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Crisis history tellers matter: The effects of crisis history and crisis information source on publics’ cognitive and affective responses to organizational crisis

LaShonda Louallen Eaddy (Division of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, USA)
Yan Jin (Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 3 April 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore crisis history further. The paper also examines the possible impact of information source on publics’ perceptions. The study seeks to expound on the tenets of the situational crisis communication theory (SCCT), particularly the underutilized crisis history component.

Design/methodology/approach

The study used a 3 × 3 between-subjects experiment design to examine the effects of crisis history and information source on publics’ crisis emotions, perception of crisis responsibility, control, and organizational reputation. Participants were 174 undergraduate students from a large Southeastern university.

Findings

The study’s findings suggest that an organization’s crisis history by the media can increase publics’ perceived organizational control (referred to as personal control) in a crisis situation. However, negative crisis history told by the media can evoke more severe public anger in a crisis. A positive crisis history still could lead to negative perceptions.

Research limitations/implications

The study uses a fictional crisis scenario that may not evoke the same emotions or perceptions as an actual crisis.

Practical implications

Crisis communicators concerned with angry publics should focus less on traditional media relations and more on new media to reach other gatekeepers; or focus more heavily on media strategy since the media is more likely to elicit more anger among publics. Furthermore, a positive crisis history does not give organizations a pass in current crises.

Originality/value

Although the SCCT identifies crisis history as an intensifier of attribution of responsibility, few studies have examined crisis history.

Keywords

Citation

Eaddy, L.L. and Jin, Y. (2018), "Crisis history tellers matter: The effects of crisis history and crisis information source on publics’ cognitive and affective responses to organizational crisis", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 226-241. https://doi.org/10.1108/CCIJ-04-2017-0039

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited