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Multicultural Crisis Communication: Towards a Social Constructionist Perspective

Flakheimer, J.; Heide, M.
Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management

November 8, 2006

Crisis communication is a field dominated by case studies and is lacking of systematic knowledge and theoretical framework analysis. Functionalist and objectivist perspectives have dominated the field even though there are exceptions. This may be one reason why multicultural approaches to crisis communication, increasingly relevant in contemporary society, are very few and undeveloped. The aim in the article is to give a critical analysis of research that has been done on crisis communication as well as intercultural public relations and develop a different theoretical framework. We propose the use of ethnicity, focusing collective cultural identity as dynamic, relational and situational in crisis theory and practice. Ethnic differences seem to escalate during crises. Media use and access are also discussed. A Swedish survey shows, among other things, that people with a foreign background read mainstream newspapers more seldom than average Swedes, but that the access to Internet and mobile phones is very high. Based on a social constructionist epistemology, the article ends with four proposals for future research and practice in multicultural crisis communication: (1) audience-orientation – focusing sense-making, (2) a proactive and interactive approach – focusing dialogue, (3) a community-focused approach – focusing a long-range pre-crisis perspective and, (4) an ethnicity-approach towards intercultural communication.