Vanessa Bravo publishes article in Public Relations Review

Professor led team of researchers who studied a transnational crisis that spread from Colombia to the United States.


Vanessa Bravo, assistant professor in the School of Communications, published the article “Testing cross-national conflict shifting theory: An analysis of Chiquita Brands’ transnational crisis in Colombia” in the academic journal Public Relations Review.

The article is available online since Oct. 22, 2012, and will be published in the print edition of Public Relations Review in the coming weeks.

In this research, Bravo led a team of researchers from the United States and Colombia, as she was the first author in a group effort that also included Juan-Carlos Molleda, professor at the University of Florida, and Andres Felipe Giraldo and Luis Humberto Botero, from the School of Communications of the Universidad de Medellín, in Colombia.

In this article, a quantitative content analysis, Bravo and her colleagues tested the Cross-National Conflict Shifting theory, a theory in global public relations that explains the way in which a public relations crisis becomes transnational, and analyzed the types of issues, sources, and organizational responses emphasized in the news coverage in each of the countries involved in the crisis.

In this case, the public relations crisis analyzed was the one involving Chiquita Brands, a U.S.-based corporation that was fined in the United States for paying about $1.7 million to paramilitary groups in Colombia some years ago. As a result, Chiquita Brands had to pay a $25-million fine to the U.S. Justice Department.

In this study, the four researchers analyzed 55 news stories published about the Chiquita crisis in seven newspapers in the United States (The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, and The Cincinnati Post, which no longer exists), as well as 91 news stories published about the same crisis in five newspapers in Colombia (El Tiempo, El Heraldo, El País, El Colombiano, and El Informador).

The researchers found statistically significant differences in the news coverage of this crisis in each country, in terms of the number of stories published, the length of the stories, the main issues presented, the keywords selected, the sources of information favored, and the corporate responses to the crisis.

This research can help scholars and practitioners understand how a public relations conflict shifts from a country where an organization operates to the country where the organization has its headquarters, and it sheds light on the type of crisis management that organizations have to have at a “glocal” level: with global guidelines but local strategies and messages.

Bravo, who obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Florida, has also published in the journal Palabra Clave (Universidad de La Sabana, in Colombia). Bravo, who worked for about 14 years as a reporter, online editor, features editor, and public relations practitioner in Costa Rica, joined Elon in the fall of 2011.

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