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Employee social-mediated crisis communication as opportunity or threat?

Marcus Opitz (Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Vidhi Chaudhri (Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Yijing Wang (Department of Media and Communication, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 5 February 2018




Defending their employer on LinkedIn or attacking their organization on Twitter: a ubiquitous social-mediated environment allows employees of crisis-stricken organizations to reach out to a mass audience with only a few keystrokes. But is such employee social-mediated crisis communication an opportunity or a threat to their organizations? By developing the perspective of employees in contrast to consumers, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact of employee social-mediated crisis communication on organizational reputation.


An online survey experiment was conducted among 386 participants constituting the publics of an organization.


The findings demonstrate the importance of moderating effects of message framing (advocacy vs adversary) and medium (blog vs microblog). They show that in comparison to consumers, employees attacking their organization on social media, particularly via media such as blog, cause disproportionally more damage to organizational reputation.

Research limitations/implications

While the significant effects of employees’ adversary message might make them a threat for organizations, it is argued that the fact that employees are equally as effective as advocates for their organizations as consumers also constitutes an opportunity.

Practical implications

Organizations need to be cognizant of the threats posed by employees’ crisis communication as well as aim to reap opportunities offered by these credible communicators by considering strategies such as authentically integrating employees in the official crisis communication response.


By comparing the role of the two groups of stakeholders (employees vs consumers) in crisis communication, the study contributes to an important audience-centered perspective.



Opitz, M., Chaudhri, V. and Wang, Y. (2018), "Employee social-mediated crisis communication as opportunity or threat?", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 66-83.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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