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Edited by Andrew J. DuBrin
Chapter 11: Dealing with external stakeholders during the crisis: managing the information vacuum
In a crisis, an information vacuum is immediately generated in the media (Coombs, 2012; Heath, 2006). Information vacuum (Kauffman, 2005, p. 266), also known as “information void” (Coombs, 2012, p. 141) or “reporting vacuum” (Heath, 2006, p. 247), is created by the crisis and as a result of the crisis: people want to know what happens when bad things happen. This insatiable thirst for information is driven not just by primary stakeholders – more critically, it is driven by media demand for “immediate information and answers during a crisis” (Marra, 2004, p. 311). It becomes a vicious cycle: the media are hot at the heels of the news, and stakeholders regard the media as their “primary” source of information (Coombs, 2012, p. 141), which in turn fuels the media to meet this demand. Little wonder that Garnett and Kouzmin (2007) described crises as “media events” (p. 175).Crisis scholars have alluded to the need to fill this vacuum. Otherwise, the vacuum would be consumed by less credible, accurate, and useful information to the detriment of the organization (Coombs, 2012). Marra (2004), citing a practitioner, captured it best: “In the absence of information, misinformation becomes news” (p. 312). Given the driving role that both the traditional and social media play in the vacuum, and the criticality of filling it, little is elaborated on how the vacuum works and how it affects the organization.
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