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Article
Publication date: 17 September 2019

W. Timothy Coombs and Sherry J. Holladay

The purpose of this paper is to describe three foundational concepts that contribute to conceptual heritage of the field of public relations (publics, organizations and…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe three foundational concepts that contribute to conceptual heritage of the field of public relations (publics, organizations and relationships). Conceptual heritage is positioned as a type of shared public memory, a dominant narrative, that encourages adherence to the past whilst recognizing that counter-narratives can pose useful alternatives to foundational concepts.

Design/methodology/approach

The approach is a selective literature review that describes three dominant concept categories and presents more recently developed alternative concepts and approaches to illustrate how public memory is subjective and evolving.

Findings

The concepts of publics, organizations and relationships have grounded the dominant narrative and development of the field of public relations. Though these concepts continue to be influential as researchers rely upon and expand upon their legacies, counter-narratives can spur the innovation of ideas, measurement and practice.

Research limitations/implications

The paper focuses on only three major foundational concepts selected by the authors. The importance of these concepts as well as additional examples of the field’s conceptual heritage and evolution could be identified by different authors.

Practical implications

The analysis demonstrates how the public memory contributes to the development and evolution of the field of public relations. Counter-narratives can offer appealing, subjectively constructed challenges to dominant narratives.

Originality/value

This paper describes and critiques public relations’ conceptual heritage and argues that conceptually and methodologically-based counter-narratives have contributed to its evolution.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 23 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

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Article
Publication date: 5 February 2018

W. Timothy Coombs and Sherry J. Holladay

The purpose of this paper is to describe the need to theorize firms’ involvement in social issues and propose the social issues management model as a framework for…

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1765

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to describe the need to theorize firms’ involvement in social issues and propose the social issues management model as a framework for analyzing the communication processes underlying social issues management. An application of the new approach is illustrated through a brief case analysis.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is conceptual and emphasizes theory building for firm’s involvement in social issues management.

Findings

The paper describes modifications to the general issues management model that can be adopted to reflect the social issues management process and contemporary digital media environments.

Practical implications

The paper can benefit theory and practice of social issues management by describing how specific communication strategies and digital media use may affect social issues management.

Social implications

Because firms increasingly are motivated or urged by stakeholders to take stands on social issues, understanding how they can perform the role of social issue manager can enhance their potential for contributing to positive social change.

Originality/value

The paper provides a much needed update to the models of issues management used in strategic communication. The new model accounts for the increasing pressure on firms to address social issues and the role of digital communication channels in that process.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 22 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

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Article
Publication date: 26 September 2018

W. Timothy Coombs and Sherry J. Holladay

The purpose of this paper is to craft a new perspective on how we can view public relations that reflects important trends emerging in the field including digital media…

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3216

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to craft a new perspective on how we can view public relations that reflects important trends emerging in the field including digital media, storytelling, engagement and co-creation of meaning. Transmedia storytelling (an idea with some ties to public relations) and narrative transportation theory are synthesized to form the transmedia narrative transportation (TNT) approach to public relations. The paper details the development of the TNT approach and how it can be applied to public relations initiatives.

Design/methodology/approach

The approach is a literature review to inform the creation of the TNT approach. A case study is used to illustrate the TNT approach.

Findings

An innovative approach to conceptualizing and creating public relations initiatives is developed, explained and illustrated.

Research limitations/implications

The paper examines only one case to illustrate the TNT approach.

Practical implications

The TNT approach develops a new perspective for public relations for developing and executing public relations initiatives. Transmedia storytelling has already been connected to the practice and TNT builds a more comprehensive approach for understanding its value to public relations.

Originality/value

There has been a limited application of transmedia storytelling to public relations. This paper synthesizes transmedia storytelling with narrative transportation theory to develop a theory-driven, new approach for public relations thinking. The TNT approach is a unique fusion of ideas that can bring an innovative approach to the practice of public relations that captures four emerging trends that are shaping the practice.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 22 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

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Article
Publication date: 12 October 2010

W. Timothy Coombs, Finn Frandsen, Sherry J. Holladay and Winni Johansen

The purpose of this paper is to provide context for and a preview of the content for the special issue on corporate apologia.

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7722

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide context for and a preview of the content for the special issue on corporate apologia.

Design/methodology/approach

The methodology is a review of literature relevant to crisis communication and the role of apologia within this body of literature.

Findings

Apologia, a rhetoric of self‐defense, has a strong connection in the creation and development of crisis communication. Current research is moving beyond the parameters of apologia but it remains a strong influence on the field. Future crisis communication research needs to explore further the role of emotion if crisis communication and the implications of international crisis communication. The various contributions the articles in the special issue provide for crisis communication are reviewed as a means of previewing the special issue.

Practical implications

The paper provides lessons that crisis managers can apply when they need to communicate during a crisis.

Originality/value

The paper provides insights into the development of crisis communication and the role of apologia in that development.

Details

Corporate Communications: An International Journal, vol. 15 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1356-3289

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Book part
Publication date: 26 September 2005

W. Timothy Coombs and Sherry J. Holladay

This manuscript reports an exploratory investigation to integrate emotions into the study of post-crisis communication. Using the discussion of the role of affect in…

Abstract

This manuscript reports an exploratory investigation to integrate emotions into the study of post-crisis communication. Using the discussion of the role of affect in Attribution Theory, the research integrates emotion into Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT), one approach to post-crisis communication. SCCT uses crisis responsibility, how much people believe the organization is responsible for the crisis, to determine the most effective post-crisis communication strategy for protecting the organization's reputation. The research examines the amount of sympathy, anger, and schadenfreude generated by a variety of crisis types. The focus is on the connection between these three emotions and perceptions of crisis responsibility. The results suggest how emotion can be integrated into post-crisis communication and supports the value of including emotion in future research.

Details

The Effect of Affect in Organizational Settings
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-76231-234-4

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Article
Publication date: 12 October 2010

Kristin M. Pace, Tomasz A. Fediuk and Isabel C. Botero

When organizations face a crisis that is a result of a transgression, crisis scholars suggest that the organization should apologize in order to accept responsibility for…

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2781

Abstract

Purpose

When organizations face a crisis that is a result of a transgression, crisis scholars suggest that the organization should apologize in order to accept responsibility for the event. In turn, this is expected to reduce the reputation damage to the organization. The assumption is that an apology statement is interpreted by stakeholders to be equal to accepting responsibility; however, this assumption has not been empirically examined. This paper seeks to address that gap.

Design/methodology/approach

A three (explicitness of accepting responsibility: none, implicit, explicit) by two (expressing regret: none, explicit) between subjects design was employed. Participants read an article about a crisis event, answered questions about perceived reputation, read one of six organizational responses, and responded to questions about reputation and anger caused by the response.

Findings

Results indicate that both accepting responsibility and expressing regret affect perceptions of reputation after a crisis and the anger felt by respondents. Additionally, apologies need an explicit statement of responsibility to increase their benefits for the organization.

Research limitations/implications

Implications of this research include understanding the independent effects that accepting responsibility, expressing regret, and anger have on organizational reputation. Results can be useful for both academics and practitioners when thinking about how to respond to a crisis. Different strengths and limitations are discussed in the text.

Originality/value

The paper tests the assumption that an organizational apology is viewed as equal to accepting responsibility and explores some of the basic propositions of situational crisis communication theory. This study is also one of the first to examine the impact of the crisis response on stakeholder anger.

Details

Corporate Communications: An International Journal, vol. 15 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1356-3289

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Article
Publication date: 1 April 2006

W. Timothy Coombs and Sherry J. Holladay

Crisis managers believe in the value of a favorable, pre‐crisis reputation. The prior reputation can create a halo effect that protects an organization during a crisis…

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14965

Abstract

Purpose

Crisis managers believe in the value of a favorable, pre‐crisis reputation. The prior reputation can create a halo effect that protects an organization during a crisis. The prior reputation/halo might work as a shield that deflects the potential reputational damage from a crisis. Or the prior reputation/halo might encourage stakeholders to give the organization the benefit of the doubt in the crisis (reduce attributions of crisis responsibility). Oddly, researchers have had little luck in producing a halo effect for prior reputation in crisis situations. The purpose of this paper is to present two studies designed to test if the halo effect could occur and which of the two dynamics of the prior reputation halo best serve to explain the benefits of a favorable, pre‐crisis reputation.

Design/methodology/approach

The research focuses on a set of studies conducted to illustrate the halo effect and to explore how it serves to protect an organization during a crisis. The implications of the findings for post‐crisis communication are discussed.

Findings

The halo effect for prior reputation in crisis was created. The halo operated in a limited range for organizations with very favorable prior reputations. The data also supported the halo as shield dynamic rather than the halo as benefit of the doubt.

Originality/value

The paper provides insight into the area of reputation and crisis management.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 10 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

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Book part
Publication date: 28 March 2015

W. Timothy Coombs and Sherry J. Holladay

This chapter proposes a framework for analyzing how stakeholder-initiated challenges through social media and traditional media can shape the meaning of responsible…

Abstract

Purpose

This chapter proposes a framework for analyzing how stakeholder-initiated challenges through social media and traditional media can shape the meaning of responsible behavior and pressure organizations to alter irresponsible behavior in order to protect their reputations.

Methodology/approach

Following a description of the nature of stakeholder challenges, concepts from Internet Contagion Theory and Contingency Theory are used to develop the Integrated Framework for Stakeholder Challenges, an analytic tool that can be used to provide insights into how specific digital and traditional public relations tactic can be used by activists. A case study demonstrating application of the framework is presented.

Findings

The case study describes how the lens provided by the Integrated Framework for Stakeholder Challenges illustrates how Greenpeace’s detox campaign built power, legitimacy, and urgency to draw attention to environmental and human problems associated with the use of hazardous chemicals in a manufacturer’s supply chain.

Research limitations/implications

The chapter offers one case study of Greenpeace’s detox campaign against Zara to demonstrate the utility of the Integrated Framework for Stakeholder Challenges. Additional case studies are needed to further demonstrate how factors in the framework can account for the success and failure of activist challenges. Moreover, measurement of factors included in the framework, rather than conceptual analysis alone, could demonstrate the relative importance of the factors, as well as various constellations of factors, in accounting for organizational decision making about responses to the challenges.

Practical implications

Concepts derived from Internet Contagion Theory and Contingency Theory provide a vocabulary and conceptual framework for describing and analyzing stakeholder-initiated challenges as well as assessing the potential threats posed by stakeholder challenges to an organization’s reputation.

Originality/value

This chapter proposes a new analytical tool, the Integrated Framework for Stakeholder Challenges, which can contribute to the analysis and evaluation of stakeholder efforts to influence corporate behavior.

Details

Corporate Social Responsibility in the Digital Age
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78441-582-2

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Book part
Publication date: 28 March 2015

W. Timothy Coombs and Sherry J. Holladay

Corporate managers must find a way to communicate their CSR activities to stakeholders without creating a boomerang effect where the CSR messages create resentment of…

Abstract

Purpose

Corporate managers must find a way to communicate their CSR activities to stakeholders without creating a boomerang effect where the CSR messages create resentment of instead of support for the corporation. One alternative is to use social media channels because they are low cost and can use a soft sell approach, thereby reducing the likelihood of a boomerang effect. However, using social media messaging about CSR challenges managers to attract followers to those social media channels. This chapter explores the use of gamification, the use of gaming features in the CSR messaging, to present CSR messages. The case study of Kraft’s “Two-Minute Drill” is used to illustrate how gamification can be used to promote social media-based CSR messaging.

Methodology/approach

A case study method is used to illuminate how Kraft used gamification to increase the audience for its anti-hunger CSR efforts. Kraft used the “Two-Minute Drill” game to attract people to their effort to fight hunger.

Findings

The “2-Minute Trivia Drill” seemed to overcome the CSR promotional communication concerns of tone and cost. The dominant message and theme is feeding the hungry. The tone on the Facebook page and the game itself is subtle in relation to the Kraft brand because Kraft appears in the background through its logo, name, and the names of prominent Kraft products. The stakeholders are treated as the drivers of the CSR effort because the individuals playing the game are what create the donations from Kraft. Donations could even be personalized. None of the comments posted to the Kraft Fight Hunger Facebook page questioned the expense of the project. Overall the comments were very favorable suggesting there was no boomerang effect from the game.

Research limitations/implications

The study offers only one case study of gamification in CSR communication. More cases are necessary to draw stronger conclusions about the utility of gamification for CSR communication presented via social media. Moreover, more direct measures are needed to assess how stakeholders feel about CSR messages using gamifications and if the strategy can consistently prevent a boomerang effect.

Practical implications

The implications from the case study are that gamification can be an effective way to attract stakeholders to social media-based CSR messages and to generate positive reactions to the CSR messaging.

Originality/value

This chapter is one of the first detailed explorations of gamification as a means to avoid the dangers of the CSR promotional communication dilemma (stakeholders wanting CSR information but reacting negatively to the promotion of CSR activities).

Details

Corporate Social Responsibility in the Digital Age
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78441-582-2

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Article
Publication date: 20 November 2007

W. Timothy Coombs and Sherry J. Holladay

The purpose of this research is to present a study designed to test if anger is a mediator in the relationship between crisis responsibility and negative word‐of‐mouth and…

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7135

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this research is to present a study designed to test if anger is a mediator in the relationship between crisis responsibility and negative word‐of‐mouth and crisis responsibility and purchase intention. Emphasizes the relationship between anger, crisis responsibility, and intended negative word‐of‐mouth, what we call the negative communication dynamic. Researchers have just begun to explore the role of affect in crisis communication by linking it to behavioral intentions and proving that crisis affect is largely a function of crisis responsibility (perceived organizational responsibility for the crisis).

Design/methodology/approach

An experimental design is used to test for the mediator relationship. The design reflects the study's theoretical link to Attribution Theory.

Findings

The results support that anger is a moderator in the relationship between crisis responsibility and intended negative word‐of‐mouth and between crisis responsibility and purchase intention.

Research limitations/implications

Future research should examine how crisis response strategies can be used to lessen anger and to reduce the likelihood of the negative communication dynamic.

Practical implications

Crisis managers can use the cues for estimating crisis responsibility to determine anger because of the strong correlation between the two variables. Crisis managers should engage in words and actions designed to reduce the anger and reduce the likelihood of the negative communication dynamic.

Originality/value

This paper provides novel insight into the role and value of anger in crisis communication.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 11 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

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