. 46). I am not surprised. But reading about Bowden and her student’s surprise, made me reexamine how I think technical communicators and the groups they represent should present themselves in social media and why social media is different.
Questioning How Social Media is Different
She suggests that, for the sake of ethos, organizations should not focus so heavily on self-promotion. She explains, “Technical communication scholars need to continue to study…how these forums can be used to promote a safe and informed citizenry as well as the objectives of corporations, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies” (P. 50). I find it interesting that she mentions “a safe and informed citizenry.” This statement seems to be referencing the internet as a community. This “community” concept has been a subject of controversy in many of our readings. So, if we accept the internet as a type of “community” does this really make these groups responsible for fostering it? Or, is she only referring to the specific real world citizens of the community where the crises is occurring?
Additionally, if she is saying that organizations should abandon self-promotion to focus on the needs of an actual non-digital community in crises, then why don’t we have those expectations of the communication that occurs in those communities offline? Why is this study about the organizational ethos as it applies to social media and not championing organizational ethos as it pertain to all media? For instance, I lived in Florida for the last 28 years. I am no stranger to hurricane season. The television stations, newspapers, radio stations, local organizations and even home improvement stores, grocery stores and convenience stores would get involved in storm preparedness outreaches. And when disaster struck, they had a plan for reaching out to the community, but you could always see the company promoting itself alongside those efforts. It was expected.
I am also wondering how an organization can afford to not take advantage of these situations. Perhaps they should not be so overt in their self-promotion, but they may not have this exact audience in front of them except in times of crises. If they don’t get their message to them now, when will they? The audience is using the organization for something they need. Why can’t the organization saturate it in their own message? Annoying? Yes. A bit uncouth? Probably. But expected? Understandable? Kind of.
An Inspiring Future
Before anyone misunderstands my Devil’s advocate type thought process, I am not disparaging or arguing her ideas. Bowden opened my eyes to a whole set of possibilities. I actually like the idea of a technical communicator as a facilitator of community who provides a service-oriented message to the reader. The questions about how to go about it and how to preserve ethos are fascinating. I think serving the community while somehow satisfying the objectives of an organization sounds both challenging and inspiring. The questions that I have shared are ones that I continue to play around with in my head. I rather like this new vision of where technical writing can go and I look forward to seeing how these concepts evolve.
Posted on November 8, 2015, in Digital, Social Media, Society, Trust and tagged audience, blog, Bloggers, Blogging, Communication, community, content management, content strategy, digital, digital ethics, Digital Literacy, Social Media, social network sites, Twitter. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.
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