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Pandemic messaging to connect or to sell? B2B messaging strategies on LinkedIn regarding COVID-19

Steven Brewer (School of Business, Carroll University, Waukesha, Wisconsin, USA)
Rebecca Imes (Department of Communications, Carroll University, Waukesha, Wisconsin, USA)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 11 July 2023

Issue publication date: 18 August 2023

198

Abstract

Purpose

This study examines how the world's largest business-to-business (B2B) firms communicated about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on LinkedIn during the first months of the pandemic. A Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) framework (Coombs, 2004) is used to assess how pandemic message themes resembled and differed from those utilized in past crises.

Design/methodology/approach

Researchers examined all LinkedIn posts made by the 20 largest global B2B firms during February–October 2020 and assigned the posts to five message themes.

Findings

Consistent with past crises, firms conveyed “instructing” information designed to help social media followers cope. However, some businesses also promoted products for use in dealing with COVID-19. This stands in contrast to past reluctance to promote products during a crisis due to fears of being viewed as acting inappropriately. Surprisingly, only about 9% of all posts related to COVID-19.

Research limitations/implications

Research focused on the LinkedIn posts of the 20 largest B2B firms, limiting generalizability for smaller firms and for other social networks.

Practical implications

This study provides insights into how marketers can communicate to their stakeholders during a crisis.

Social implications

This study examines how reaction to COVID-19 was similar and different from message themes found during previous crises.

Originality/value

This study is one of the first to examine how businesses use LinkedIn to communicate with key constituencies. This study examines whether SCCT predicted strategies used by global B2B firms during the pandemic and considers whether expectations regarding crises may be changing.

Keywords

Citation

Brewer, S. and Imes, R. (2023), "Pandemic messaging to connect or to sell? B2B messaging strategies on LinkedIn regarding COVID-19", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 692-706. https://doi.org/10.1108/CCIJ-12-2022-0149

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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