Determining Best Practices in Crisis Communication through Social Media to Develop Public Trust – Part 4

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4. Methodology

The primary objective of research is to identify the elements for best practices in crisis communication with the use of social media to develop public trust. To achieve the primary research objective, the research design will follow the multiple case studies. In this chapter, the research design will be discussed in detail to highlight the research methodology and instruments that will be used to accomplish the research objectives.

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4.1 Research Design

The multiple case research design follows the mixed method approach – a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches. By employing the mixed method approach, the researcher can gain broad results to address the primary research objective. In addition, the qualitative research approach would fill in the weaknesses of the quantitative research approach, and vice versa. According to Yin (2010), qualitative research is an approach through which scholars or researchers aim to study the meaning of human life and the events and conditions of society. Furthermore, qualitative research enables scholars to explore the views and perspectives of human beings about certain topics (Yin, 2010). Klenke (2008), on the other hand, defined qualitative research as a means of employing different instruments to make enquiries about certain topics, specifically those that relate to social issues and human concerns.

On the other hand, quantitative research refers to the process of quantifying data to address a research question. Most scholars define quantitative research as a means of explaining phenomena through the collection of numerical data. Data will be analyzed using mathematical methods and practices, such as descriptive statistics, and will be used to answer research questions or accomplish research objective (Muijs, 2010).

4.2 Research Methods

To apply the qualitative research approach, the case analysis method will be employed. Through case analysis method, actual cases of crises and how public and private organizations handled them through crisis communication using social media would be explored in the study. In the research, the terrorist attack in New York and Washington, D.C. in September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina that ravaged New Orleans, the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and Hurricane Sandy that ravaged New York and New Jersey in 2012 would be explored. To accomplish the objective of qualitative research in the study, existing literature will be reviewed to take note of the following details:

  1. The type of crisis.
  2. Basic details about the crisis.
  3. The events following the crisis.
  4. The events during the crisis.
  5. The events after the crisis.
  6. Crisis communication strategies implemented by public and private organizations during the crisis.
  7. The use of social media in crisis communication during crisis.
  8. Evaluation of crisis communication through social media during crisis.
  9. Other issues raised by previous research studies about the crises.

To apply the quantitative research approach, the content analysis was employed. To accomplish the objective of quantitative research, feedback from the public in social media news will be explored to determine how well they received information provided by public and private organizations. By using hashtags of the crisis on Twitter, the researcher could screen the feedback of Twitter users. The responses of social media users will be categorized as either positive or negative in relation to trust by researcher. The percentage of users will determine whether they responded positively or negatively to the news and information about the crisis. Data will be tabulated using Microsoft Excel and analyzed through descriptive statistics.

The research focuses on social media networks. Nevertheless, collating and analyzing all posts and updates about the selected crises events would take time. Therefore, considering the research time frame, the researcher chose to focus on collating and analyzing data from on social media platform – Twitter. Twitter was also selected because the platform provides an effective means to search archives of Twitter posts and updates using the hashtag mechanism.

To obtain quantitative data, the researcher conducted a content analysis of Twitter posts and updates about the following crises: the September 9, 2001 terrorist attack, Hurricane Katrina, the H1N1 Pandemic, the BP Oil Spill, and Hurricane Sandy. Twitter posts and updates about these events were collated using the common or popular hashtags used to mark tweets related to these events.

The researcher obtained thousands of “tweets” for each crisis. To narrow down the search results and make analysis more manageable and attainable, the researcher randomly selected 1000 tweets in the database for each crisis category. The content of each Twitter post was analyzed through a coding system using categories in the database: positive, neutral, and negative. Identifying positive and negative tweets depend on the Twitter user’s show of trust to public and private organizations or agencies involved in the specific occurrence. A show of trust resulted to a positive mark in the database, while a show of distrust resulted to a negative mark in the database. The researcher needs to decide the category for each tweet post based on emotional feeling about reading. Table 5 illustrates the different hashtag searches used to collate “tweets” about these occurrences and coding system.

During data collection, the researcher archived all Twitter posts and updates after each event. Although Twitter was not yet developed during the September 9, 2001 terrorist attack and Hurricane Katrina, the public posts and updates about these events on Twitter were analyzed. Many people still talk about these events on Twitter, relieve their experiences, and talk about the events surrounding the attack, including the government’s crisis strategy and response.

Table 5

Hashtags Used to Search Related Posts and Updates on Twitter and coding summery for five crises

Crisis or Occurrence Hashtags Used
September 9, 2001 Terrorist Attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon #Sept11

#NeverForget

#WTC

#FDNY

#NYC

#911whereiwas

#RIP

Hurricane Katrina #hurricanekatrina

#katrina

#neworleans

#NOLA

H1N1 Pandemic #H1N1

#swineflu

#flu

 BP Oil Spill #bp

#bpoil

#bpoilspill

#oilspill

Hurricane Sandy #hurricanesandy

#sandy

#newyork

#newjersey

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4.3 Expected Outcomes

The research objectives will be accomplished multiple case studies. After identifying whether the crisis communication strategies implemented by the public and private organizations during crises earned positive or negative responses from the public, the research would identify the elements for the best practices in crisis communication using social media. Consequently, the researcher would identify what strategies were effective in gaining public trust. Based on the analysis and synthesis of data, the researcher would develop a working model of crisis communication using social media for practitioners.

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