Posts Tagged ‘crisis management’


This is my paper published in International of Communication, Business, and Management Conference 2015. Please download the paper:

Rachmat UB Malang For Makassar

Buku baru saya “Public Relations, Issue & Crisis Management”

dari hasil penelusuran di Google, Riset Critical ethnography on Crisis Management belum dipublikasikan orang. Tulisan ini menjadi yang pertama membahas etnografi kritis dalam crisis management.




By Prof. Rachma Ida, Dra., M.Comms., Ph.D

This book demonstrates original idea to research crisis mana-gement and the responses of the local community using a critical ethnography approach in Indonesian context. There have been not many studies done in the field area of, citing the author’s statement in this book “Public relations issues and crisis management,” applied this methods. The research in this book is not only interested in exa-mining the crisis management of the company, the government of Indonesia and the reaction of the community, particularly the victims, but it is also successfully engaged with the issues of socio-cultural changes and the political economy interest played within the context of the so-called “Lapindo” disaster.

The research in this book also provides the amount of primary materials and interview excerpts with the victims and other relevant sources that have been involved with the incident and those who pay their concern to the mudflow problems. Some historical developments of the mudflow incident and pictures included in the research give a sense of how terrible the incident has turned out and how bad the physical and socio-cultural impacts for the communities surrounding the area and the society at large. These elements marks the distinctive or characteristic the research in this book.

The methodological approach attempted by the author is appreciated, as it is not easy to get involved in such community, doing interviews and gather information from the victims who live in a temporary residential, some of them even live with appaling condition, and inviting them to participate in the focus group discussion. Eventhough some aspects – the setting of focus group discussion, how the condition of the victims at the time of discussion and other concerning matters regarding emotions and psychological situation- need to be more explaned. Somehow the research allows the reader to gain an understanding of the unkind victims’ reactions and what sort of critical opinion the victims hold. As to my knowledge so far, their voices are marginalised by the mainstream media in Indonesia.

The author has attempted sufficient discussions in some areas such as the political interest between the government and the company, the contradiction of the presidential decrees, the manipulation strategies to mitigate the mudflow disaster attempted by Lapindo company, the various media comments, and wide-ranging criticisms and attitudes held by the victims, both by those who are benefitted from the mudflow tragedy and who are suffered mostly.

In summary, this book significantly adds of the discipline of Communication, particularly the application of critical ethnography in the field area of Public relations and crisis management. The research in this book will also become a potential example for research in the field area studied, since I acknowledge that this methodological approach is rarely attempted by the Communication scholars and researchers in Indonesia.

Prof. Rachma Ida, Dra., M.Comms., Ph.D.

Ketua Program S2 Media & Komunikasi FISIP Universitas Airlangga

Guru Besar Media Komunikasi Budaya Universitas Airlangga Indonesia

Master of Communications Edith Cowan University Western Australia

Doctor of Philosophy in Communication Curtin University Western Australia


Berikut saya sampaikan materi bahasan ttg krisis dan segala hal  yang terkait dengannya. Silahkan juga baca di buku saya “PR & Crisis Management, 2012, Prenada.

MATERI 3 – CRISIS-an overview1



Materi ini bicara ttg komunikasi saat krisis. untuk lebih mendapatkan pemahaman yg lebih mendalam, silahkan baca di buku saya: Public Relations & Crisis Management: pendekatan critical PR, etnografi kritis dan kualitatif, Prenada Jakarta, 2012.

lihat PDF:


Serial Crisis Management

Materi yang membahas crisis management. Lebih detailnya, silahkan baca di buku saya public relations & crisis management (2012).

Materi -Model CM


Public Relations & Mudflow Crisis 2

Rachmat Kriyantono, Ph.D (School of Communication, UB Malang)


It seems that the company viewed the victims based on the strategic approach when defining its public. In this approach, the victims are assumed to be passive when receiving organizational messages rather than being active and equal participants. The victims were directed only to understand the company’s view about the crisis, such as: the company was a victim too, the company was a hero, the company was generous by giving social aid, and the construction of the crisis that it was a natural disaster. Many demonstrations indicated that the victims did not have a chance to express and to argue their feelings. Conversely, it would have been better that the company performs as a servant of the people.

            On the contrary, based on the Situational Theory of the Public, the observation of the victims’ behavior found that the victims were not passive. They actively sought explanation by frequently questioning to the opinion leaders and demonstrating against the company and the government to gain information. They demanded information about social warnings, compensation, and what they should do. They felt that these were not relayed to the public. As a result of this information seeking process, this research revealed a model of communication flow among the victims. This model enhances the knowledge that the victims obtained the information particularly from personal communication among them and local opinion leaders to explore the information that they had already obtained from the mass media. The victims also admitted that there was a problematic situation (problem recognition); however, they did not obtain clear information and could not express their feelings because of the communication barriers (constraint recognition), such as closed communication channels.

It is no wonder that all respondents and the participants attributed the mudflow crisis to the intentional cluster: the company was the actor that should take responsibility to solve any problems, including giving complete compensation. In terms of the crisis history, the respondents also construed that the agreement and regulations were not obeyed many times. The payment of compensation became circuitous. Instead of giving fresh money, the company offered a new residence in the relocation scheme. The company stimulated public outrage when a thousand victims, who chose the relocation offer, signed an agreement to gain a new house earlier than those who demanded fresh money. The issues of relocation and cash money evolved into a critical stage because this situation led to disagreement among a group of the victims. As a result, there was a lack of confidence in the company and in the government. Even though some respondents admitted that they have a reasonably comfortable life after receiving compensation, they felt that the company did not take care of them well. The reasons were: they felt that they lived in hardship and waited for months uncertain about their fate; the compensation was an inherent responsibility of the company as the source the crisis; they still lost social-cultural aspects which cannot be replaced by money.

Moreover, it is a duty of management and public relations officers to ensure that the public will be served well by the company by assisting to devise communication strategies that will allow the company to adapt their environment. Public relations officers, for example, must be responsible for helping management to deal with the crisis. The research has given evidence that the public relations officers have the main obligation to create messages and communicate these openly in order to obtain a mutual understanding with the public. Furthermore, these strategies will help to manage issues which emerge during the crisis. However, as a part of a broader social system, implementing this duty cannot be separated from other social political systems. The research found that crisis management was highly influenced by the political economy contexts: this event involves the power relations of all social aspects in the society. These relations, then, determine how regulations, channel of communication, and compensation will be formed and disseminated during the crisis, and how the truth was constructed. 

The three factors of ineffective crisis management above led to rumours emerging among the victims about close relationship between the company and the government in a high political context. They tried to understand why this event happened. As a result, there was a lack of confidence in the company and in the government. It appeared to be a conflict of interest, because Aburizal Bakrie was the minister and also the owner of the company. Indeed, it was difficult to know when he acted as the minister and when he acted as Bakrie’s owner. This made the situation worse because how the company manages a crisis will determine the quality of their reputation after the crisis. In this case, public trust and the good reputation have gone.

It should be noted that people’s construction can be defined in the way that people have their own standard of truth when they perceive the reality and is dependent on their political economy background.The company created its construction through a crisis management strategy which included its communication strategies; the government’s regulations, the news from mass media, and the victims’ demands were also a product of the   construction. However, the different constructions can create conflicts and become a serious problem. The construction of a reality is a subjective matter and depends on the individual’s interest, any efforts to compel the construction on others can trigger controversy. Finally, whoever has the power, ability, and a channel of communication (media) will likely be able to persuade others in order to adopt its construction of reality.

The mudflow crisis itself is the objective reality. However, the individuals have their own frame in regard to the mudflow crisis that is constructed subjectively from their experiences and information about it. It can be stated that the plurality of attribution of the mudflow event is shaped and constructed socially. Individuals have their own educational backgrounds, experiences, family norms, preferences, particular social environment, interests, and interaction patterns so that they interpret the mudflow event as their own construction. Through the externalization process, individuals absorb particular information about the mudflow that has been constructed by the government, the company, mass media, academics or their relatives. In this point, the mudflow event becomes a new objective reality.

Which construction will be an objective reality depends on how the construction is shaped and the power to communicate that construction itself is about something that people believe is a social reality. By taking over several media and spending a large sum of money for an advertising strategy on local and national media, the company had the power to communicate the construction of “Sidoarjo Mud”. Mass media is a tool to disseminate the company’s points of views more subtly. News is the result of a media construction about reality that sometimes differs from reality. News is commonly thought of as a second hand reality. A Critical approach views that power and knowledge cannot be divided to create truth. Therefore, it can be concluded that power is an inherent part of the company’s message. The advertisements, newsletters, regulations, as expressed in language, transferred power. As a result, power persuaded public perception about the reality. It created particular knowledge, such as the company was a hero and generous and the victims were troublemakers. Furthermore power is a creative force that pervades all human activity which includes crisis management.

This power was also strong because of the political position of Bakrie as the minister, the chairman of one of the biggest parties, and the chief of the coalition parties. Similarly, in a highly political context, the construction of “Sidoarjo Mud” became the objective reality. The construction appeared not only in the company’s messages but also in any formal regulations from the government at the beginning of the crisis. It can be seen that this construction represents the power and interests of the political and economic elites. It is interesting that the government officers, when speaking to the public, tended to demand the company pay compensation, but they constructed “Sidoarjo Mud” in formal regulations. It can be said that the process of construction walked softly and seemed normal. However, the company failed to shape the victims’ construction of reality. The victims constructed “Lapindo Mud” and they claimed that this crisis happened because of the company’s mistake. Although they obtained compensation from the company, this perception was not change.

In addition, during the four years of the crisis, there were conflicts of interest between the company, the government and the victims. This situation can be explained by a critical approach that suggests that conflicts and disagreements always happen in the social process. To deal with any conflicts, the state should give an opportunity for all voices to be heard. As a result, the domination of ideology from the group which has the power can be avoided. However, from field observations, the ideal condition has not been reached. The victims have been oppressed by more powerful groups therefore the victims must struggle against both the government and the company to gain their right. The situation happened, adopting Marxism, because economical-profit orientation directed any efforts to manage the crisis. Moreover, the victims did not have a great chance to access any means of production, such as a channel of communication.

Finally, it should be emphasized that the company should deal more properly with the impact of the crisis on the victims. The company should be sure that no one outside the company will suffer physically (such as losing the property, the jobs, and environmental damage) and psychologically (such as fear, worry, and anxiety). The company should quickly relay information about what people should do and give compensation rather than spend time to prove that the company is not guilty. Even though the cause of the eruption had not been determined, the public perceived and attributed it to a drilling mistake. In fact, perception influences a fact and perception is a fact. The crisis can be constructed as bad or good, as it depends on how people perceive it because perception is intangible in the minds of people involved in the crisis. At present, what the company should do is complete the compensation properly in an agreed time as a form of the social responsibility program because the court stated it was a natural disaster.

The limitation of this research is that it did not aim to generalize the data, but it investigated the victims’ construction of the crisis in-depth in a natural setting that was limited by their particular contexts. Therefore the results cannot be extrapolated to other context and it depends, for instance, on the political and social context within the case. The aim of the paper is not to judge Lapindo’s responsibility but to show how the different actors interact and the consequences of those interactions for real people. For future research, quantitative methods, such as an experimental and a survey research, can be conducted to investigate the correlation between public relations programs and the public perception about the initial crisis responsibility, crisis history, and prior reputational relations.


Mudflow Crisis

Rachmat Kriyantono, Ph.D (School of Communication, UB Malang)

The mudflow disaster has resulted in an interconnection between the strategy of management to manage it, the public’s perceptions, and the power or control that the management or the public has. It can be said that an appropriate crisis management was needed because the mudflow crisis in Sidoarjo was changing from an issue to a crisis situation. The event has become part of the public’s awareness and knowledge. It is reasonable to accept that the hot mudflow is a type of crisis which has a wide impact on either the victims or the social life of Indonesian citizens in general. After four years, the mud is still flowing and the problem has not been solved completely. Hence, some negative and unexpected outcomes have taken place. Several issues have been emerging during the mudflow crisis such as environmental, human rights, unfairness laws and regulations, company responsibility, job losses, place displacement, social cultural losses, damage to social facilities, power-business relations, and unfair distribution of compensation. All these issues combined to worsen the crisis and have gradually stimulated public outrage which has resulted in the community demonstrating in the open. The situation can be categorized as an acute crisis because it has not been managed well.

Based on the respondents’ perceptions, the crisis management conducted by the company was not effective. The research revealed three factors that caused ineffective crisis management: Firstly, the victims perceived that the company did not take immediate appropriate action. During the fieldwork (four years of the crisis), compensation payments for losing the homes and land have not been conducted completely. Before receiving money for two years of rental from the company, the victims lived with an uncertain fate. In fact, the consequences of not responding to the crisis promptly, have the victims, as members of the external public, been living in hardship.

Many of the company’s actions were not as expected by the victims in spite of the fact that the company had provided aid and facilities for them in the temporary shelters. The company did all these things after there were reactive mass demands and pressures from the victims. The company seemed to be less responsive to the suffering experienced by the victims. Not only Lapindo but also the government was perceived as dealing with the crisis too slowly. The systematic response, for example, had been established three months after the first eruption by issuing the Presidential Declaration no 13/2006, when several villages were submerged. Both the company and the government seemed to dispose of responsibility: the company said that it was the government’s responsibility while the government said that it was the company’s responsibility.

Indeed, the government intervention as a mediator was very helpful. However, the government was very slow in the implementation of programs which should ideally be actualized promptly. Respondents argued that the government seemed to be ‘afraid of’ the company. The government should have been able to put pressure on the company to quickly overcome the crisis.

Secondly, the victims perceived that the crisis management failed to ensure reliable and regular information, causing uncertainty. The research revealed that the basic problem was closed communication. Neither the company nor the government gave clear explanations about what had happened. For example, warning of the impacts for the community, compensation, and what people should do was not relayed to the victims properly. The information was relayed after the victims conducted demonstrations and this information was only about the compensation.

Thirdly, the research found that the crisis management focused more on maintaining the company’s reputation than on the victims’ fate. Some evidence supported this statement, such as the victims living in the temporary shelters, waiting for months without clear information about compensation, and the company was busier trying to persuade the public that the mudflow was not caused by a drilling error. It can be argued that the aim of the communication strategy was to convince the public that the company was not guilty. Indeed, determining the source that triggers a crisis is important in crisis management. Information about the source will influence the public’s opinion of the company. It is natural that in every crisis situation, everyone tries to search for the cause of the crisis. Information about the source will be a basic argument to decide the main actor who must be held responsible to cope with the crisis situation. Furthermore, this can determine the quantity of the responsibility itself, whether it is full or not. However, both the company and the government should give priority to the public’s safety. Adopting the Situational Crisis Communication Theory, the company should have emphasized protecting the public from damage, rather than protecting the company’s reputation. This is the first priority to warrant safety and survival when facing a crisis situation.

It can be concluded that Public Relations officers were not proactive in providing information. By not giving compensation by the agreed time and not giving clear information quickly about what had happened, the company caused uncertainty. It should be noted that every crisis consists of a crisis of information and the failure to provide and control the flow of information accurately and efficiently made the crisis worse. As a result, the victims tended to show a negative attribution, particularly to the crisis responsibility and to the crisis history. Public Relations tended to focus on constructing the frame about the source of the eruption. This is reasonable when the communication strategy is aimed at convincing the public that the company was not guilty. However, Public Relations activity should be reliant on different realities rather than one dominant ideology as well as applying the function of boundary-spanning to facilitate and to monitor the environment. The research concludes that the company’s crisis management conducted only a one way flow of information, argument, and influence whereby the company only disseminated its views and dominated the victims. Crisis management was applied on behalf of the company’s interest and even sometimes applied to distortion and aversion to the truth.


The need for different perspective in Public Relations

Conducting critical ethnography: Toward a new method in public relations research in Indonesia

Rachmat Kriyantono

School of Communication, Brawijaya University, Indonsia


The Need for Different Perspective in Public Relations

Research has important role to develop public relations theories. Research is a tool to explain, apply and proof theories as well as to build new theories.  As a social activity, public relations emerged at the same time with the growth of human life, when individuals had to build relationship to fulfill their needs. However, as a scientific field, public relations is relatively new (Grunig & Hunt, 1984; Ihlen & van Ruler, 2009; Skerlep, 2001). As a result, Public Relations is “lack of theory” (Greenwood, 2010) or “theoretical lateness” (Johansson, 2007). A few research in public relations was based on theories (Botan & Hazleton, 1989). Pavlik (1987, cited in Pfau & Wan, 2006, p. 111) said: “almost all research on public relations is limited to descripstion.”

As a science, public relations is built based on two basic propositions: (1) Public Relations as a management function; (2) Public Relations is responsible to manage the relationship between an organization and its public (Everett, 1993). These two propositions require the process of adaptation and adjustment between organization and public. It can be said that the two propositions are the object of public relations study. Like other studies, there are differences about how to view the object of study. There are at least three perspectives about object of study, objective, interpretive and critical (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Neuman, 2006; Wimmer & Dominick, 2006). Objective perspective views that the organization as a center of activities that influences the public’s behaviors during the adaptation and adjustment process. On the other hands, interpretive and critical perspectives assume that both two parties –organization and its public- have ability to construct meanings and negotiate each interest. However, critical differs with interpretive in defining the construction processes. Interpretive focuses more that the processes happen in individuals’ ideas and micro-level analysis. Critical views that the constructions of the individual’s ideas are virtual reality because they are shaped by the historical processes and the power struggle of social, economy and politics in the society that result in false illusions of the constructions (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Neuman, 2006). 

At the beginning, objective perspective has dominate public relations studies (Curtin & Gaither, 2005; Gower, 2006; Pasadeos, Berger & Renfro, 2010; Skerlep, 2001; Trujillo & Toth, 1987; Wehmeier, 2009) with the Excellence Theory in Public Relations has been becoming a theoretical perspective that has been dominating public relations research. In Objective perspective, public relations is defined as a management function, transmission process of communication, based on the organization perspectives, but fails to describe the struggle of power in relationships (Gower, 2006; Curtin & Gaither, 2005). 

As a new scientific field, public relations has evolved into applied communication science based on research since the last two decades (Botan & Taylor, 2004) and tried to chase after the practical aspects (Sriramesh & Vercic, 2003). Sisco, Collins & Zoch (2011) found that articles appeared on the early publication of Public Relations Review had contained research and findings. However, Public Relations has borrowed or adapted many of its theories from other disciplines (Grunig, 1989; Greenwood, 2010). Therefore, it is need to explore new theories that originally emerge from public relations research. Research is an effort that aims to reveal any questions in public relations fields. One of the ways to encourage the creation of theories is applying variety of perspectives in conducting research.

Tulisan ini diadopsi dari thesis Ph.D saya. Untuk lebih detailnya, silahkan anda baca buku saya Public Relations & Crisis Management: Critical PR, Etnografi kritis dan kualitatif (2012), Prenada Jakarta