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Article
Publication date: 26 February 2019

Timothy Coombs

The focus of this paper is on developing a rationale for the use of transmedia storytelling in corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication. Transmedia storytelling…

Abstract

Purpose

The focus of this paper is on developing a rationale for the use of transmedia storytelling in corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication. Transmedia storytelling involves telling stories across multiple platforms by multiple people that are still united by a central theme. The purpose of this paper is to develop a rationale for the application of transmedia storytelling for CSR communication and illustrate how Procter & Gamble’s “Thank You Mom” campaign demonstrates how transmedia storytelling can be found in the current CSR communication.

Design/methodology/approach

The first part of the story is theoretical development. The idea of transmedia storytelling is developed then translated into how it can be used in CSR communication. The key ideas are that the engagement with messages created by transmedia storytelling is the idea for capturing emotions in CSR messages and avoiding the backlash created by some CSR messages, such as advertising. Transmedia storytelling provides a lens for understanding and guiding the use of various social media channels in the distribution of CSR communication. A case study is they conducted to illustrate how P&G used transmedia storytelling in its “Thank You Mom” campaign. Qualitative content analysis is used to identify the plot lines in the stories and the overall storyworld that is being developed thereby illustrating how the concepts for transmedia storytelling can be applied to the case.

Findings

The results illustrate how transmedia storytelling can be applied to CSR communication and the potential benefits of this application. The primary yields are theory development for CSR communication and the insights from the case study.

Originality/value

The extant literature on strategic communication in general and CSR communication specially have shown only a passing interest in transmedia storytelling. This paper provides a very detailed rationale for applying transmedia storytelling to CSR communication and illustrates the utility of this approach with a case study. A detailed application of transmedia storytelling to CSR communication is new and can help advance both theory and practice.

Details

Corporate Communications: An International Journal, vol. 24 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1356-3289

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Article
Publication date: 15 November 2018

W. Timothy Coombs and Elina R. Tachkova

The purpose of this paper, a set of two studies, is to elaborate on the concept of scansis and its effects upon crisis communication theory and practice. A scansis…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper, a set of two studies, is to elaborate on the concept of scansis and its effects upon crisis communication theory and practice. A scansis represents the intersection of a scandal and crisis, essentially when a crisis becomes a scandal. A new term was created due to the varied ways in which the term scandal is used and misused. The effects of scansis on crisis communication are examined through two studies. A scansis is unique because it creates moral outrage and is a function of a perception of injustice coupled with greed.

Design/methodology/approach

Experimental design is used in both studies to test for the effects of specific crisis response strategies used during a scansis. The crisis response strategies were manipulated to determine whether or not corrective action with moral recognition is more effective at helping organizations during a crisis than those crisis response strategies that do not contain a moral component.

Findings

The two studies found no short-term effect for crisis responses during scansis. This included no difference between corrective action with moral recognition and the other three response conditions for the short-term factors of organizational reputation, negative word-of-mouth intentions, purchase intentions and anger. However, Study 2 found that corrective action with moral recognition was perceived as the most empathetic response and created the lowest levels of moral outrage. The authors postulate that corrective action with moral recognition has a long-term effect after a scansis by creating a positive response that moves organizations away from being stigmatized.

Research limitations/implications

The results raise questions about the current configuration of the intentional crisis cluster articulated in situational crisis communication theory (SCCT). When just consider assessments crisis responsibility, a scansis would be part of the preventable crisis cluster. However, the evaluation of justice and greed suggest a scansis may be a unique crisis type that does not fit within the intentional crisis cluster and the prescribed short-term effects of crisis response strategies recommend by SCCT. The scansis establishes a boundary condition for the limits of crisis response strategies on short-term effects such as reputation and purchase intention. These findings require us to rethink elements of current crisis communication theory.

Practical implications

The lack of short-term benefits should not be an argument for abandoning accommodative crisis response strategies. Practitioners need to realize the limits of crisis response strategies for creating short-term benefits and think about the potential long-term benefits offered by crisis response strategies.

Originality/value

Scansis is a new concept for crisis communication and provides a link between the crisis communication and organizational stigma literatures. The two studies are the first attempts to empirically examine scansis and opens new avenues of thinking and research for crisis communication and organizational stigma researchers.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 23 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 2 October 2017

Timothy Coombs

Abstract

Details

Corporate Communications: An International Journal, vol. 22 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1356-3289

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Article
Publication date: 7 November 2016

W. Timothy Coombs, Sherry Jean Holladay and An-Sofie Claeys

The purpose of this paper is to address the under-researched issue of how formal determinations of organizational responsibility for a crisis affect the effectiveness of…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to address the under-researched issue of how formal determinations of organizational responsibility for a crisis affect the effectiveness of the denial strategy in protecting organizational reputation. Because studies that omit later determinations of responsibility produce misleading representations of the value of denial, a pilot study and primary study investigated how later determinations of organizational culpability in a management misconduct crisis interact with crisis response strategies to affect reputation and anger.

Design/methodology/approach

Two studies used experimental designs to assess how denial interacted with determinations of crisis responsibility to influence reputation and anger.

Findings

The pilot study demonstrated reputational damage and stakeholder anger increased when an organization initially denied responsibility and then was found to be responsible for the crisis. The second study replicated the pilot study findings and also demonstrated that later determinations of guilt decreased reputation scores. When found guilty, the organization’s reputation was significantly more favorable when the positive action strategy was used. Comparison of three response strategies (no response, denial, and positive action) revealed the denial and no response conditions were significantly less effective than the positive response strategy when the organization was found guilty.

Research limitations/implications

Paper demonstrates the need for research on the denial strategy to consider later determinations of crisis responsibility (guilt) when assessing denial’s impact on organizational reputation.

Practical implications

When selecting response strategies in situations where crisis responsibility is unclear, practitioners should consider how later determinations of responsibility could affect reputation.

Originality/value

This paper questions past research on the value of the denial strategy, integrates findings from the trust violations research, and demonstrates the importance of considering formal judgments of organizational responsibility when selecting crisis response strategies.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 20 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

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Article
Publication date: 3 April 2017

Timothy Coombs

Graphic novels have a concept known as the origin story. The origin story is background information on how a hero or villain came into being. The purpose of this paper is…

Abstract

Purpose

Graphic novels have a concept known as the origin story. The origin story is background information on how a hero or villain came into being. The purpose of this paper is to explore the origin story of corporate social responsibility at British American Tobacco (BAT). The CSR origin story is unpacked by examining corporate documents from BAT that discuss the initial development of the company’s CSR program. The BAT documents are part of the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (LTDL), a searchable, digital archive developed and managed by the University of California, San Francisco. It contains 85,569,326 pages in 14,360,422 documents. The library was created as part of the tobacco company settlement of a major law suit in the USA.

Design/methodology/approach

For this case study, the authors searched the archive for documents from BAT that had the key words “corporate social responsibility.” The documents were then analyzed using qualitative content analysis to identify key themes related to BAT’s created of its CSR programs.

Findings

The two dominant themes were business case BAT made for CSR and the environmental factors that shaped CSR. The business case had sub-themes of the new operating environment and reinforcing employees. The environmental sub-themes were the importance of NGOS and the top issues to be addressed in CSR efforts. The themes helped to explain why BAT was engaging in CSR, the factors shaping the start of its CSR programs, and the issues it intended to address through CSR.

Research limitations/implications

The analysis is limited to one organization and does not include interviews to go with the archived documents.

Practical implications

The paper considers the implications of the analysis for theory and practice for internal CSR communication.

Originality/value

The documents provide a rare glimpse inside a corporate decision to begin a CSR program and how the managers “talked” about CSR. Instead of examining external CSR communication, it examines the early days of internal CSR communication at a specific firm. The yields of the document analysis provide insights into how BAT conceptualized CSR and communicated the rationale for creating a CSR program internally. Research has relied primarily upon speculation of corporate motives or corporate public discourse designed to frame their CSR efforts. The internal documents provide an unfiltered examination of the motives for a CSR program. This allows us to better understand why a CSR program was created including the motives, targets, and desired outcomes.

Details

Corporate Communications: An International Journal, vol. 22 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1356-3289

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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…

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…

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.

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

Keywords

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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…

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

Keywords

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