Globalization has created greater interdependence in our societal, economic and political systems. This is increasing the number of systemic risks faced by our organizations—as evidenced by the 2008 financial crisis. It also makes responding to crises even more complex.
The multiple levels of stakeholders that are a challenge to engage with in the course of normal business become a nightmare to manage in a crisis. Besides employees, regulators, politicians, victims, customers and shareholders, organizations now also have to reckon with stakeholder groups that become involved through social media networks.
The multitude and diversity of these intertwined stakeholder groups are complicating and compounding the intensity and spread of crises. We are witnessing more stakeholder outrage at corporate and institutional misbehavior. Internet-based news sources allow individuals worldwide to follow such situations. Social networking sites, blogs and online news sites can spread the unfolding of crises and scandals in the public and private sectors virally.
This interconnectedness is well illustrated in three recent and ongoing crises: the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 and the GM car recall and the ferry disaster in Korea. Although very different from one another, each crisis shows its own highly complex and multilevel stakeholder scene. In each case, the communications and actions of the different stakeholder groups (such as regulators, victims’ families, shareholders and politicians, among others) have complicated the situation generating conflicting messages.
For example, Malaysian Airlines is owned by the Malaysian government and is not an independent entity. It has to align with the government’s agenda and messages. The large number of Chinese passengers called for heavy intervention from the Chinese government and demands for answers in a situation where mystery still prevails. Such a stakeholder scene could be described as a maze with multiple connection lines and pressure points that crisscross each other.
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