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Rachel Corry

Ms. Boudreau

ENC 2135

24 September 2017

Project 1: Investigative Field Essay Draft 2


The disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill, Chipotle health scare, Hurricane Katrinas

destructive path In a world of constantly changing circumstances and unpredictable events,

fast-paced decisions and responses to crises are no stranger to most organizations. Crisis

management, or the way an entity responds to an emergency situation requiring addressment, is

far more active and influential in society than many of us recognize. From this paper, readers can

expect to gain a stronger understanding of the real-world applications of crisis management and

the position it holds in numerous organizations at the local, national, and international levels.

Readers should also acquire a heightened awareness of what constitutes an effective crisis

management strategy and how to better evaluate crisis responses on their own, particularly in the

realm of a health crisis.

The point of the research conducted in this paper is primarily to explore a more specific

realm of communication (crisis management) that is directly tied to an organization and has the

potential to affect society on multiple scales. Throughout the paper, concepts will be connected

to the three health crises mentioned in the opening sentence. Additionally, this research is meant

to assist me in discovering the daily tasks, central goals, and skills involved for someone in the

field of crisis management. The focus of this essay is life within my field and the role of

communication required between people inside and outside of the field. I developed an interest
in crisis management because I am always keen on watching news channels and other

companies reactions when a crisis or major event happens. I am also curious about how and

why the public is drawn to responding more emotionally or immediately to certain emergency

situations over others. The style of communication and leadership types people tend to favor is

also an important and interesting topic to me. I am a relatively calm person and generally remain

able to convey my thoughts successfully in stressful situations. My sister is a nurse; her

collectedness and readiness during even the most chaotic circumstances inspires me to be able to

do the same. I have a variety of interests in the areas of public relations, business, and

communication; I feel that crisis management combines these in a meaningful way that involves

a great deal of interaction and assurance during difficult or uncertain times. The personal benefit

I have gained from this research is more familiarity with life within a field I am interested in

entering and the skills necessary to communicate within the field. Additionally, acquiring new

information about why we need crisis management and further potential research within the field

I could potentially contribute was a major benefit. A few preconceived notions I had about my

field were that crisis management was concerned almost solely with the environment and

internationally known events like the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 in the United States.

I also didnt realize the wide-reaching scope of other areas of skill that crisis management

encompasses and its possible applicability to many careers.

The primary research questions I will address in my field essay are as follows: the

process of creating a different crisis management strategy based on unique circumstances, how

crisis management teams interact within and outside their group correspondence, how an

organizations handling of crises influences their character and reputation, how an audience

influences particular crisis response plans, and ultimately the role of crisis management in
forming a relationship between an organization and the public and its connection to numerous

other fields of study. These research questions matter because understanding the dynamic nature

and wide applicability of crisis management is personally valuable to me and should offer some

useful insight to others as well.


In order to discover what people in the field of crisis management discuss and what

publications they read regularly, I initially relied heavily on academic articles and studies.

Evident in almost every secondary source article was an overview of the strengths and

weaknesses surrounding different types of crisis management and the structure of a crisis

management team. Volume 60 of Business Horizons offers an analysis of four major crisis

leadership types with examples of each that demonstrates their possible benefits and

disadvantages; transformational leaders who is experienced with considering future

consequences and the larger picture through a flexible and open strategic outlook appear most

effective in guiding organizations through crises (Bowers, Hall and Srinivasan, 551-563).

Despite efforts by President George W. Bush, the Federal Emergency Management Agency,

National Guard soldiers, charities, and other organizations during and after Hurricane Katrina in

2005, it became clear that centralized, well-prepared crisis management leadership was lacking.

In the hurricanes aftermath, the degree of devastation in New Orleans alone provides proof that

well-qualified and effective leaders are a necessity to respond appropriately to a crisis and

initiate the steps to recovery. A reoccurring focus I also found in my research was the role of

time and pressure on an organizations crisis management plan development, but I also found the

role of social approval to be a significant factor as those affected by a crisis are inclined to make

attributions of responsibility in understanding the scope of the situation (Bundy and Pfarrer,
350-352). The widespread demand for active cleanup after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill into

the Prince William Sound led to the development of a more active public relations realm within

Exxon to implement a clearer, stronger crisis management plan to address any future emergency

situations that did not exist when the oil spill occurred. The publics advocacy for protecting the

environment (in this case, the Prince William Sound in Alaska) and their own safety

demonstrates the key influence that social involvement can have on the formation of a crisis

management strategy and how a companys reputation is certainly affected by their response to

such a situation. The main audience for publications within my field appears to be organizations

who need to be aware of the variety of options in choosing appropriate crisis management

strategies. Some publications, however, involve more specialized conversations and research

studies intended for members of crisis management teams to raise their awareness of effective

techniques in communicating to the public during a crisis. The topic of organizational

legitimacy is brought into focus in a research study on crisis response strategies aimed at

discovering the role of crisis response consistency and message delivery during crises (Massey,

153). Proper crisis management influences the publics perception and thus an organizations

overall reputation as legitimate; the significance of reliable and honest communication is crucial

in a CMTs response to emergencies.

For my interview process, I started reaching out to possible intervieews in a broad sense

and gradually moved toward narrowing down my search to the most qualified candidates. I

contacted multiple Florida State University professors within the College of Communication

whose research interests were applicable to my topic of interest. Several professors provided me

with specific contacts who were more qualified in the field of crisis management, including Dr.

Jay Rayborn and Dr. Patrick Merle. I also inquired about an interview with my public speaking
professor, Mark Zeigler. I relied on my own connections for finding qualified interviewees,

including people my friends know who are involved in a crisis management based career like

(Kaila Lariviere). By talking about my school projects to my resident assistant, Andrew Burns, I

realized that he could be a great potential interviewee for crisis management because of the

situations he is required to be trained for handling at FSU. In my interviews, I asked a

combination of pointed and open-ended questions to provide interviewees with opportunities to

discuss some topics I may not think of or recognize the importance of. These questions included

what they see as the most effective what got them interested in their area of specialty, techniques

at handling crises, the most important or debated topics in the field of crisis management, key

pointers to keep in mind when communicating within a crisis management team, how to best

connect with an audience in handling a crisis, how crisis management is involved in other fields,

and some valuable insights they have gained in their career history. My first interviews were the

ones I conducted via email with Kaila Lariviere and Michelle Laurents, which provided a strong

basis for me to advance to conducting interviews in person with Andrew Burns, Dr. Rayborn,

and Dr. Merle. Email interviews are naturally quicker and rather easy, but I foresee my

upcoming face to face interviews this week will be even more in depth and insightful as they

offer more room to advance into the unexpected based on what the interviewee seems to be most

passionate about.


Throughout my interview process, by brainstorming questions to ask interviewees I

further focused my field essay and the research questions to be addressed. Some of the most

interesting things I learned were the possible careers involved in crisis management of those I

interviewed, including staffing the special needs shelter in Leon County within the health
department (Kaila Lariviere), addressing residents concerns and possible emergencies (Andrew

Burns), and various professors. Something that surprised me was the extent of crisis management

at the local level, including at a university. I anticipate my interviews to provide me with

information that answers my research questions and contributes to a more complete

understanding of life within my field of study. I am really looking forward to my interviews with

Dr. Merle, who specializes in political communication and media effects, and Dr. Rayborn in

public relations and research methods that can be applied to crisis management.


In summary, crisis management proves fundamental to the society we live in and allows

for our everyday lives to run as smoothly as possible. From my research process, I learned about

the interview process and how to form research questions to drive a field investigation. Exxon

Valdez oil spill, Chipotle health scare, and Hurricane Katrina provide illustrations into the field

and demonstrate the significance of an effective crisis management strategy for organizations in

various fields.