Media coverage about organisations in critical situations

Christine Korn (Department of Communication, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany)
Sabine Einwiller (Department of Communication, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Publication date: 7 October 2013



This research aims to investigate how critical media coverage of an organisation affects its employees. The authors expect the effects to be similar to the way media coverage about an individual would affect this person, termed “reciprocal effects”.


Drawing on a framework for the analysis of reciprocal effects of mass media by Kepplinger and qualitative interviews among employees of 14 different organisations undergoing a crisis, the authors develop an employee-model of reciprocal effects for the context of organisational crises.


This qualitative research shows that employees are affected by media coverage on a critical issue about their employer. Mass media are an important source of information for employees in critical situations. The data indicate interpersonal conversations with colleagues are also important for obtaining information and coping with the situation. Employees show emotional reactions, such as helplessness or shame, and a tendency to defend their employer. The better employees feel informed by their organisation's internal communication, the better they know how to cope with the situation. The data indicate that the effects vary with the employees' level of organisational identification.

Practical implications

The findings imply that open and constant internal communication with employees during a crisis fosters reactions that stabilise the organisation in critical situations.


The study presented here is the first systematic analysis of the impact of media coverage of an organisation on its employees.



Korn, C. and Einwiller, S. (2013), "Media coverage about organisations in critical situations", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 451-468.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.