[We’re pleased to welcome authors Ryan P. Fuller of California State University, Sacramento, Robert R. Ulmer of the University of Nevada, Ashley McNatt of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and Jeanette B. Ruiz of the University of California, Davis. They recently published an article in the Management Communication Quarterly entitled “Extending Discourse of Renewal to Preparedness: Construct and Scale Development of Readiness for Renewal,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly describe the motivations and innovations of this research.
What motivated you to pursue this research?
For over 20 years, the Discourse of Renewal has offered an alternative to theories focused on avoiding blame and repairing harm to reputations post-crisis. Some of the assumptions of the theory addressed pre-crisis elements through anecdotal evidence. Based on our research, pre-crisis preparedness is an understudied topic in crisis management. Researchers know a lot about how organizations communicate during crises and how they communicate about post-crisis recovery. As well, we knew that organizations should prepare for crises, but often focus on the day-to-day operations of running their businesses and not on what to do when a disaster or emergency strikes. We wanted to make it easier to take stock of communication practices that help the organization produce the type of post-crisis communication that will help them to return from the crisis better off than before. Consequently, we saw a great opportunity to address a gap in the research and to answer a real-world problem.
In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?
Our research draws on a large body of qualitative evidence that organizations are effective in recovery if they enact certain communication practices. The novelty of our project is the foregrounding of pre-crisis communication to provide the latent potential for a strong recovery. These pre-crisis communication practices have been evidenced anecdotally but not formally tested. The value added to the field of crisis communication covers two main areas. First, we see more applied and naturalistic research opportunities using survey research, including the readiness for renewal scale. Along these lines, with the scale we developed we can see more opportunities for interventions to produce the type of desirable post-crisis communication, and for researchers take a stand about what one should or ought to do rather than after it is too late. Applied researchers could help organizations identify best communication practices, reinforce those, and change poor practices. Second, we may see other scholars use the body of qualitative evidence to create quantitative measures to test discourse- and rhetoric-based theories in crisis communication.
What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?
We have three pieces of advice for new scholars and incoming researchers in crisis communication. First, crisis communication is a growing field, yet one that remains dominated by perspectives focused on threat, image repair, and blame avoidance. We encourage researchers to focus on developing/testing theories that are resiliency generating and identify inherent opportunities in all stages of crisis management. Second, we believe that anticipatory perspectives will continue to be an important line of research, and researchers should draw attention to effective communication practices in the pre-crisis stage. Third, we encourage researchers in crisis communication to test the limits of crisis communication theories. Such testing could occur through different methods, populations, or through applying/expanding the theory to different stages of crisis management.
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