How publics react to crisis communication efforts

W. Timothy Coombs (Nicholson School of Communication, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA)
Sherry Jean Holladay (Nicholson School of Communication, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Publication date: 28 January 2014



The purpose of this paper is to provide a rationale and framework for examining stakeholder reactions to crisis communication messages in various social media channels. Stakeholders can become crisis communications by entering various sub-arenas of the larger rhetorical arena. The concept of sub-arena is presented and a case analysis used to illustrate the application and value of examining stakeholder crisis communicators during a crisis.


Content analysis was used to evaluate publicly available social media messages posted on the Livestrong blog and the Huffington Post online news site.


The paper demonstrates that monitoring reactions of stakeholders can reveal how individuals can act as crisis communications in social media messages can serve as barometers the effectiveness of an organization's crisis response. The importance of examining multiple sub-arenas is considered due to the influence of supportive stakeholders in organizational social media.

Research limitations/implications

Only two sub-arenas were analyzed using one crisis response during a crisis that extended over a number of months.

Practical implications

The paper includes implications for the examination of social media messages from supportive stakeholder and neutral sub-arenas. The results provide indicators of the effectiveness of an organization's crisis response and how stakeholder messages in social media may contribute to or undermine the crisis response.


This paper demonstrates the value of monitoring social media comments to gauge reactions to organizational crisis responses and demonstrates how stakeholders can function as informal crisis managers. It also begins the discussion of the value and conceptualization of sub-arenas.



Timothy Coombs, W. and Jean Holladay, S. (2014), "How publics react to crisis communication efforts ", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 40-57.

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