"Why am I to blame when the law is on my side?": A study of crises, public opinion and frames

    Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review

    4 Citationer (Scopus)


    It is a well-known fact that organisations do not operate in a social vacuum, but need to consider the interaction between a number of social actors and stakeholders in the discursive construction of their image (Gunnarsson 2009). Of these, the media have always played a crucial role in constructing salient frames; however, with the arrival of new communication and social media platforms, the public is gaining power by producing frames that may significantly impact on the image and public standing of organisations, and which may, in fact, challenge media frames (Van der Meer & Verhoeven 2013). During crisis, it is crucial that organisations acknowledge this development. As means of instant mass self-communication, platforms such as e.g. Facebook and Twitter may allow public views to rapidly develop into coherent frames that not only precede the frames produced by the established media, but also introduce different attributes that allow a situation to develop into crisis (Liu 2010; Liu et al. 2011). Thus, public frames may be carried by issues, sentiments and personal interpretation rather than facts (Liu et al. 2011; Van der Meer et al. 2014), which may e.g. assign blame and responsibility for actions on the basis of fragmented and emotional knowledge that has the potential of inflicting much damage to organisational image within a relatively short time frame. In the article, the dynamics of public frames will be revealed through the analysis of the crisis experienced by the Danish restaurant chain, Jensen’s Bøfhus (Jensen’s Steakhouse), in September 2014. The analysis demonstrates that public frames are instantly established on social media platforms when announcements are made by large organisations of actions that challenge common and shared notions of what is deemed fair and just. Thus, in this case, a Supreme Court ruling granting trademark rights to the restaurant chain violated the public sense of right and wrong, even though the ruling was considered unequivocal within the Danish legal system, and led to the construction of frames that sent the restaurant into a full-scale image crisis. Furthermore, the article discusses the possible alignment between public frames and media frames, asking whether the production of media frames alongside public frames may prevent a crisis from escalating (Van der Meer et al. 2014). The theoretical and methodological foundation of the analysis is framing (Entman 1993; Fillmore 1975, 1982; Hallahan 1999), which provides the analyst with tools for investigating the conceptual and rhetorical/linguistic levels of communication between e.g. organisations and outside groups. Being concerned with the cognitive information processing of the receivers of text, framing can be instantiated through a number of lexical items, including metaphor (e.g. Hellsten et al. 2010; Lakoff and Johnson [1980]2003; Kövecses 1986, 2006), as well as be implicit or explicit (Hellsten et al. 2010). Thus, the article will be concerned with the ways metaphor interacts with other lexical items in the frames to promote particular problem definitions and moral obligations. The data for the analysis consist of posts on Facebook and Twitter as well as articles from Danish online and print media (broadsheets and news channels) in the first two weeks following the announcement of the Supreme Court ruling.
    TidsskriftOn the Horizon
    Udgave nummer4
    Sider (fra-til)363-373
    StatusUdgivet - 24 nov. 2015


    • crises
    • frames
    • social media
    • organisations
    • stakeholders
    • image


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