Loading...

COMM THEORY - ATTRIBUTION THEORY/CRISIS/COVID - RESEARCH ESSAY

Open Posted By: surajrudrajnv33 Date: 16/09/2020 Graduate Dissertation & Thesis Writing

This assignment is a research essay on the application attribution theory & situational crisis management theory on changing employee behavior and perceptions towards COVID-19 workplace safety.
Please see the attachment title “COMM 300 Project 3 Description and Citations” for assignment requirements and rubric. It must include APA in-text citations.
The attachment titled “Research Essay Clarke” is the essay outline. Please use this word document to write the essay. YOU MUST ONLY USE THE SOURCE MATERIALS ATTACHED!!!
This is the 3rd installment of a 3-part project. I have attached the first two assignments to reference in the research essay.
PLEASE READ THE ASSIGNMENT CAREFULLY. I HAVE PROVIDED THE ESSAY OUTLINE, CITATIONS, AND SOURCE MATERIALS. 

Category: Engineering & Sciences Subjects: Biology Deadline: 12 Hours Budget: $120 - $180 Pages: 2-3 Pages (Short Assignment)

Attachment 1

Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at https://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=vgen20

The Journal of General Psychology

ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/vgen20

The effectiveness of supervisor support in lessening perceived uncertainties and emotional exhaustion of university employees during the COVID-19 crisis: the constraining role of organizational intransigence

Peerayuth Charoensukmongkol & Tipnuch Phungsoonthorn

To cite this article: Peerayuth Charoensukmongkol & Tipnuch Phungsoonthorn (2020): The effectiveness of supervisor support in lessening perceived uncertainties and emotional exhaustion of university employees during the COVID-19 crisis: the constraining role of organizational intransigence, The Journal of General Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/00221309.2020.1795613

To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/00221309.2020.1795613

Published online: 21 Jul 2020.

Submit your article to this journal

Article views: 560

View related articles

View Crossmark data

The effectiveness of supervisor support in lessening perceived uncertainties and emotional exhaustion of university employees during the COVID-19 crisis: the constraining role of organizational intransigence

Peerayuth Charoensukmongkola and Tipnuch Phungsoonthornb

aInternational College, National Institute of Development Administration; bWebster University Thailand

ABSTRACT Despite the severity of the COVID-19 crisis, which has affected organizations worldwide, there is a lack of research on the organizational factors that affect the psychological wellbeing of the employees of an organization affected by the crisis. This research uses the case of employees at two international universities in Thailand that have been directly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Grounded in social support theory and the job-demand resource model of job stress, this research exam- ines the role of supervisor support in explaining the degree of perceived uncertainties and emotional exhaustion that employees experience due to the COVID-19 crisis. Moreover, this research examines whether the effect of supervisor sup- port on the perceived uncertainties of employees can be moderated by organizational intransigence, that is, a prevail- ing climate of resistance to change at the workplace. The questionnaire survey data were obtained from a sample of 300 employees at two private international universities, and the partial least squares structural equation model was used for data analysis. The results significantly confirm that super- visor support has a negative effect on the perceived uncer- tainties of employees. Perceived uncertainties also significantly mediate the negative effect of supervisor support on the employees’ emotional exhaustion. More importantly, the mod- erating effect analysis shows that the negative effect of super- visor support on the perceived uncertainties of employees presents only for employees who work in a workplace climate where there is low intransigence; in a workplace climate where there is high intransigence, supervisor support does not lower the perceived uncertainties of employees.

ARTICLE HISTORY Received 14 April 2020 Accepted 4 July 2020

KEYWORDS Crisis; organization; social support; stress; wellbeing; COVID-19; coronavirus

Introduction

The COVID-19 crisis has had significant impacts on society and business sectors at a global level. Particularly for business sectors, the impacts of the

CONTACT Peerayuth Charoensukmongkol [email protected] International College, National Institute of Development Administration, 118 Moo3, Sereethai Road, Klong-Chan, Bangkapi, Bangkok 10240 Thailand. � 2020 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

THE JOURNAL OF GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY https://doi.org/10.1080/00221309.2020.1795613

COVID-19 pandemic have brought about tremendous disruption to the activities and operations of businesses in almost every industry (McKibbin & Fernando, 2020). Not only does the crisis pose financial threats to organ- izations, it also affects the work and psychological wellbeing of their employees affected by the crisis (Hamouche, 2020). The negative impacts of the crisis also exist in the educational sector (DePietro, 2020; Sahu, 2020): According to UNESCO (2020), the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is caus- ing widespread disruption to education globally. In particular, private inter- national universities tend to be a sector of the educational industry that are among those most affected by the COVID-19 crisis, as their operations and revenues heavily depend on the enrollment of overseas students. The sharp decline in new student enrollment not only affects the universities finan- cially, but also causes many uncertainties for faculty and staff members (DePietro, 2020). In addition to focusing efforts on migrating to online learning, it is expected that some institutions may need to reduce the finan- cial strain caused by the crisis by cutting their staff numbers, or by merging with other institutions (DePietro, 2020). These changes generate pressure on and insecurity among the workforce in the academic sector. Given the high levels of stress and anxiety that employees inevitably experience from the COVID-19 crisis, it is important for research to investigate organiza- tional factors that might alleviate the impact of the crisis on the psycho- logical stress levels of employees. At this stage, given that the COVID-19 crisis is still a relatively new phenomenon, research areas of management attempt to clarify the impact of the crisis on the psychological wellbeing of employees, as well as interventions to address this problem in organiza- tions, is still very sparse. This research is based on the case of two private international univer-

sities in Thailand that have been significantly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The research’s first objective is to analyze the effect of the perceived uncertainties of the universities’ employees regarding the impacts for them of the COVID-19 crisis on their level of emotional exhaustion. The second objective is to examine the role of supervisor support as an organizational variable that could reduce the degree of employees’ perceived uncertainties. As prior research has found that supervisors tend to play a crucial role in reducing the uncertainties and ambiguities that employees experience in an organization (Blanco-Donoso, Moreno-Jim�enez, Pereira, & Garrosa, 2019; Skiba & Wildman, 2019), the role of supervisor support might be essential to alleviate the level of uncertainties that employees experience during the COVID-19 crisis. Theoretically, this research is grounded in social support theory (Amason, Allen, & Holmes, 1999) and the job demand-resource (JD-R) model (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007) to explain the benefits of super- visor support in lowering the perceived uncertainties of employees, as well

2 P. CHAROENSUKMONGKOL AND T. PHUNGSOONTHORN

as its subsequent effect on the emotional exhaustion employees experience arising from the crisis. In addition, the final objective of this research is to explore the moderating effect of organizational climate, in terms of intransigence, which might limit the effectiveness of supervisors in provid- ing the support needed to reduce employees’ uncertainties. This type of organizational climate basically reflects the tendency of an organization to cling to tradition and established ways of doing things in the workplace (Patterson et al., 2005), which can be counterproductive for organizations in dealing effectively with changes and uncertainties in a dynamic environ- ment (Moussa, McMurray, & Muenjohn, 2018), such as the COVID- 19 crisis. The overall results from this research are expected to make a contribu-

tion to knowledge regarding the roles of social support and organizational ethos regarding change in influencing the levels of psychological stress experienced of employees during the COVID-19 crisis. From the manager- ial perspective, the results of this research provide crucial insights for man- agement regarding policy and implementation that might mitigate the psychological effects of this crisis on employees.

Perceived uncertainties of university employees during the COVID-19 crisis

Coombs and Holladay (2005, p. 264) define a crisis as “a sudden and unex- pected event that threatens to disrupt an organization’s operation and poses a financial and reputational threat.” Not only does a crisis create financial and reputational threat, it also affects individuals psychologically. The psy- chological impacts of a crisis usually present in the form of uncertainties that individuals perceive when they are living through a crisis. In a general sense, uncertainty is defined as “an individual’s perceived inability to pre- dict something accurately” (Milliken, 1987, p. 136). In particular, the COVID-19 situation is regarded as a crisis that threatens the financial sta- bility of organizations and the psychological wellbeing of employees in almost every sector throughout the world. In the educational sector, private international universities tend to be the sector affected directly and most significantly by the COVID-19 crisis. The crisis generates uncertainties for employees at the universities in sev-

eral ways. Firstly, the crisis has caused student enrollment to drop sharply. Given that the revenues of private international universities depend heavily on the enrollment of new students from abroad, this sharp decline in enrollment has the potential to create a sense of job insecurity among employees due to the possibility of the university to downsize (that is, reduce the number of staff). Moreover, the management, as well as faculty members and staff, must develop plans to maintain student engagement

THE JOURNAL OF GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY 3

during the crisis. Furthermore, university departments must frequently address students’ and parents’ questions and concerns, which increases employees’ workload and their emotional strain. University personnel can also experience difficulties in providing immediate responses to questions because the university authorities need to assess the situation and take time to make decisions. Considering that the faculty and staff interact with peo- ple from partner institutions and students from various nations, health uncertainties can be created among those anxious about the spread of the virus. Overall, the COVID-19 situation has the appearance of being a crisis for employees at private international universities because it creates a sense of insecurity, uncertainty, and wariness, and poses overwhelming concerns for them. Thus, the employees at these universities are highly susceptible to psychological stress as a result of the uncertainties the crisis creates for them.

The effect of perceived uncertainties on emotional exhaustion

Research has shown that an organizational crisis can be harmful to the psy- chological wellbeing of employees (Charoensukmongkol, 2016, 2017; Claeys, Cauberghe, & Vyncke, 2010; Hurt & Abebe, 2015; Liu, Austin, & Jin, 2011). One particular type of psychological impact that employees experience from a crisis is emotional exhaustion. Emotional exhaustion is the core aspect of job burnout, which happens when employees suffer from stress for a prolonged period of time (Lambert, Qureshi, Frank, Klahm, & Smith, 2018; Moyer, Aziz, & Wuensch, 2017). People who experience emo- tional exhaustion tend to lose motivation to come to work, and feel that they have no power or control over what happens in the workplace (Seriwatana & Charoensukmongkol, 2020). Emotional exhaustion can greatly affect work motivation, performance, and the mental health of employees, thereby lowering their engagement with their work and result- ing in absenteeism and the intention to quit their job. The degree of the perceived uncertainties that university employees have

regarding the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis can increase their level of emotional exhaustion. In particular, uncertainty about events that occur during the crisis, as well as its consequences, tend to make employees feel skeptical about the organization’s likelihood of survival, as well as the impact that it may have on them as a result (Bordia, Hunt, Paulsen, Tourish, & DiFonzo, 2004). In addition, Bastien (1987) has argued that perceived uncertainty can lead to fear of loss due to its adverse effects on one’s locus of control. In this respect, employees who are uncertain about a situation can neither prepare for nor deal with the unknown effectively (Bordia et al., 2004). Because the COVID-19 crisis has caused many

4 P. CHAROENSUKMONGKOL AND T. PHUNGSOONTHORN

unpredictable events that interrupt the work and operations of the staff and faculty members at universities, and because the length of time required for the situation to be resolved or to become better is not known, it is quite common for employees to be anxious about the consequences for them, thereby resulting in a higher chance that they develop emotional exhaustion. Therefore, the following hypothesis is offered: The perceived uncertainties of university employees regarding the impacts of the COVID- 19 crisis will increase their emotional exhaustion.

The effect of supervisor support on perceived uncertainties and emotional exhaustion

This research proposes that the degree of perceived uncertainties and emo- tional exhaustion caused by the COVID-19 crisis among employees can be alleviated by the level of supervisor support. Supervisor support indicates the degree to which subordinates receive support from their supervisor (Maertz et al., 2007). Supervisor support reflects the employees’ perception of the quality of their relationship with supervisors (Stinglhamber & Vandenberghe, 2003); and it represents the degree to which employees real- ize that their supervisor cares about their personal concerns and wellbeing (Ru Hsu, 2011). Scholars have asserted that supervisor support plays a role in fostering positive attitudes regarding their organization among employ- ees (Eisenberger, Stinglhamber, Vandenberghe, Sucharski, & Rhoades, 2002). In particular, the role of supervisor support is important in sustain- ing employees’ work morale and psychological wellbeing during a time of crisis (Cole, Bruch, & Vogel, 2006). For example, a study of Cole et al. (2006), which was based on the case of a medical technology company in Switzerland, found that the supervisor tended to play a supporting role in lessening the cynicism of employees during an organizational crisis. From the theoretical perspective, the role of supervisor support in reduc-

ing the perceived uncertainties and emotional exhaustion of employees dur- ing the COVID-19 crisis can be explained by social support theory, which suggests that social support protects people from the harmful effects of stressful events by influencing what they think about and how they cope with events (Shumaker & Brownell, 1984). Social support refers to a social network’s provision of psychological and material resources intended to benefit an individual’s capacity to cope with stress (Amason et al., 1999). Supervisors are considered as the main source of social support for employ- ees because they are in a position to provide rewards, protection, encour- agement, and motivation to employees (Phungsoonthorn & Charoensukmongkol, 2019). Supervisors also support employees through providing information that eases their concerns about uncertainties (Skiba

THE JOURNAL OF GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY 5

& Wildman, 2019). This idea is supported in the study of Skiba and Wildman (2019), which found that the quality of the relationship that employees develop with their supervisors plays a crucial role in reducing the workplace uncertainty of employees, thereby lowering turnover inten- tion. For this reason, the authority of the supervisor in providing key resources and information to employees can play a critical supporting role in reducing the perceived uncertainties of employees regarding the impacts of a crisis (Tummers, Steijn, Nevicka, & Heerema, 2018), as well reducing the emotional exhaustion that might follow (Charoensukmongkol, Murad, & Gutierrez-Wirsching, 2016). In addition to social support theory, the role of supervisor support in

reducing emotional exhaustion can be explained by the JD-R model of work stress (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007). The JD-R model describes the balance between job demands and job resources that determines the level of work stress that employees experience. Job demands can be described as psychological and quantitative workloads that create psychological strains on employees. Job resources means facilitating conditions, favorable work characteristics, and social support that help employees cope with the job demands they face. The JD-R model postulates that employees’ level of stress perception can be attenuated when they have sufficient job resources to deal with their job demands (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007). In particular, the literature on the JD-R model indicates that one crucial aspect of job resources that significantly helps employees cope with job demands is supervisor support (Hu, Schaufeli Wilmar, & Taris Toon, 2016). In the case of the COVID-19 crisis in organizations, the high level of employees’ per- ceived uncertainties can be regarded as a job demand that affects their well- being. The perception of uncertainties makes employees feel insecure and anxious about the unpredictability of their work situation, which, in turn, makes them feel emotionally exhausted (Skiba & Wildman, 2019). On the other hand, support from supervisors is regarded as a job resource in that it is social support that can lessen the concerns that employees have about uncertainties caused by the crisis. For example, this role of the supervisor is discussed in the study of Blanco-Donoso et al. (2019), which found that supervisor support plays a crucial role in helping employees deal effectively with ambiguity at work. When employees receive more support from their supervisor, their level of uncertainties should be lessened as they can feel greater confidence that they can rely on their supervisor to help them deal with the uncertainties (Skiba & Wildman, 2019). Overall, from the theoretical perspective of social support theory and the

JD-R model, it can be expected that supervisor support can directly reduce the perceived uncertainties of universities employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Considering that perceived uncertainties can determine the

6 P. CHAROENSUKMONGKOL AND T. PHUNGSOONTHORN

emotional exhaustion of employees, supervisor support could also reduce employees’ emotional exhaustion through the mediating role of perceived uncertainties. Thus, the following hypotheses are presented: supervisor sup- port will lessen the perceived uncertainties of university employees regard- ing the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, and the negative effect of supervisor support on the emotional exhaustion of employees is mediated by perceived uncertainties.

The moderating effect of organizational intransigence

Although supervisor support is postulated to reduce the perceived uncer- tainties of employees, it is plausible that this benefit might be limited by characteristics present in the work climate in the organization. In particu- lar, this research focuses on the role of resistance to change climate in a workplace namely organizational intransigence, that might limit the ability of the supervisor to provide support to reduce employees’ uncertainties. At root, an organization characterized by great intransigence tends to cling to traditional ways of managing activities in the workplace (Døjbak Haakonsson, Burton Richard, Obel, & Lauridsen, 2008). Moreover, senior managers in this type of workplace tend to have levels of interest in trying out new ideas, preferring to keep to established and traditional ways of workplace practices and processes (Patterson et al., 2005). Moreover, changes in how things are done in the organization tend to happen very slowly (Patterson et al., 2005). Research has shown that organizations and work units that are characterized by intransigence tend to be less effective in dealing with changes and uncertainties in a dynamic environment (Moussa et al., 2018). Particularly during a crisis in which decision latitudes and the managerial flexibility of the management are required to help organizations deal promptly with expectations (Weisaeth, Knudsen, & Tønnessen), this type of workplace climate militate against the organ- ization’s ability to respond effectively to the uncertainties that exist during a crisis (Gill, 2002). Given the characteristics of workplaces with a climate that resists change,

which create constraints for supervisors in executing their work and authority when they deviate from organizational tradition, this research hypothesizes that the benefit of supervisor support in lowering the per- ceived uncertainties of employees might not be effective in workplaces characterized by such a climate. In particular, the nature of senior manage- ment in the such a climate that has a strong attachment to established and traditional ways of doing things can potentially limit the autonomy and effectiveness of supervisors in making decisions that are necessary to help employees lessen the uncertainties raised by a crisis (Giberson et al., 2009).

THE JOURNAL OF GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY 7

Given that the discretion of supervisors is strongly bounded by the influ- ence of this organizational climate (Dov, 2008), it is difficult for them to implement any activity to deal with novel challenges that deviates from the traditional methods usually followed by the organization. Moreover, consid- ering that changes in the way things are done in the workplace tend to happen very slowly in this type of organizational climate, supervisors can face obstacles in exercising their authority to address the concerns of employees promptly in order to reduce uncertainties. Even though supervi- sors are motivated to provide support to help employees deal with a crisis, their support may not be effective when the change initiatives are not sup- ported by the organization. Thus, it is plausible that the negative effect of supervisor support on perceived uncertainties will present in a workplace that is characterized by low organizational intransigence, but not in the workplace characterized by high organizational intransigence. This leads to the following hypothesis: the effect of supervisor support on the perceived uncertainties of the university employees is moderated by the level of organizational intransigence.

Methods

Research context and sample selection procedure

This research collected data from employees, including lecturers and staff members working at two private international universities in Bangkok, Thailand. These two private international universities were a suitable con- text for studying the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis because they are among the universities that have been adversely affected by it. Both univer- sities have a high percentage of overseas students. Because the COVID-19 crisis has caused the enrollment rate of their overseas students to drop sharply, it has led to a tremendous decline in their revenues. This drop in revenues and the ongoing expenses that the universities need to bear have posed significant threats to the job security of the employees. In particular, many employees are uncertain about their job security as downsizing has been applied to some positions and work units in order to reduce expenses. The COVID-19 crisis has also made faculty and staff members uncertain about their work procedures and has caused their workloads to increase. Given that teaching and many of the routine work activities of the faculty and staff members now have to be carried out online, it has created ambi- guity and difficulties for the preponderance of the faculty and staff, who are not familiar with online teaching or online working. Nonetheless, although teaching and some of the work processes have been shifted online, some of the faculty and staff members are still required physically to go to the universities to perform certain administrative tasks, thereby causing

8 P. CHAROENSUKMONGKOL AND T. PHUNGSOONTHORN

them to be concerned and feel uncertain about the chance of contracting the virus when they travel. All of the uncertainties that the employees have experienced due to the COVID-19 crisis make them highly susceptible to emotional exhaustion. In total, the sampling frame for this research covers 438 employees

from both universities. All 438 employees were invited to participate in the survey data collection, for which a self-administered questionnaire sur- vey was used. Data collection was undertaken in April 2020, which was the month in which the COVID-19 situation was at its most severe in Thailand. Permission to conduct the survey was given by the management of each university prior to the data collection. The researcher visited each department to distribute the questionnaire packages in person, and the respondents participated in this study on a voluntary basis. The English version of the questionnaire was used, given that all faculties and staff at the two international universities use English for day-to-day communica- tion. The cover letter that was included in each questionnaire package advised about the objectives of this research and its ethics policy, and they were assured of the confidentiality and anonymity of the data collec- tion. In addition to the paper questionnaires, participants were given the option to complete the questionnaire online by using a link and QR code provided in the cover letter. The questionnaire data collection was admin- istered during weekdays; the order of the scale items was randomized; it took approximately 15minutes for participants to complete the question- naire; and data collection took about four weeks. The researcher then took a secure container to collect the questionnaires from the participants in person a few days later. At the end of the data collection period, the research obtained 300 usable questionnaires for data analysis, which is a 68.49% response rate. Table 1 report the demographic characteristics of the respondents.

Table 1. Characteristics of the respondents. Demographic factors Descriptive statistics

Gender Male: 147 (49%) Female: 153 (51%)

Age Mean: 43.04 S.D.: 10.14

Job tenure Less than 1 year: 16 (5.3%) 1–2 years: 31 (10.3%) 3–4 years: 57 (20%) 5–6 years: 57 (19%) 7–8 years: 34: (19%) 9–10 years: 31 (11.3%) More than 10 years: 74 (24.7%)

Job type Faculty: 210 (70%) Staff: 90 (30%)

THE JOURNAL OF GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY 9

Measures

Because the COVID-19 crisis at the universities is an unprecedented phe- nomenon, and consequently there is no existing scale that measures per- ceived uncertainty in this specific context, the present study used a measure of perceived uncertainty adapted from the study of Allen, Jimmieson, Bordia, and Irmer (2007), which was originally designed to measure the degree of perceived uncertainty of hospital employees during organizational change. This scale was chosen because it contains questions that reflect the uncertainties that employees had about their job security, compensation, welfare, and work processes that were affected by the organizational change crisis; these aspects of uncertainties are similar to the situations that the university employees are facing due to the COVID-19 crisis. Questions from the original scales that were unrelated to the context of the COVID-19 and not relevant to the university employees were removed. Some new questions were added, which were derived from information the researchers obtained from informal interviews with some employees at the universities regarding their concerns about the unknowns they face due to the COVID-19 crisis. The respondents were asked to evaluate how uncertain they were about the effects of ten aspects of the crisis. The items comprised the following “The likelihood that the problem will be solved;” “The likelihood that the problem will not be prolonged;” “The likelihood that the problem will come to an end;” “The possibility of achieving a solu- tion to the problem;” “The certainty about the scope and time frame of the problem;” “The effectiveness of the university’s actions to prevent the prob- lem;” “The fear that you will get COVID-19 infection;” “Whether your job will be secure;” “Whether your pay, salary, and possibility of a promotion will be affected;” and “The extent to which your job roles/tasks will change.” All of the items were measured using a five-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (very certain) to 5 (very uncertain). Supervisor support was measured using the scale of Cole et al. (2006),

which has four items. The scale was rated on 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The respondents were asked to evaluate the supervisor at their department or work unit. Sample items included “Management shows active concern for my feelings” and “Management assures us that help is available if it is needed.” Emotional exhaustion was measured using the scale of Maslach and

Jackson (1981), which has five items. The items were rated on 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Sample items included “I feel emotionally drained from my work” and “I feel burned out from my work.” Organizational intransigence was measured using the scale of Patterson

et al. (2005), which contains five questions, all of which were assessed on a

10 P. CHAROENSUKMONGKOL AND T. PHUNGSOONTHORN

5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Sample items included “Senior management likes to keep to established, traditional ways of doing things” and “Changes in the way things are done here happen very slowly.”

Control variables

This research considered some of the demographic factors and work char- acteristics of the employees as control variables, namely age, gender, job tenure, and job type. Age was measured as actual age in years; gender was measured as a categorial variable (Male ¼ 1; Female ¼ 0); job tenure was measured as a ranked variable (1¼ less than 1year; 2¼ 1–2 years; 3¼ 3–4 years; 4¼ 4–5 years; 6¼ 6–7 years; 7¼ 8–9 years, 8¼ 10 years or more; and Job type was measured as a categorial variable (Faculty ¼ 0; Staff ¼ 1).

Statistical analyses

The statistical analysis was performed using Partial least Squares Structural Equation Modeling (PLS-SEM). PLS-SEM is a statistical technique that combines principal component analysis, path analysis, and a set of regres- sions to generate estimates of the standardized regression coefficients for the model’s paths, and factor loadings for the measurement items. PLS- SEM is a recommended for analyzing models with less consecrated theoret- ical support (Hair, Hult, Ringle, & Sarstedt, 2014). PLS-SEM also offers more flexibility than covariance-based SEM because it produces less bias estimation when data are not distributed normally, and when the sample size is small (Chin & Todd, 1995). Because the Jarque-Bera and the Robust Jarque-Bera tests of normality indicated that the majority of the variables included in the analysis were not distributed normally, PLS-SEM was appropriate for this research. Moreover, PLS-SEM is suitable given the rela- tively small sample size used in this this research. The PLS-SEM analysis was performed using WarpPLS software.

Results

Validity and reliability assessment

Prior to model estimation using PLS-SEM, the study ensured that all of the constructs had satisfactory psychometric properties. Firstly, convergent val- idity was analyzed using factor loadings, which must be above .5 to confirm a satisfactory degree of convergent validity (Hair, Black, Babin, Anderson, & Tatham, 2006). All the factor loadings of the latent constructs were

THE JOURNAL OF GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY 11

above .5, confirming satisfactory convergent validity. Secondly, discriminant validity was analyzed by comparing the square root of the average variance extracted (AVE) with its corresponding correlations with other constructs. To support discriminant validity, the square root of the AVE for each con- struct must exceed its correlation with any other construct (Fornell & Larcker, 1981). Table 2 reports the square roots of the AVEs and the corre- lations among the variables. The results reported in Table 2 confirm that all of the square roots of the AVEs met this requirement; thus, discrimin- ant validity was satisfactory. Thirdly, the quality of construct reliability was evaluated using Cronbach’s alpha coefficient and a composite reliability coefficient. All of the alphas were .90 or above; thus, the reliability of all the constructs was adequate.

Multicollinearity and common method bias assessment

Next, multicollinearity was assessed by using full variance inflation factor (VIF) statistics. A value lower than 3.3 confirms that multicollinearity is not a serious issue (Kock, Lynn, & Texas A&M International University, 2012). The results showed a range of the full VIFs with latent variables between 1.078 and 1.759, which confirmed that multicollinearity is not a serious issue in this study. Additionally, the study also used Harman’s sin- gle-factor test to assess common method bias (CMB). The study analyzed all indicators in the model by extracting a single factor in the principal component analysis. The result showed that the one-factor solution explained only 35.13% of the variance, which was substantially smaller than the 50% threshold. The one-factor confirmatory factor analysis model did not fit the data well (v2¼4,542.001; d.f.¼1,529; p<.001). Overall, the results confirmed that CMB was not a major problem in the data collection.

Table 2. Variable correlations and square root of average variance extracted.

Variables Cronbach’s a coefficient

Composite reliability coefficient SP PU EMX OI AGE GEN TEN TYPE

SP 0.958 0.966 (0.937) �0.046 �0.024 0.055 0.092 0.145� �0.032 �0.105 PU 0.904 0.916 (0.724) 0.436�� 0.289�� �0.035 0.028 0.134� �0.003 EMX 0.955 0.965 (0.920) 0.453�� �0.165�� 0.147� 0.279�� 0.11 OI 0.939 0.955 (0.917) �0.098 0.146� 0.169�� 0.068 AGE n/a n/a (1) �0.038 0.391�� �0.435�� GEN n/a n/a (1) 0.063 0.132� TEN n/a n/a (1) �0.205�� TYPE n/a n/a (1)

Notes: �p-value <.05; ��p-value< .01. Square root of AVE is presented in parentheses. SP: supervisor support; PU: perceived uncertainties; EMX: emotional exhaustion; OI: organizational intransigence; AGE: age of employees; GEN: gender of employees (male ¼ 0; female ¼ 1); TEN: job tenure of employees; TYPE: job type of employees (faculty ¼ 0, staff ¼ 1).

12 P. CHAROENSUKMONGKOL AND T. PHUNGSOONTHORN

Hypothesis testing

Figure 1 reports the results from PLS-SEM estimation. The factor scores of the latent variable were calculated using PLS algorithm; they were calcu- lated as an exact linear combination of the indicator scores (Kock, 2019). Regarding the hypothesis suggesting that the perceived uncertainties of the university employees will increase their emotional exhaustion, the results from the model assessment show that perceived uncertainties and emo- tional exhaustion were positively associated (b¼ 0.31; p< .001; Effect size ¼ 0.135). Regarding the hypothesis suggesting that supervisor support will lessen the perceived uncertainties of university employees, the results from the model assessment show that supervisor support and perceived uncer- tainties were positively associated (b¼�0.096; p¼ .026; Effect size ¼ 0.024). The hypothesis suggesting that the negative effect of supervisor sup- port on the emotional exhaustion of employees is mediated by perceived uncertainties was confirmed using the Sobel test (Baron & Kenny, 1986). The results show that perceived uncertainties positively mediate the linkage between supervisor support and emotional exhaustion (t¼�1.983; p¼ .041; Effect size ¼ 0.025). Considering the direct correlation between supervisor support and emotional exhaustion in Table 2, which was not statistically significant (r¼�0.024; p¼ .684), it can be concluded that per- ceived uncertainties fully mediate the effect of supervisor support on emo- tional exhaustion. The hypothesis suggesting that the effect of supervisor support on per-

ceived uncertainties is moderated by the level of organizational intransi- gence was confirmed by the beta coefficient of the interaction between supervisor support and perceived uncertainties. The results show that the beta coefficient of the interaction demonstrated a positive sign (b¼ 0.265; p<.001; Effect size ¼ 0.064), which was also statistically significant. This result implies that the negative effect of supervisor support on perceived

.265*** .283*** .299***

.31*** -.096*

R 2 = .153 R

2 = .39

Supervisor

support Perceived

uncertainties

Organizational

intransigence

Emotional

exhaustion

Control variables • Gender of employees • Age of employees • Job tenure of employees • Job type of employee

Figure 1. Results from hypotheses testing. Notes: ���p<.001; �p<.05. Standardized coefficients are reported.

THE JOURNAL OF GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY 13

uncertainties can be suppressed by organizational intransigence. Figure 2 presents the interaction effect. The regression lines were plotted using standardized values suggested by Aiken and West (1991). The line graph, which represents the association between supervisor support and perceived uncertainties moderated by organizational intransigence was constructed by plotting supervisor support scores one standard deviation above and below the mean across the high organizational intransigence (þ1.00 SD) and low organizational intransigence (�1.00 SD). The illustration confirms that the negative effect of supervisor support on perceived uncertainties present only when there is low organizational intransigence. Conversely when organizational intransigence is high, supervisor support was not seen to be related to perceived uncertainties.

Discussion

The results of hypothesis testing support the role of supervisor support in explaining the perceived uncertainties and emotional exhaustion that employees experience from the COVID-19 crisis. Firstly, the results con- firm the negative effect of perceived uncertainties on employees’’ emotional exhaustion. This result adds evidence to prior research, which showed that uncertainties during a crisis are a key factor in employees experiencing psy- chological distress and anxiety (Bordia et al., 2004). This also supports the nature of a crisis, which normally generates fear of loss, and adversely affects employees’ locus of control (Bastien, 1987), thereby limiting their ability to deal with the unknown effectively (Bordia et al., 2004). This is also common in the case of the COVID-19 crisis, which has caused

Figure 2. Moderating effect of organizational intransigence.

14 P. CHAROENSUKMONGKOL AND T. PHUNGSOONTHORN

university employees to face many uncertainties regarding their job security and wellbeing, thereby causing them to develop emotional exhaustion. Secondly, the results confirm that supervisor support is negatively associ- ated with employees’ perceived uncertainties. In addition, the analysis shows that perceived uncertainties significantly mediate the negative effect of supervisor support on emotional exhaustion. This result suggests that supervisors can help employees lower emotional exhaustion by reducing the degree of the perceived uncertainties they feel regarding the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Overall, the findings regarding the role of supervisor support during the crisis is in congruence with prior research and literature showing that supervisors play a crucial role in reducing psychological impacts on employees (Charoensukmongkol et al., 2016; Tummers et al., 2018). This is in line with the study of Skiba and Wildman (2019), which found that supervisors can reduce employees’ intention to leave their jobs by reducing workplace uncertainty. Especially in the context of a crisis, this result is in accordance with the finding of Cole et al. (2006), which asserted the importance of supervisors in addressing employees’ concerns during an organizational crisis. Thirdly, and most importantly, the analysis shows that the negative effect

of supervisor support on the perceived uncertainties of employees is signifi- cantly limited by organizational intransigence—its climate of resistance to change. In particular, the results show that the negative association between supervisor support and the employees’ emotional exhaustion exist only for employees working in a workplace that has low resistance to change, while in workplaces where resistance to change is high, supervisor support is not negatively associated with employees’ emotional exhaustion. This result regarding the moderating effect of organizational intransigence is consistent with prior research that showed that the effectiveness of supervisors can be significantly constrained by the influence of an organizational climate that does not help supervisors execute their roles and authority to support employees (Dov, 2008; Giberson et al., 2009). This result is also in con- formity with prior studies that found that the actions of supervisors that are misaligned with the organizational climate can significantly weaken their performance (Døjbak Haakonsson et al., 2008; Stirpe, Bonache, & Trullen, 2015).

Contributions to theory

The results from this research provide contributions to both social support theory and the JD-R model. The results particularly contributed to social support theory by showing that the support from supervisors during the COVID-19 crisis also plays a crucial role in providing psychological and

THE JOURNAL OF GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY 15

material resources that help employees cope with the stress caused by uncertainties arising from the crisis (Amason et al., 1999). Given that the authority of supervisors can directly influence the allocation of important resources and support that can promote employees’ wellbeing, they are the main source of social support in an organization, which can significantly lessen the uncertainties that employees perceive during the crisis. Furthermore, from the JD-R perspective, this research adds that support from supervisors can serve as a critical job resource that employees can depend on to help them alleviate the negative impacts of job demands caused by the uncertainties they experience due to the COVID-19 crisis (Skiba & Wildman, 2019). With benevolent support and caring from super- visors in the form of psychological and material resources, employees tend to be more confident about situations and tend to have less concern about uncertainties associated with COVID-19 impacts; this also eased the level of emotional exhaustion that followed. However, even though supervisors were willing to provide support in order to lessen the concerns and uncer- tainties of the employees regarding the impacts of the crisis, their effective- ness in providing this support was completely limited by the influence of workplace resistance to change, which does not help the supervisors exer- cise their authority in a way that deviates from organizational tradition (Giberson et al., 2009). Therefore, this research contributes to theories by clarifying that the role of supervisors from the perspective of social support theory and the JD-R model can be bounded by the influence of the organ- izational macro environment that governs the behaviors of members of the organization (Døjbak Haakonsson et al., 2008; Stirpe et al., 2015). This in turn limits the potential of supervisors to provide support that benefits employees. This contribution makes a recommendation for future research: to explore the role of supervisors in taking the role in the organizational macro environment, such as organizational culture and organizational cli- mates, into consideration. This recommendation is essential to generate a more complete understanding of some of the boundary conditions that can act as enabling or limiting factors regarding the effectiveness of supervisors in the performance outcomes that they demonstrate.

Contributions to management and the organization

This research provides recommendations for top management regarding policies that may need to be implemented during the COVID-19 crisis in order to alleviate some of the harmful psychological impacts that the crisis causes for employees. Regarding the role of supervisor support, which was found to reduce the uncertainties and emotional exhaustion of university employees during the crisis, it is important for management to allow and

16 P. CHAROENSUKMONGKOL AND T. PHUNGSOONTHORN

encourage the supervisors of all work units or departments to provide the support necessary to address the concerns of their employees during the crisis. However, it is also very important for top management to realize that characteristics of the workplace climate in the organization may mili- tate against the ability of the supervisors to exercise their authority to help employees effectively. This is especially true when an intransigent work- place climate—one that prevents supervisors from taking actions in a way that deviates from the organization’s traditions—renders it difficult for them to exercise their authority effectively to provide prompt support that helps employees lessen their concerns about the crisis. Given that it is cru- cial for supervisors to have sufficient autonomy to take prompt action to address the uncertainties of employees during a crisis, top management should grant greater flexibility and autonomy to supervisors so that they can take their own actions in addressing the skepticism of employees and to ease their concerns. This policy recommendation may be crucial for organizations to be able to alleviate the psychological impacts that employ- ees experience as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Limitations

Some research limitations must be noted. Firstly, the findings of this research are based on the case of two private international universities in Thailand. Moreover, the sample size for the data collection is quite small, and this can limit the generalizability of the findings. Secondly, the cross- sectional data collection that was implemented in this research limits the potential to interpret the results in terms of causality, and the results are more likely to be interpreted as associations. Nonetheless, this limitation is inevitable given the short time period that the COVID-19 situation has had to create uncertainties among the university employees - it was difficult to design and conduct a longitudinal study within the short time limit. Thirdly, because the data were collected using a self-reporting question- naire, some subjective bias may be present in the results.

References

Aiken, L., & West, S. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Allen, J., Jimmieson, N. L., Bordia, P., & Irmer, B. E. (2007). Uncertainty during organiza- tional change: Managing perceptions through communication. Journal of Change Management, 7(2), 187–210. doi:10.1080/14697010701563379

Amason, P., Allen, M. W., & Holmes, S. A. (1999). Social support and acculturative stress in the multicultural workplace. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 27(4), 310–334. doi:10.1080/00909889909365543

THE JOURNAL OF GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY 17

Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2007). The job demands–resources model: State of the art. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22(3), 309–328. doi:10.1108/02683940710733115

Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173–1182. doi:10.1037/0022-3514. 51.6.1173

Bastien, D. T. (1987). Common patterns of behavior and communication in corporate mergers and acquisitions. Human Resource Management, 26(1), 17–33. doi:10.1002/hrm. 3930260103

Blanco-Donoso, L. M., Moreno-Jim�enez, B., Pereira, G., & Garrosa, E. (2019). Effects of co- worker and supervisor support on nurses’ energy and motivation through role ambiguity and psychological flexibility. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 22, E25. doi:10.1017/sjp. 2019.10

Bordia, P., Hunt, E., Paulsen, N., Tourish, D., & DiFonzo, N. (2004). Uncertainty during organizational change: Is it all about control? European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 13(3), 345–365. doi:10.1080/13594320444000128

Charoensukmongkol, P. (2016). The role of mindfulness on employee psychological reac- tions to mergers and acquisitions. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 29(5), 816–831. doi:10.1108/JOCM-05-2015-0068

Charoensukmongkol, P. (2017). Contributions of mindfulness during post-merger integra- tion. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 32(1), 104–118. doi:10.1108/JMP-02-2016-0039

Charoensukmongkol, P., Murad, M., & Gutierrez-Wirsching, S. (2016). The role of cow- orker and supervisor support on job burnout and job satisfaction. Journal of Advances in Management Research, 13(1), 4–22. doi: 10.1108/JAMR-06-2014-0037.

Chin, W. W., & Todd, P. A. (1995). Issues and opinion on structural equation modeling. MIS Quarterly, 19(2), 237. doi:10.2307/249690

Claeys, A.-S., Cauberghe, V., & Vyncke, P. (2010). Restoring reputations in times of crisis: An experimental study of the situational crisis communication theory and the moderat- ing effects of locus of control. Public Relations Review, 36(3), 256–262.

Cole, M. S., Bruch, H., & Vogel, B. (2006). Emotion as mediators of the relations between perceived supervisor support and psychological hardiness on employee cynicism. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27(4), 463–484. doi:10.1002/job.381

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2005). An exploratory study of stakeholder emotions: Affect and crises. In N. M. Ashkanasy, W. J. Zerbe, & C. E. J. H€artel (Eds.), The Effect of Affect in Organizational Settings (pp. 263–280). Somerville, MA: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

DePietro, A. (2020). Here’s a look at the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on colleges and universities in the U.S. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewdepietro/ 2020/04/30/impact-coronavirus-covid-19-colleges-universities/#44fea1bf61a6.

Døjbak Haakonsson, D., Burton Richard, M., Obel, B., & Lauridsen, J. (2008). How failure to align organizational climate and leadership style affects performance. Management Decision, 46(3), 406–432. doi:10.1108/00251740810863861

Dov, Z. (2008). Safety climate and beyond: A multi-level multi-climate framework. Safety Science, 46(3), 376–387. doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2007.03.006

Eisenberger, R., Stinglhamber, F., Vandenberghe, C., Sucharski, I. L., & Rhoades, L. (2002). Perceived supervisor support: Contributions to perceived organizational support and employee retention. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(3), 565–573. doi:10.1037/0021- 9010.87.3.565

18 P. CHAROENSUKMONGKOL AND T. PHUNGSOONTHORN

Fornell, C., & Larcker, D. F. (1981). Evaluating structural equation models with unobserv- able variables and measurement error. Journal of Marketing Research, 18(1), 39–50. doi: 10.2307/3151312

Giberson, T. R., Resick, C. J., Dickson, M. W., Mitchelson, J. K., Randall, K. R., & Clark, M. A. (2009). Leadership and organizational culture: Linking CEO characteristics to cul- tural values. Journal of Business and Psychology, 24(2), 123–137. doi:10.1007/s10869-009- 9109-1

Gill, R. (2002). Change management–or change leadership? Journal of Change Management, 3(4), 307–318. doi:10.1080/714023845

Hair, J. F., Black, W. C., Babin, B. J., Anderson, R. E., & Tatham, R. L. (2006). Multivariate data analysis (Vol. 6). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Hair, J. F., Hult, T. M., Ringle, C. M., & Sarstedt, M. A. (2014). Primer on partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Hamouche, S. (2020). COVID-19 and employees’ mental health: Stressors, moderators and agenda for organizational actions. Emerald Open Research, 2, 15. doi:10.35241/emeraldo- penres.13550.1

Hu, Q., Schaufeli Wilmar, B., & Taris Toon, W. (2016). Extending the job demands-resour- ces model with guanxi exchange. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 31(1), 127–140. doi: 10.1108/JMP-04-2013-0102

Hurt, K. J., & Abebe, M. A. (2015). The effect of conflict type and organizational crisis on perceived strategic decision effectiveness: An empirical investigation. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 22(3), 340–354. doi:10.1177/1548051815570038

Kock, N. (2019). WarpPLS user manual: Version 6.0. Laredo, TX: ScriptWarp Systems. Kock, N. & Lynn, G., Texas A&M International University. (2012). Lateral collinearity and

misleading results in variance-based SEM: An illustration and recommendations. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 13(7), 546–580. doi:10.17705/1jais.00302

Lambert, E. G., Qureshi, H., Frank, J., Klahm, C., & Smith, B. (2018). Job stress, job involvement, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment and their associations with job burnout among Indian police officers: A research note. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 33(2), 85–99. doi:10.1007/s11896-017-9236-y

Liu, B. F., Austin, L., & Jin, Y. (2011). How publics respond to crisis communication strat- egies: The interplay of information form and source. Public Relations Review, 37(4), 345–353. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2011.08.004.

Maertz, C. P., Jr, Griffeth, R. W., Campbell, N. S., & Allen, D. G. (2007). The effects of per- ceived organizational support and perceived supervisor support on employee turnover. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 28(8), 1059–1075. doi:10.1002/job.472

Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1981). The Maslach Burnout Inventory. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

McKibbin, W. J., & Fernando, R. (2020). The global macroeconomic impacts of COVID- 19: Seven scenarios (CAMA Working paper 19/2020). Australian National University.

Milliken, F. J. (1987). Three types of perceived uncertainty about the environment: State, effect, and response uncertainty. Academy of Management Review, 12(1), 133–143. doi: 10.5465/amr.1987.4306502

Moussa, M., McMurray, A., & Muenjohn, N. (2018). A conceptual framework of the factors influencing innovation in public sector organizations. The Journal of Developing Areas, 52(3), 231–240. doi:10.1353/jda.2018.0048

Moyer, F., Aziz, S., & Wuensch, K. (2017). From workaholism to burnout: Psychological capital as a mediator. International Journal of Workplace Health Management, 10(3), 213–227. doi:10.1108/IJWHM-10-2016-0074

THE JOURNAL OF GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY 19

Patterson, M. G., West, M. A., Shackleton, V. J., Dawson, J. F., Lawthom, R., Maitlis, S., … Wallace, A. M. (2005). Validating the organizational climate measure: Links to man- agerial practices, productivity and innovation. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26(4), 379–408. doi:10.1002/job.312

Phungsoonthorn, T., & Charoensukmongkol, P. (2019). Antecedents and outcomes associ- ated with a sense of place toward the organization of Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 39(2), 195–218. doi:10.1108/edi-06-2019-017

Ru Hsu, Y. (2011). Work-family conflict and job satisfaction in stressful working environ- ments: The moderating roles of perceived supervisor support and internal locus of con- trol. International Journal of Manpower, 32(2), 233–248. doi:10.1108/01437721111130224

Sahu, P. (2020). Closure of universities due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Impacton education and mental health of students and academic staff. Cureus, 12(4), e7541. doi:10.7759/cureus.7541

Seriwatana, P., & Charoensukmongkol, P. (2020). The effect of cultural intelligence on burnout of Thai cabin crew in non-national airlines moderated by job tenure. ABAC Journal, 40(1), 1–19.

Shumaker, S. A., & Brownell, A. (1984). Toward a theory of social support: Closing concep- tual gaps. Journal of Social Issues, 40(4), 11–36. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.1984.tb01105.x

Skiba, T., & Wildman, J. L. (2019). Uncertainty reducer, exchange deepener, or self-deter- mination enhancer? Feeling trust versus feeling trusted in supervisor-subordinate relationships. Journal of Business and Psychology, 34(2), 219–235. doi:10.1007/s10869- 018-9537-x

Stinglhamber, F., & Vandenberghe, C. (2003). Organizations and supervisors as sources of support and targets of commitment: A longitudinal study. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 24(3), 251–270. doi:10.1002/job.192

Stirpe, L., Bonache, J., & Trullen, J. (2015). The acceptance of newly introduced HR practi- ces: Some evidence from Spain on the role of management behavior and organizational climate. International Journal of Manpower, 36(3), 334–353. doi:10.1108/IJM-10-2012- 0155

Tummers, L., Steijn, B., Nevicka, B., & Heerema, M. (2018). The effects of leadership and job autonomy on vitality: Survey and experimental evidence. Review of Public Personnel Administration, 38(3), 355–377. doi:10.1177/0734371x16671980

UNESCO. (2020). COVID-19 and higher education: Learning to unlearn to create educa- tion for the future. Retrieved from https://academicimpact.un.org/content/covid-19-and- higher-education-learning-unlearn-create-education-future.

20 P. CHAROENSUKMONGKOL AND T. PHUNGSOONTHORN

  • Abstract
    • Introduction
      • Perceived uncertainties of university employees during the COVID-19 crisis
      • The effect of perceived uncertainties on emotional exhaustion
      • The effect of supervisor support on perceived uncertainties and emotional exhaustion
      • The moderating effect of organizational intransigence
    • Methods
      • Research context and sample selection procedure
      • Measures
      • Control variables
      • Statistical analyses
    • Results
      • Validity and reliability assessment
      • Multicollinearity and common method bias assessment
      • Hypothesis testing
    • Discussion
      • Contributions to theory
      • Contributions to management and the organization
      • Limitations
    • References

Attachment 2

 (https://www.facebook.com/instituteforpr/)  (https://twitter.com/instituteforpr)  (https://www.youtube.com/c/InstituteforPR)  (https://www.linkedin.com/company/institute-for-public-relations/)  (https://www.instagram.com/instituteforpr/)

CRISIS MANAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATIONS (UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2014)

by Institute for PR (https://instituteforpr.org/author/institute-for-pr/) Posted on September 23, 2014 (https://instituteforpr.org/crisis-management-communications/)

This is an updated version of Crisis Management and Communications by Dr. W. Timothy Coombs. The original version can be found here (https://instituteforpr.org/crisis-management-and-communications/).

Download Accompanying Infographics: Crisis Comms Infographic 1 Revised 2020 (https://instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/Crisis-Comms-Revised2020.pdf) Crisis-Comms Infographic 2 Revised 2020 (https://instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/Crisis-Comms2-Revised2020.pdf)

Introduction It was important to update the crisis communication entry for two reasons. One, there has been a significant amount of new research since the original entry was created. This new research provides support for some existing crisis communication knowledge as well as generating some novel insights. Second, the emergence of social media channels demands that they be integrated into the crisis management and communication process. This entry retains most of the original findings because the advice and insights are still valid. The “new” insights and advice derived from more recent crisis communication research have been integrated into the existing material.

As in the original piece, I am reviewing and synthesizing research that examined organizational crises. It is important to note in this revision the shi�ing nature of organizational crises. Historically, organizational crises have been considered a threat to the operations of an organization. An explosion could cripple production, a defective product would create the need for a recall and lost product, and a massive snow storm can disturb the flight operations of airlines. Crises also have a reputational element. A crisis does inflict harm on the organization’s reputation because of the negative information it generates about the organization (Barton, 2001). Today, it is appropriate to create the categories of operational crises and reputational crises (Sohn & Lariscy, 2014). Again, a crisis can a�ect both but one of the two factors can dominate a crisis.

Key Concepts There are plenty of definitions for a crisis. For this entry, the definition reflects key points found in the various discussions of what constitutes a crisis. A crisis is defined here as a significant threat to operations or reputations that can have negative consequences if not handled properly. In crisis management, the threat is the potential damage a crisis can inflict on an organization, its stakeholders, and an industry. A crisis can create three related threats: (1) public safety, (2) financial loss, and (3) reputation loss. Some crises, such as industrial accidents and product harm, can result in injuries and even loss of lives. Crises can cause financial loss by disrupting operations, creating a loss of market share/purchase intentions, or spawning lawsuits related to the crisis. As Dilenschneider (2000) noted in The Corporate Communications Bible, all crises threaten to tarnish an organization’s reputation. A crisis reflects poorly on an organization and will damage a reputation to some degree. Moreover, experts now recognize the existence of reputation-based crises (e.g., Sohn & Lariscy, 2014). Clearly these three threats are interrelated. Injuries or deaths will result in financial and reputation loss while reputations have a financial impact on organizations.

E�ective crisis management handles the threats sequentially. The primary concern in a crisis has to be public safety. A failure to address public safety intensifies the damage from a crisis. Reputation and financial concerns are considered a�er public safety has been remedied. Ultimately, crisis management is designed to protect an organization and its stakeholders from threats and/or reduce the impact felt by threats.

Crisis management is a process designed to prevent or lessen the damage a crisis can inflict on an organization and its stakeholders. As a process, crisis management is not just one thing. Crisis management can be divided into three phases: (1) pre-crisis, (2) crisis response, and (3) post-crisis. The pre-crisis phase is concerned with prevention and preparation. The crisis response phase is when management must actually respond to a crisis. The post-crisis phase looks for ways to better prepare for the next crisis and fulfills commitments made during the crisis phase including follow-up information.

The term social media crisis has been used to describe crises that emerged in or were amplified by social media. However, the term social media crisis is just too vague and includes situations that were not traditional crises. For instance, most of the social media crises documented in #Fail: The 50 Greatest Social Media Screw-Ups and How to Avoid Being the Next One (http://socialmediainfluence.com/research/fail- the-50-greatest-social-media-screw-ups/) were actually customer service problems. Most organizations are not going to assemble the crisis management team to address a customer service problem even if that problem is trending on Twitter and getting hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. Paracrisis is a more precise term for the way social media is influencing the emergence of a crisis. A paracrisis is a situation where managers must address a crisis risk in full view of its stakeholders (Coombs & Holladay, 2012). Essentially the pre-crisis phase moves from private to public view. If a paracrisis is mishandled— there is ine�ective crisis communication—it can escalate into a crisis. Social media has had a significant e�ect on altering the pre-crisis phase of crisis communication. Research has just begun to explore those changes.

At this point it is important to clarify the general connection between social media and crisis communication. Social media represents a variety on Internet channels that allow stakeholders to create content (Coombs & Holladay, 2012). Social media allow any individual with Internet access to post their ideas and images for others to see. Social media enters the revised entry is two ways. First, it is important to discuss the general relationship between social media and crisis communication. Second, the research and advice concerning social media’s role in crisis communication is integrated into the discussion of the three crisis phases. I would like to begin this general discussion of social media and crisis communication by debunking two crisis communication myths that have emerged along with social media:

Myth 1. What we knew about crisis communication should be forgotten because it is no longer valid.

Myth 2. Strategy is no longer relevant to crisis communication; it is all about reaction speed and tactics now.

For myth one, social media has created the need to modify crisis communication but the old crisis communication knowledge base remains viable. The basic elements of crisis communication are not changing. What is changing is the way we execute many of those basic elements. For instance, crisis managers have always used scanning. Social media add new sources that must be part of the crisis scanning process. Another change has been the addition of social media managers to the crisis management team (Coombs, 2015; González-Herrero & Smith, 2008). For myth two I would say that strategy never goes out of style. Speed does not trump the need to pursue a specific outcome and developing messages to achieve that outcome—to be strategic. There is no doubt that managers are under pressure to react even more quickly in crises with the advent of the Internet. However, managers must be deliberate and make informed decisions because they have responsibilities to a range of stakeholders. Speed is enhanced by crisis preparation. Crisis preparation allows crisis managers to be both fast and deliberate. Researchers are trying to understand how crisis communication can make the best use of social media and to debunk the myths social media has created for crisis communication.

The tri-part view of crisis management identified earlier serves as the primary organizing framework for this entry. However, the revised entry has new a section that reviews some lines of crisis communication that increased in prominence over the past few years and o�er useful advice for practitioners.

Emerging Crisis Communication Research Lines In a change from the original entry, it is helpful to present two crisis communication research lines that have been very important since the writing of the original entry. Those crisis communication research lines are internal crisis communication and stealing thunder.

Internal Crisis Communication There is a growing interest in the internal aspect of crisis communication with a focus on how management communicates with employees about a crisis. Internal crisis communication is important because it helps to mitigate the stress crises produce for employees and to illuminate how employees can become ambassadors (an asset) during a crisis (Frandsen & Johansen, 2011). In general, the internal crisis communication research has found managers neglect communication with employees during a crisis. For instance, Johansen, Aggerholm & Frandsen (2012) found that 67% of Danish organizations had explicit policies for external crisis communication while only 31% had similar polices for internal audiences. Only 40% of organizations thought employees could be external ambassadors during a crisis while 47% thought employees could be e�ective internal ambassadors (Johansen et al., 2012). The conclusion was that organizations were not maximizing the utility of employees for crisis communication. The Danish researchers argue for a “communication model where employees are viewed not as passive receivers but also as active participants who take their own communicative initiatives trying to make sense of crisis situations; and who to a certain extent can be mobilized communicatively by the organization in crisis” (Johansen et al., 2012, p. 273).

Research in Italy illustrated the underuse and the value of internal crisis communication. Surveys and interviews with managers and employees found that managers felt they have been e�ective at crisis communication with employees while employees felt the crisis information was of poorly quality and were negative toward the internal crisis communication they experienced (Mazzei & Ravazzani, 2011). Additional research found that Italian managers relied heavily on evasion of responsibility and showed a general underestimation of the value of internal communication during a crisis. Managers generally failed to communicate corrective actions and accommodative actions to employees. Interestingly, that is the exact information employees wanted and needed. If employees are to face a crisis positively, the employees require information about actions the organization was taking to address the crisis—corrective and accommodative actions (Mazzei & Ravazzani, 2014).

A case analysis of an industrial accident at an Italian organization revealed the value of e�ective internal crisis communication. A�er a fatal accident, the employees were mostly positive toward the organization in their communication with very little negative communication. The positive employee reaction was attributed to the organization’s internal crisis communication e�orts before and during the crisis. Prior to the crisis, managers had promoted the organization’s investment in safety—pre-crisis there was a risk communication e�ort relevant to the crisis. During the crisis, managers used the Intranet to clarify the company’s position, to remember the workers, and to reinforce the organization’s commitment to safety (Mazzei, Kim & Dell’Oro, 2012). While more research is needed, it appears that e�ective crisis communication must include internal communication e�orts to keep employees properly informed and to convert them into ambassadors for the organization. Employees are an important asset and communication channel that too many organizations squander during a crisis.

Stealing Thunder Stealing thunder is a concept crisis communication researchers have imported from law. In law, attorneys steal thunder by identifying a flaw in their own case before their opposition states the weakness (Williams, Bourgeois & Croyle, 1993). In a crisis, research consistently demonstrates that a crisis does less reputational damage if the organization is the first to report the crisis. The same exact crisis does less damage when the organization first reports it than when the news media or another source is the first to report the crisis (Arpan & Pompper, 2003; Claeys & Cauberghe, 2012). Stealing thunder is a matter of timing involving the disclosure of information about a crisis. As researchers note, stealing thunder is counterintuitive. Managers think it is better not to disclose a possible crisis because you do not disclose negative information if you do not have to because there is a chance others may never learn about the problem if the organization does not report it. Not reporting a crisis is dangerous. When organizations do not disclose problems them know exists, it creates the impression they do not care about the safety of their stakeholders. Consider how upset stakeholders were when they discovered GM management knew there was an ignition switch problem but did not disclose that to customers or the government.

Stealing thunder demonstrates the value of crisis communication timing for reputations. An interesting study compared the e�ect of timing (stealing thunder) and crisis response strategies. The research wanted to determine which of the two factors had a stronger e�ect on organizational reputations or if the two could be combined to increase the reputational protection value of crisis communication. The study compared situations whether or not an organization engaged in stealing thunder and if the crisis response was recommended by Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) or violated the SCCT recommendations. The results found that if the organization stole thunder, the type of crisis response had no e�ect on reputation. It seemed that stealing thunder provided all the reputational protection the organization could gain from crisis communication. However, when there was no stealing thunder, the recommended crisis response strategies were better at protecting reputations than the non-recommended crisis response strategies (Claeys & Cauberghe, 2012). The study shows just how powerful stealing thunder is as a crisis communication resource.

One interesting but tentative line of crisis communication research related to stealing thunder examines a channel e�ect for social media. A channel e�ect is when people react di�erently to the same message when it is delivered through di�erent channels. The channel itself is shown to alter how people perceived and react to messages. Some researchers have argued that social media can have a channel e�ect for crisis communication (Schultz, Utz & Goritz, 2011; Utz, Schultz & Gloka, 2013). These studies suggest that some crises messages are perceived di�erently delivered via social media verses traditional news media. However, the pattern of the results is consistent with stealing thunder as well. Because stealing thunders can also explain the research results, I have labeled the channel e�ects for social media as tentative, in need of additional study, and part of stealing thunder. The channel studies do reinforce the value of organizations using social media as part of the mix of channels used to deliver a crisis response.

Pre-Crisis Phase Prevention involves are designed to reduce known risks that could lead to a crisis. This is part of an organization’s risk management program. Preparation involves creating the crisis management plan, selecting and training the crisis management team, and conducting exercises to test the crisis management plan and crisis management team. Both Barton (2001) and Coombs (2006) document that organizations are better able to handle crises when they (1) have a crisis management plan that is updated at least annually, (2) have a designated crisis management team, (3) conduct exercises to test the plans and teams at least annually, and (4) pre-dra� some crisis messages. Table 1 lists the Crisis Preparation Best Practices. The planning and preparation allow crisis teams to react faster and to make more e�ective decisions. Refer to Barton’s (2001) Crisis in Organizations II (http://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Organizations-II-Laurence-Barton/dp/0324024290) or Coombs’ (2006) Code Red in the Boardroom (http://books.google.com/books?id=V8UdG3xANxAC&pg=PP4&lpg=PP4&dq=Coombs%E2%80%99+ (2006)+Code+Red+in+the+Boardroom&source=bl&ots=MB205fBs7M&sig=Uj2CSwqVEaHWN7MswQMzupD9afU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=G10gVJitD5W0ggTZl4HgAQ&ved=0CDYQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q&f=false) for more information on these four lessons.

Table 1: Crisis Preparation Best Practices

(https://instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/IPR-Crisis-Preparation-Best-Practics-Coombs.png)

 

Crisis Management Plan A crisis management plan (CMP) is a reference tool, not a blueprint. A CMP provides lists of key contact information, reminders of what typically should be done in a crisis, and forms to be used to document the crisis response. A CMP is not a step-by-step guide to how to manage a crisis. Lerbinger (2012), Coombs (2015), and Low, Chung and Pang (2012) have noted how a CMP saves time during a crisis by pre-assigning some tasks, pre-collecting some information, and serving as a reference source. Pre-assigning tasks presumes there is a designated crisis team. The team members should know what tasks and responsibilities they have during a crisis.

Crisis Management Team Barton (2001) identifies the common members of the crisis team as public relations, legal, security, operations, finance, and human resources. We should now amend the list of common members to include the social media manager. Social media are used to deliver crisis messages, thus, the social media managers should be part of the crisis team. Organizations are criticized if their social media messages seem to ignore a crisis because there is an inconsistency in the messaging appearing in the di�erent communication channels the organization is using. However, the composition of the crisis team will vary based on the nature of the crisis. For instance, information technology would be required if the crisis involved the computer system but not if involved product harm. Time can be saved when the team has already decided on who will do the basic tasks required in a crisis. Bernstein (2011) notes that plans are an “exercise in futility” if there is no crisis team training (p. 31). Management does not know if or how well an untested crisis management plan with work or if the crisis team can perform to expectations. Mitro�, Harrington, and Gia (1996) emphasize that training is needed so that team members can practice making decisions in a crisis situation. Research by Low et al. (2012) reinforces this claim by establishing how training improves the e�ectiveness of crisis team decision making. As noted earlier, a CMP serves only as a rough guide. Each crisis is unique demanding that crisis teams make decisions. Coombs (2015) summaries the research and shows how practice does improve a crisis team’s decision making and related task performance. For additional information on the value of teams and exercises refer to Bernstein (2011) and Coombs (2015).

Spokesperson A key component of crisis team training is spokesperson training. Organizational members must be prepared to talk to the news media during a crisis. Much of the early writing on crisis communication involved media training and the topic remains relevant today. Lerbinger (2012), Barton (2001), Bernstein (2011) and Coombs (2015) devote considerable attention to media relations in a crisis. Media training should be provided before a crisis hits. The Crisis Media Training Best Practices in Table 2 were drawn from these three books:

Table 2: Crisis Media Training Best Practices

(https://instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/IPR-Crisis-Media-Training-Best-Practices-Coombs1.png)

Public relations can play a critical role in preparing spokespersons for handling questions from the news media. The media relations element of public relations is a highly valued skill in crisis management. The public relations personnel can provide training and support because in most cases they are not the spokesperson during the crisis.

These media relations skills can be critical even in social media. The management video apology (frequently the CEO) posted online is a popular tool used in crisis communication. Domino’s posted a CEO video apology during its food tampering crisis (Veil, Sellnow & Petrun, 2012). An excellent example of an online CEO video apology is Maple Leaf Foods CEO Michael McCain in response to a deadly Listeria product harm crisis in 2008. (Here is link to the video (http://videosi�.com/video/Maple-Leaf-CEO-Apologizes-for-listeria)). The same presentational advice holds for online videos. If you read the response to the Domino’s Pizza CEO’s apology, a large number of people are critical of his delivery and seemed to miss the message he is presenting.

Pre-dra� Messages Finally, crisis managers can pre-dra� messages that will be used during a crisis. More accurately, crisis managers create templates for crisis messages. Templates include statements by top management, news releases, social media messages (e.g., Tweets, blogs, or Facebook posts) and dark web sites. Both the Corporate Leadership Council (2003) and the Business Roundtable (2002) were early proponents of using templates. The templates leave blank spots where key information is inserted once it is known. Public relations personnel can help to dra� these messages. The legal department can then pre-approve the use of the messages. Time is saved during a crisis as specific information is simply inserted and messages sent and/or made available on a web site or through social media. Pre-dra�ing messages serves to save time. Instead of dra�ing and seeking approval of a message when a crisis hits, the crisis team simply adds relevant information and delivers the pre-written and approved messages (Coombs, 2015). Communication Channels

An organization may create a separate web site for the crisis or designate a section of its current web site for the crisis. Experts typically prefer using the existing web site because a new web site might be di�icult for stakeholders to find (Coombs, 2015). Taylor and Kent’s (2007) research finds that having a crisis web sites is a best practice for using an Internet during a crisis. The site should be designed prior to the crisis— a dark site is created before a crisis. This requires the crisis team to anticipate the types of crises an organization will face and the types of information needed for the web site. For instances, any organization that makes consumer goods is likely to have a product harm crisis that will require a recall. The Corporate Leadership Council (2003) highlights the value of a crisis web site designed to help people identify if their product is part of the recall and how the recall will be handled. Stakeholders, including the news media, will turn to the Internet during a crisis. Crisis managers should utilize some form of web-based response or risk appearing to be ine�ective. A good example is Taco Bell’s E. coli outbreak in 2006 (http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2006/december/121406.htm). The company was criticized in the media for being slow to place crisis-related information on its web site.

It is safe to extend the insights from web sites to social media. Managers should use of social media to communicate about a crisis should be best practices. As noted earlier, the crisis messaging appears inconsistent if the crisis is only discussed in select Internet channels. Carnival Cruise Lines was criticized for not providing much information about the Costa Concordia tragedy (http://www.awpagesociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Carnival-Corporation-Case-A-and-B.pdf)in its social media communication during the crisis.

Of course not placing information on the web site or in social media messages can be strategic. An organization may not want to publicize the crisis by placing crisis information on their online channels. This assumes the crisis is very small and that stakeholders are unlikely to hear about it from another source. In today’s traditional and online media environment, that is a misguided if not dangerous assumption. A web site and social media o�er another means for an organization to present its side of the story and not using it creates a risk of losing control over how the crisis story is told. One point of disagree among crisis experts is whether or not to start using a new social media channel during a crisis. Experts lean toward not using a new social media channel during a crisis because there is no history of a presence in that channel and little awareness the organization is now using that channel. American Airlines quickly stopped using a blog it created to help address a crisis because the tra�ic to the site was so low (Coombs, 2015). The counter argument is an organization needs to be where the crisis is unfolding. If the crisis breaks on Twitter, the organization must post a response on Twitter even if it has to create a Twitter account to accomplish that task.

The Social-Mediated Crisis Communication Model (SMCC) argues that social media channels have three di�erent types of publics: (1). influential social media creators, they create crisis information for other stakeholders to consume, (2). social media followers, ones who “consume” messages from the influential social media creator, and (3). social media inactives, get the information from work-of-mouth with social media followers and/or tradition medial that report the content from influential social media creators. Crisis communicators should consider the value of these various publics when utilizing social channels in the crisis communication response (Liu, Austin & Jin , 2011; Liu, Jin & Austin, 2013).

Intranet sites can also be used during a crisis. Intranet sites limit access, typically to employees only though some will include suppliers and customers. Intranet sites provide direct access to specific stakeholders so long as those stakeholders have access to the Intranet. Downing’s (2003) research documents the value of American Airlines’ use of its Intranet system as an e�ective way to communicate with its employees following the 9/11 tragedy (http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0363811103000973/1-s2.0-S0363811103000973-main.pdf?_tid=e20b4bfa-4285-11e4-a1a6- 00000aab0f02&acdnat=1411410532_e86b9bd59b93f86df68490169888c5fc). Coombs (2015) notes that the communication value of an Intranet site is increased when used in conjunction with mass notification systems designed to reach employees and other key stakeholders. Many organizations are using enterprise social networking as Intranet sites. These are private social networking tools for employees while some organizations add suppliers and/or clients to the system. Enterprise social networking, a term that is replacing Intranet, is an idea channel for keeping employees and other stakeholders on the system informed about the crisis.

With a mass notification system, contact information (phones numbers, e-mail, etc.) are programmed in prior to a crisis. Contacts can be any group that can be a�ected by the crisis including employees, customers, and community members living near a facility. Crisis managers can enter short messages into the system then tell the mass notification system who should receive which messages and which channel or channels to use for the delivery. The mass notification system provides a mechanism for people to respond to messages as well. The response feature is critical when crisis managers want to verify that the target has received the message. Table 3 summarizes the Crisis Communication Channel Preparation Best Practices.

Table 3: Crisis Communication Channel Preparation Best Practices 1. Be prepared to use part of your current web site to address crisis concerns. 2. Be prepared to use the Intranet or enterprise social networking as one of the channels for reaching employees and any other stakeholders than may have access to your system. 3. Be prepared to utilize a mass notification system for reaching employees and other key stakeholders during a crisis. 4. Be prepared to utilize your existing social media channels for responding to your crisis.

Crisis Response The crisis response is what management does and says a�er the crisis hits. Public relations plays a critical role in the crisis response by helping to develop the messages that are sent to various publics. A great deal of research has examined the crisis response. That research has been divided into two sections: (1) the initial crisis response and (2) reputation repair and behavioral intentions.

Initial Response Practitioner experience and academic research have combined to create a clear set of guidelines for how to respond once a crisis hits. The initial crisis response guidelines focus on three points: (1) be quick, (2) be accurate, and (3) be consistent.

Be quick seems rather simple, provide a response in the first hour a�er the crisis occurs. That puts a great deal of pressure on crisis managers to have a message ready in a short period of time. Again, we can appreciate the value of preparation and templates. The rationale behind being quick is the need for the organization to tell its side of the story. In reality, the organization’s side of the story is a key point management wants to convey about the crisis to its stakeholders. When a crisis occurs, people want to know what happened. Crisis experts o�en talk of an information vacuum being created by a crisis. The news media will lead the charge to fill the information vacuum and be a key source of initial crisis information. (We will consider shortly the use of the Internet as well). If the organization having the crisis does not speak to the news media, other people will be happy to talk to the media. These people may have inaccurate information or may try to use the crisis as an opportunity to attack the organization. As a result, crisis managers must have a quick response. The advent of social media has only increased the pressure for a quick response (Coombs, 2015). An early response may not have much “new” information about the crisis but the organization positions itself as a source and begins to present its side of the story. Again, pre-dra�ed messages facilitate a quick response. Lerbinger (2012) reinforces the importance of speed with this quotation from Karen Doyne, crisis and issues management manager from Burson Marsteller, “One of the major yardsticks in crisis communications is meeting public expectations. And public expectations are rising all the time, particularly because of technology. First it was the 24-hour news networks. Then it was the Internet. An now, people demand information immediately and on a continual basis” (p. 46). Hearit’s (1994) research illustrates how silence is too passive. It lets others control the story and suggests the organization has yet to gain control of the situation. The stealing thunder research demonstrates how a quick, early response allows an organization to generate greater credibility than a slow response (Claeys & Cauberghe, 2012). Crisis preparation will make it easier for crisis managers to respond quickly.

Obviously accuracy is important anytime an organization communicates with publics. People want accurate information about what happened and how that event might a�ect them. Because of the time pressure in a crisis, there is a risk of inaccurate information. If mistakes are made, they must be corrected. However, inaccuracies make an organization look inconsistent. Incorrect statements must be corrected making an organization appear to be incompetent. The philosophy of speaking with one voice in a crisis is a way to maintain accuracy.

Speaking with one voice does not mean only one person speaks for the organization for the duration of the crisis. As Barton (2001) notes, it is physically impossible to expect one person to speak for an organization if a crisis lasts for over a day. Watch news coverage of a crisis and you most likely will see multiple people speak. The news media want to ask questions of experts so they may need to talk to a person in operations or one from security. That is why Coombs (2015) emphasizes the public relations department plays more of a support role rather than being “the” crisis spokespersons. The crisis team needs to share information so that di�erent people can still convey a consistent message. The spokespersons should be briefed on the same information and the key points the organization is trying to convey in the messages. The public relations department should be instrumental in preparing the spokespersons. Ideally, potential spokespersons are trained and practice media relations skills prior to any crisis. The focus during a crisis then should be on the key information to be delivered rather than how to handle the media. Once more preparation helps by making sure the various spokespersons have the proper media relations training and skills.

Quickness and accuracy play an important role in public safety. When public safety is a concern, people need to know what they must do to protect themselves. Sturges (1994) refer to this information as instructing information. Instructing information must be quick and accurate to be useful. For instance, people must know as soon as possible not to eat contaminated foods or to shelter-in-place during a chemical release. A slow or inaccurate response can increase the risk of injuries and possibly deaths. Quick actions can also save money by preventing further damage and protecting reputations by showing that the organization is in control. However, speed is meaningless if the information is wrong. Inaccurate information can increase rather than decrease the threat to public safety.

The news media are drawn to crises and are a useful way to reach a wide array of publics quickly. So it is logical that crisis response research has devoted considerable attention to media relations. Media relations allows crisis managers to reach a wide range of stakeholders fast. Fast and wide ranging is perfect for public safety—get the message out quickly and to as many people as possible. Clearly there is a waste as non-targets receive the message but speed and reach are more important at the initial stage of the crisis. However, the news media is not the only channel crisis managers can and should use to reach stakeholders.

Web sites, social media, Intranet sites, enterprise social network, and mass notification systems add to the news media coverage and help to provide a quick response. Crisis managers can supply greater amounts of their own information on a web site. Moreover, a growing percentage of stakeholders are relying on social media to get their news, including information about organizations that are relevant to them (Holcomb, Gottfried & Mitchell, 2013). We must assume there is a segment of customers that use the organization’s social media to get information about the organization. Not all targets will use the organization’s web site or social media but enough do to justify the inclusion of web-based communication in a crisis response. Taylor and Kent’s (2007) extensive analysis of crisis web sites over a multiyear period found a slow progression in organizations utilizing web sites and the interactive nature of the web during a crisis. The evidence for social media is not as clear but a similar pattern does seem to be

emerging. Mass notification systems deliver short messages to specific individuals through a mix of phone, text messaging, voice messages, and e-mail. The systems also allow people to send responses. In organizations with e�ective Intranet systems/enterprise social networks, the internal system is a useful vehicle for reaching employees as well. If an organization integrates its Intranet/enterprise social network with suppliers and customers, these stakeholders can be reached as well.

Crisis experts have recommended a third component to an initial crisis response, crisis managers should express concern/sympathy for any victims of the crisis. Victims are the people that are hurt or inconvenienced in some way by the crisis. Victims might have lost money, become ill, had to evacuate, or su�ered property damage. Kellerman (2006) details when it is appropriate to express regret. Expressions of concern help to lessen reputational damage and to reduce financial losses. Experimental studies by Coombs and Holladay (1996) and by Dean (2004) found that organizations did experience less reputational damage when an expression of concern is o�ered verses a response lacking an expression of concern. Cohen (1999) examined legal cases and found early expressions of concern help to reduce the number and amount of claims made against an organization for the crisis. Many other studies support the value of a victim, focus (e.g., Holladay & Coombs, 2013; Kriyantono, 2012; Schwarz, 2012).

However, Tyler (1997) reminds us that there are limits to expressions of concern. Lawyers may try to use expressions of concern as admissions of guilt. A number of states have laws that protect expressions of concern from being used against an organization. Another concern is that as more crisis managers express concern, the expressions of concern may lose their e�ect of people. Hearit (2007) cautions that expressions of concern will seem too routine. Still, a failure to provide a routine response could hurt an organization. Hence, expressions of concern may be expected and provide little benefit when used but can inflict damage when not used.

Argenti (2002) interviewed a number of managers that survived the 9/11 attacks. His strongest lesson was that crisis managers should never forget employees are important publics during a crisis. The Business Roundtable (2002) and Corporate Leadership Council (2003) remind us that employees need to know what happened, what they should do, and how the crisis will a�ect them. The earlier discussions of mass notification systems and the Intranet are examples of how to reach employees with information. West Pharmaceuticals had a production facility in Kinston, North Carolina leveled by an explosion in January 2003 (http://www.csb.gov/preliminary-findings-confirm-blast-at-west-pharmaceutical-services-in-kinston-nc-was-a-dust-explosion-fueled-by-plastic-powder-used-in-manufacturing/). Coombs (2004b) examined how West Pharmaceuticals used a mix of channels to keep employees apprised of how the plant explosion would a�ect them in terms of when they would work, where they would work, and their benefits. Moreover, Coombs (2015) identifies research that suggests well informed employees provide an additional channel of communication for reaching other stakeholders.

When the crisis results in serious injuries or deaths, crisis management must include stress and trauma counseling for employees and other victims. One illustration is the trauma teams dispatched by airlines following a plane crash. The trauma teams address the needs of employees as well as victims’ families. Both the Business Roundtable (2002) and Coombs (2015) note that crisis managers must consider how the crisis stress might a�ect the employees, victims, and their families. Organizations must provide the necessary resources to help these groups cope.

We can take a specific set of both form and content lessons from the writing on the initial crisis response. Table 4 provides a summary of the Initial Crisis Response Best Practices. Form refers to the basic structure of the response. The initial crisis response should be delivered in the first hour a�er a crisis and be vetted for accuracy. Content refers to what is covered in the initial crisis response. The initial message must provide any information needed to aid public safety, provide basic information about what has happened, and o�er concern if there are victims. In addition, crisis managers must work to have a consistent message between spokespersons.

Table 4: Initial Crisis Response Best Practices 1. Be quick and try to have initial response within the first hour. 2. Be accurate by carefully checking all facts. 3. Be consistent by keeping spokespeople informed of crisis events and key message points. 4. Make public safety the number one priority. 5. Use all of the available communication channels including the social media, web sits, Intranet, and mass notification systems. 6. Provide some expression of concern/sympathy for victims 7. Remember to include employees in the initial response. 8. Be ready to provide stress and trauma counseling to victims of the crisis and their families, including employees.

Reputation Repair and Behavioral Intentions A number of researchers in public relations, communication, and marketing have shed light on how to repair the reputational damage a crisis inflicts on an organization. At the center of this research is a list of reputation repair strategies. Bill Benoit (1995; 1997) has done the most to identify the reputation repair strategies. He analyzed and synthesized strategies from many di�erent research traditions that shared a concern for reputation repair. Coombs (2007) integrated the work of Benoit with others to create a master list that integrated various writings into one list. Table 5 presents the Master List of Reputation Repair Strategies. The reputation repair strategies vary in terms of how much they accommodate victims of this crisis (those at risk or harmed by the crisis). Accommodate means that the response focuses more on helping the victims than on addressing organizational concerns. The master list arranges the reputation repair strategies from the least to the most accommodative reputation repair strategies. (For more information on reputation repair strategies see also Ulmer, Sellnow, and Seeger, 2006).

Table 5: Master List of Reputation Repair Strategies 1.Attack the accuser: crisis manager confronts the person or group claiming something is wrong with the organization. 2.Denial: crisis manager asserts that there is no crisis. 3. Scapegoat: crisis manager blames some person or group outside of the organization for the crisis. 4. Excuse: crisis manager minimizes organizational responsibility by denying intent to do harm and/or claiming inability to control the events that triggered the crisis. Provocation: crisis was a result of response to some one else’s actions. Defeasibility: lack of information about events leading to the crisis situation. Accidental: lack of control over events leading to the crisis situation. Good intentions: organization meant to do well 5. Justification: crisis manager minimizes the perceived damage caused by the crisis. 6. Reminder: crisis managers tell stakeholders about the past good works of the organization. 7. Ingratiation: crisis manager praises stakeholders for their actions. 8. Compensation: crisis manager o�ers money or other gi�s to victims. 9. Apology: crisis manager indicates the organization takes full responsibility for the crisis and asks stakeholders for forgiveness.

It should be noted that reputation repair can be used in the crisis response phase, post-crisis phase, or both. Not all crises need reputation repair e�orts. Frequently the instructing information and expressions of concern are enough to protect the reputation. When a strong reputation repair e�ort is required, that e�ort will carry over into the post-crisis phase. Or, crisis managers may feel more comfortable waiting until the post-crisis phase to address reputation concerns.

A list of reputation repair strategies by itself has little utility. Researchers have begun to explore when a specific reputation repair strategy or combination of strategies should be used. These researchers frequently have used attribution theory to develop guidelines for the use of reputation repair strategies. A short explanation of attribution theory is provided along with its relationship to crisis management followed by a summary of lessons learned from this research.

Attribution theory believes that people try to explain why events happen, especially events that are sudden and negative. Generally, people either attribute responsibility for the event to the situation or the person in the situation. Attributions generate emotions and a�ect how people interact with those involved in the event. Crises are negative (create damage or threat of damage) and are o�en sudden so they create attributions of responsibility. People either blame the organization in crisis or the situation. If people blame the organization, anger is created and people react negatively toward the organization. Three negative reactions to attributing crisis responsibility to an organization have been documented: (1) increased damage to an organization’s reputation, (2) reduced purchase intentions and (3) increased likelihood of engaging in negative word-of-mouth (Coombs, 2007; Coombs & Holladay, 2006).

Most of the research has focused on establishing the link between attribution of crisis responsibility and the threat to the organization’s reputation. A number of studies have proven this connection exists (Claeys, Cauberghe & Vyncke, 2010; Cooley & Cooley, 2010; Coombs 2004a; Coombs & Holladay, 1996; Coombs & Holladay, 2002; Coombs & Holladay, 2006). The research linking organizational reputation with purchase intention and negative word-of-mouth is less developed but so far has confirmed these two links as well (Coombs, 2007b; Coombs & Holladay, 2006).

Coombs (1995) pioneered the application of attribution theory to crisis management in the public relations literature. His 1995 article began to lay out a theory-based approach to matching the reputation repair strategies to the crisis situation. A series of studies have tested the recommendations and assumptions such as Coombs and Holladay (1996), Coombs & Holladay, (2002) and Coombs (2004a), and Coombs, (2007). This research has evolved into the Situation Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT). SCCT argues that crisis managers match their reputation repair strategies to the reputational threat of the crisis

situation. Crisis managers should use increasingly accommodative the reputation repair strategies as the reputational threat from the crisis intensifies (Coombs & Holladay, 1996; Coombs, 2007b; Fussell Sisco, Collins & Zoch, 2010; Weber, Erickson & Stone, 2011).

Crisis managers follow a two-step process to assess the reputational threat of a crisis. The first step is to determine the basic crisis type. A crisis manager considers how the news media and other stakeholders are defining the crisis. Coombs and Holladay (2002) had respondents evaluate crisis types based on attributions of crisis responsibility. They distilled this data to group the basic crises according to the reputational threat each one posed. Table 6 provides a list the basic crisis types and their reputational threat.

Table 6: Crisis Types by Attribution of Crisis Responsibility Victim Crises: Minimal Crisis Responsibility Natural disasters: acts of nature such as tornadoes or earthquakes. Rumors: false and damaging information being circulated about you organization. Workplace violence: attack by former or current employee on current employees on-site. Product Tampering/Malevolence: external agent causes damage to the organization. Accident Crises: Low Crisis Responsibility. Challenges: stakeholder claim that the organization is operating in an inappropriate manner. Technical-error accidents: equipment or technology failure that cause an industrial accident. Technical-error product harm: equipment or technology failure that cause a product to be defective or potentially harmful. Preventable Crises: Strong Crisis Responsibility. Human-error accidents: industrial accident caused by human error. Human-error product harm: product is defective or potentially harmful because of human error. Organizational misdeed: management actions that put stakeholders at risk and/or violate the law.

The second step is to review the intensifying factors of crisis history and prior reputation. If an organization has a history of similar crises or has a negative prior reputation, the reputational threat is intensified. A series of experimental studies have documented the intensifying value of crisis history (Coombs, 2004a) and prior reputation (Coombs & Holladay, 2001; Coombs & Holladay, 2006; Klein & Dawar, 2004). The same crisis was found to be perceived as having much strong crisis responsibility (a great reputational threat) when the organization had either a previous crisis (Coombs, 2004a) or the organization was known not to treat stakeholders well/negative prior reputation (Coombs & Holladay, 2001; Coombs & Holladay, 2006; Klein & Dewar, 2004). Table 7 is a set of crisis communication best practices derived from attribution theory-based research in SCCT (Coombs, 2007, Coombs & Holladay, 1996; Coombs & Holladay, 2001; Coombs & Holladay, 2006). SCCT argues that any crisis that creates victims must have a base response that provides instructing information (tells stakeholders how to protect themselves physically from a crisis) and a care response (help stakeholders cope psychologically with a crisis) (Claeys, Cauberghe & Vyncke, 2010; Cooley & Cooley, 2010; Coombs, 2007).

Table 7: Attribution Theory-based Crisis Communication Best Practices 1. All victims or potential victims should receive instructing information, including recall information. This is one-half of the base response to a crisis. 2. All victims should be provided an expression of sympathy, any information about corrective actions and trauma counseling when needed. This can be called the “care response.” This is the second-half of the base response to a crisis. 3. For crises with minimal attributions of crisis responsibility and no intensifying factors, instructing information and care response is su�icient. 4. For crises with minimal attributions of crisis responsibility and an intensifying factor, add excuse and/or justification strategies to the instructing information and care response. 5. For crises with low attributions of crisis responsibility and no intensifying factors, add excuse and/or justification strategies to the instructing information and care response. 6. For crises with low attributions of crisis responsibility and an intensifying factor, add compensation and/or apology strategies to the instructing information and care response. 7. For crises with strong attributions of crisis responsibility, add compensation and/or apology strategies to the instructing information and care response. 8. The compensation strategy is used anytime victims su�er serious harm. 9. The reminder and ingratiation strategies can be used to supplement any response. 10. Denial and attack the accuser strategies are best used only for rumor and challenge crises.

In general, a reputation is how stakeholders perceive an organization. A reputation is widely recognized as a valuable, intangible asset for an organization and is worth protecting. But the threat posed by a crisis extends to behavioral intentions as well. Increased attributions of organizational responsibility for a crisis result in a greater likelihood of negative word-of-mouth about the organization and reduced purchase intention from the organization. Early research suggests that lessons designed to protect the organization’s reputation will help to reduce the likelihood of negative word-of-mouth and the negative e�ect on purchase intentions as well (Coombs, 2007).

Social media provide a unique set of evaluative data during a crisis. Crisis managers can determine how stakeholders are reacting to their crisis messages. There are limitations to the social media response data because it only includes those who are willing to post messages and might provide a biases view of stakeholder reactions. Social media comments have been used to evaluate how stakeholders (typically customers) have reacted to crisis experienced by Amazon.com, Alitalia Airlines, and the LiveStrong charity (Coombs & Holladay, 2012; Coombs & Holladay, 2014; Valentini & Romenti, 2011). In each study, the amount and valence of the responses were examined to determine if stakeholders were reacting positively or negatively to the crisis communication strategies. In the Amazon.com case, the initial negative reaction resulted in a second crisis response that was much more e�ective. The negative posts suggested what Amazon.com needed to do to improve its response. Whether or not they used this feedback, the second crisis message did address the key criticism found in the posts (Coombs & Holladay, 2012).

Emotions are a final component to consider in the crisis response. Crises can generate strong emotions. Researchers have focused on anger, sympathy, anxiety as the primary fears that arise from a crisis. Stakeholder emotions help to shape their reactions to the crisis. For instance, stakeholders are likely to support an organization in crisis if they have sympathy for the organization but will take negative actions toward the organization if they are angry toward the organization (Coombs & Holladay, 2007). Emotions can influence the type of information stakeholders desire during a crisis. The implications are that the emotions generated by a crisis will a�ect the crisis response strategies and organization utilizes (Holladay & Coombs, 2013; Jin, 2014; Jin, Liu, Anagondahalli, & Austin, 2014). For example, anxiety creates a strong need for adjusting information—messages to help stakeholders cope emotionally with the crisis. More research is necessary to clarify the value of factoring stakeholder emotions into the formulation of crisis response strategies.

Post-Crisis Phase In the post-crisis phase, the organization is returning to business as usual. The crisis is no longer the focal point of management’s attention but still requires some attention. As noted earlier, reputation repair may be continued or initiated during this phase. There is important follow-up communication that is required. First, crisis managers o�en promise to provide additional information during the crisis phase. The crisis managers must deliver on those informational promises or risk losing the trust of publics wanting the information. Second, the organization needs to release updates on the recovery process, corrective actions, and/or investigations of the crisis. The amount of follow-up communication required depends on the amount of information promised during the crisis and the length of time it takes to complete the recovery process. If you promised a reporter a damage estimate, for example, be sure to deliver that estimate when it is ready. West Pharmaceuticals provided recovery updates for over a year because that is how long it took to build a new facility to replace the one destroyed in an explosion.

The digital environment is idea for providing updates. For instance, Twitter is heralded for its ability to pass along information as a story develops (Mitchell & Gustin, 2013). This is similar to the value many observed for Intranets. Dowling (2003), the Corporate Leadership Counsel (2003), and the Business Roundtable (2002) all observed that Intranets are an excellent way to keep employees updated, if the employees have ways to access the site. The same advice holds true if you call the Intranet enterprise social networking. Mass notification systems can be used as well to deliver update messages to employees and other publics via phones, text messages, voice messages, and e-mail. Personal e-mails and phone calls can be used to provide follow-up information as well.

Crisis managers agree that a crisis should be a learning experience. The crisis management e�ort needs to be evaluated to see what is working and what needs improvement. The same holds true for crisis exercises. Every crisis management exercise should be carefully dissected as a learning experience. The organization should seek ways to improve prevention, preparation, and/or the response. As most books on crisis management note, those lessons are then integrated into the pre-crisis and crisis response phases. That is how management learns and improves its crisis management process. However, experts have found organizations are very bad at learning from crises. This poor learning is due to an inability to be honest about the self-assessment of a crisis e�ort (Deverel, 2010; Elliott & Macpherson, 2010).

Social media have heightened the importance of remembering a crisis. Crisis remembering is about honoring the victims of the crisis. Two salient aspects of remembering for crisis management are anniversaries and memorials. Anniversaries, especially the first, can result in events to commemorate the crisis. Organizations must be careful to consider how to mark the anniversary and the proper level of involvement in the event for the organization, survivors, and the families of victims. The mishandling of the first anniversary of the Costa Concordia sinking created additional ill will between Carnival Cruise and survivors of the tragic event. Memorials can be physical or digital. West Pharmaceuticals has a physical memorial in their facility to commemorate those who died in the 2007 explosion. An online memorial was created for the 11 workers who died when the Deepwater Horizon sank. Organizations must decide if and how they will become involved in memorials. The best advice is to consult with victims and the families of victims to determine what level of organizational involvement they feel is appropriate (Coombs, 2015). Table 8 lists the Post-Crisis Phase Best Practices.

Table 8: Post-Crisis Phase Best Practices 1. Deliver all information promised to stakeholders as soon as that information is known. 2. Keep stakeholders updated on the progression of recovery e�orts including any corrective measures being taken and the progress of investigations. 3. Analyze the crisis management e�ort for lessons and integrate those lessons in to the organization’s crisis management system. 4. Scan the Internet channels for online memorials. 5. Consult with victims and their families to determine the organization’s role in any anniversary events or memorials.

Conclusion It is di�icult to distill all that is known about crisis management into one, concise entry. I have tried to identify the best practices and lessons created by crisis management researchers and analysts. While crises begin as a negative/threat, e�ective crisis management can minimize the damage and in some case allow an organization to emerge stronger than before the crisis. However, crises are not the ideal way to improve an organization. Because no organization is immune from a crisis so all must do their best to prepare for one. This entry provides a revised set of ideas that can be incorporated into an e�ective crisis management program. At the end of this revised entry is an updated annotated bibliography. The annotated bibliography provides short summaries of key writings in crisis management highlighting. Each entry identifies the main topics found in that entry and provides citations to help you locate those sources.

Annotated Bibliography

Alfonso, G. H., & Suzanne, S. (2008). Crisis communications management on the web: How Internet‐based technologies are changing the way public relations professionals handle business crises. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 16(3), 143-153 (http://ssrn.com/abstract=1209231).

Argenti, P. (2002, December).  Crisis communication:  Lessons from 9/11.  Harvard Business Review, 80(12), 103-109. (http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml? id=R0212H&referral=2342) This article provides insights into working with employees during a crisis.  The information is derived from interviews with managers about their responses to the 9/11 tragedies.

Arpan, L.M., & Roskos-Ewoldsen, D.R. (2005). Stealing thunder: An analysis of the e�ects of proactive disclosure of crisis information. Public Relations Review 31(3), 425-433. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W5W-4GH49NJ- 2&_user=2139813&_coverDate=09%2F30%2F2005&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000054276&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2139813&md5=da3487f8fece1c49adbfc9a2c2016aec) This article discusses an experiment that studies the idea of stealing thunder.  Stealing thunder is when an organization releases information about a crisis before the news media or others release the information.  The results found that stealing thunder results in higher credibility ratings for a company than allowing others to report the crisis information first.  This is additional evidence to support the notion of being quick in a crisis and telling the organization’s side of the story.

Augustine, N. R. (1995, November/December). Managing the crisis you tried to prevent. Harvard Business Review, 73(6), 147-158. (http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml?id=939X&referral=2340) This article centers on the six stages of a crisis:  avoiding the crisis, preparing to management the crisis, recognizing the crisis, containing the crisis, resolving the crisis, and profiting from the crisis.  The article reinforces the need to have a crisis management plan and to test both the crisis management plan and team through exercises.  It also reinforces the need to learn (profit) from the crisis.

Barton, L. (2001). Crisis in organizations II (2nd ed.). Cincinnati, OH: College Divisions South-Western. (http://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Organizations-II-Laurence-Barton/dp/0324024290/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1? ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195496891&sr=8-1) This is a very practice-oriented book that provides a number of useful insights into crisis management.  There is a strong emphasis on the role of communication and public relations/a�airs in the crisis management process and the need to speak with one voice.  The book provides excellent information on crisis management plans (a template is in Appendix D pp. 225-262); the composition of crisis management teams (pp. 14-17); the need for exercises (pp.  207-221); and the need to communicate with employees (pp. 86-101).

Benoit, W. L. (1995). Accounts, excuses, and apologies: A theory of image restoration. Albany: State University of New York Press. (http://www.sunypress.edu/details.asp?id=53056) This book has a scholarly focus on image restoration not crisis manage.  However, his discussion of image restoration strategies is very thorough (pp. 63-96).  These strategies have been used as reputation repair strategies a�er a crisis.

Benoit, W. L. (1997). Image repair discourse and crisis communication. Public Relations Review, 23(2), 177-180. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W5W-45HDB02- 6S&_user=2139813&_coverDate=04%2F01%2F1997&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000054276&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2139813&md5=4c04974c7c4f9f02e6a81ddce5ec8622) The article is based on his book Accounts, excuses, and apologies: A theory of image restoration and provides a review of image restoration strategies.  The image restoration strategies are reputation repair strategies that can be used a�er a crisis.  It is a quicker and easiest to use resource than the book.

Business”>http://www.nfib.com/object/3783593.html.”>Business (https://instituteforpr.org/crisis-management-and-communications/mce_href=) Roundtable’s Post-9/11 crisis communication toolkit. (2002). Retrieved April 24, 2006, from http://www.nfib.com/object/3783593.html. (http://www.nfib.com/object/3783593.html.) This is a very user-friendly PDF files that takes a person through the crisis management process.  There is helpful information on web-based communication (pp. 73-82) including “dark sites” and the use of Intranet and e-mail to keep employees informed.  There is an explanation of templates, what are called holding statements or fill-in-the-blank media statements including a sample statement (pp. 28-29).  It also provides information of the crisis management plan (pp. 21-32), structure of the crisis management team (pp. 33-40) and types of exercises (pp. 89-93) including mock press conferences.

Carney, A., & Jorden, A. (1993, August). Prepare for business-related crises. Public Relations Journal 49, 34-35. (http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-9280355_ITM) This article emphasize the need for a message strategy during crisis communication.  Developing and sharing a strategy helps an organization to speak with one voice during the crisis.

Claeys, A. S., & Cauberghe, V. (2012). Crisis response and crisis timing strategies, two sides of the same coin. Public Relations Review, 38(1), 83-88.  (http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0363811111001317/1-s2.0- S0363811111001317-main.pdf?_tid=8f6a4bd2-4328-11e4-afaa-00000aab0f02&acdnat=1411480401_59e7697f71fa994f9eeb8ed7df95d0fe)The researchers demonstrated the power of stealing thunder in protecting reputations.  When an organization stole thunder, the type of crisis response had no e�ect on the reputation.  However, when the organization did not steal thunder, the recommended crisis response strategies for Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) were e�ective at repairing reputations.

Claeys, A. S., Cauberghe, V., & Vyncke, P. (2010). Restoring reputations in times of crisis: An experimental study of the Situational Crisis Communication Theory and the moderating e�ects of locus of control. Public Relations Review, 36(3), 256-262.  (http://203.72.4.84/dustin/uploads/tadnews/file/nsn_40_20.pdf)This study showed the locus of control did have an e�ect on recommendations and e�ects specified by Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT).

Cohen, J. R.  (1999).  Advising clients to apologize.  S. California Law Review, 72, 1009-131. (http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~usclrev/pdf/072402.pdf) This article examines expressions of concern and full apologies from a legal perspective.  He notes that California, Massachusetts, and Florida have laws that prevent expressions of concern from being used as evidence against someone in a court case.  The evidence from court cases suggests that expressions of concern are helpful because they help to reduce the amount of damages sought and the number of claims filed.

Cooley, S. C., & Cooley, A. B. (2011). An examination of the situational crisis communication theory through the General Motors bankruptcy. Journal of Media and Communication Studies, 3(6), 203-211. (http://www.academicjournals.org/article/article1380123355_Cooley%20and%20Cooley.pdf)  A case study of General Motors communication during its bankruptcy is examined using Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT).

Coombs, W. T. (1995). Choosing the right words: The development of guidelines for the selection of the “appropriate” crisis response strategies. Management Communication Quarterly, 8, 447-476. (http://mcq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/8/4/447?ck=nck) This article is the foundation for Situational Crisis Communication Theory.  It uses a decision tree to guide the selection of crisis response strategies.  The guidelines are based on matching the response to nature of the crisis situation.  A number of studies have tested the guidelines in the decision tree and found them to be reliable.

Coombs, W. T. (2004a). Impact of past crises on current crisis communications: Insights from situational crisis communication theory. Journal of Business Communication, 41, 265-289. (http://job.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/41/3/265) This article documents that past crises intensify the reputational threat to a current crisis.  Since the news media reminds people of past crises, it is common for organizations in crisis to face past crises as well. 

Crisis managers need to adjust their reputation repair strategies if there are past crises-crisis managers will need to use more accommodative strategies than they normally would.  Accidents are a good example.  Past accidents indicate a pattern of problems so people will view the organization as much more responsible for the crisis than if the accident were isolated.  Greater responsibility means the crisis is more of a threat to the reputation and the organization must focus the response more on addressing victim concerns.

Coombs, W. T. (2004b).  Structuring crisis discourse knowledge: The West Pharmaceutics case.  Public Relations Review, 30, 467-474. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W5W- 4DD9GJ1- 1&_user=2139813&_coverDate=11%2F01%2F2004&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000054276&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2139813&md5=ba1587b4058cf39aa994cf7427cb4441) This article is a case analysis of the West Pharmaceutical 2003 explosion at its Kinston, NC facility.  The case documents the extensive use of the Internet to keep employees and other stakeholders informed.  It also develops a list of crisis communication standards based on SCCT.  The crisis communication standards o�er suggestions for how crisis managers can match their crisis response to the nature of the crisis situation.

Coombs, W. T. (2006). Code red in the boardroom: Crisis management as organizational DNA. Westport, CN: Praeger. (http://www.amazon.com/Code-Red-Boardroom-Management- Organizational/dp/0275989127/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195498396&sr=8-1) This is a book written for a practitioner audience.  The book focuses on how to respond to three common types of crises:  attacks on an organization (pp. 13-26), accidents (pp. 27-44), and management misbehavior pp. (45-64).  There are also detailed discussions of how crisis management plans must be a living document (pp. 77-90), di�erent types of exercises for crisis management (pp. 84-87), and samples of specific elements of a crisis management plan in Appendix A (pp. 103-109).

Coombs, W. T. (2007).  Protecting organization reputations during a crisis:The development and application of situational crisis communication theory.  Corporate Reputation Review, 10, 1-14. (http://www.palgrave-journals.com/crr/journal/v10/n3/abs/1550049a.html) This article provides a summary of research conducted on and lessons learned from Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT).  The article includes a discussion how the research can go beyond reputation to include behavioral intentions such as purchase intention and negative word-of-mouth.  The information in the article is based on experimental studies rather than case studies.

Coombs, W. T. (2015).  Ongoing crisis communication:  Planning, Managing, and responding (4th ed.).  Los Angeles:  Sage. (http://www.amazon.com/Ongoing-Crisis-Communication-Planning- Responding/dp/1412949912/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195498396&sr=8-2)This book is designed to teach students and managers about the crisis management process.  There is a detailed discussion of spokesperson training pp. (80-88) and a discussion of the traits and skills crisis team members need to have to be e�ective during a crisis (pp. 68-79).  The book emphasizes the value of follow-up information and updates (pp. 172-176) along with the learning from the crisis (pp. 170-172).  There is also a discussion of the utility of mass notification systems during a crisis (p. 101).

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (1996). Communication and attributions in a crisis: An experimental study of crisis communication. Journal of Public Relations Research, 8(4), 279-295. (http://www.leaonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s1532754xjprr0804_04) This article uses an experimental design to document the negative e�ect of crises on an organization’s reputation.  The research also establishes that the type of reputation repair strategies managers use does make a di�erence on perceptions of the organization.  An important finding is proof that the more an organization is held responsible for the crisis, the more accommodative a reputation repair strategy must be in order to be e�ective/protect the organization’s reputation.

Coombs, W. T. and Holladay, S. J.  (2001).  An extended examination of the crisis situation: A fusion of the relational management and symbolic approaches.  Journal of Public Relations Research, 13, 321-340. (http://www.leaonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/S1532754XJPRR1304_03) This study reports on an experiment designed to test how prior reputation influenced the attributions of crisis responsibility.  The study found that an unfavorable prior reputation had the biggest e�ect.  People rated an organization as having much greater responsibility for a crisis when the prior reputation was negative than if the prior reputation was neutral or positive.  Similar results were found for the e�ects of prior reputation on the post-crisis reputation.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2002). Helping crisis managers protect reputational assets: Initial tests of the situational crisis communication theory. Management Communication Quarterly, 16, 165-186. (http://mcq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/16/2/165) This article begins to map how stakeholders respond to some very common crises.  Using the level of responsibility for a crisis that people attribute to an organization, the research found that common crises can be categorized into one of three groups:  victim cluster has minimal attributions of crisis responsibility (natural disasters, rumors, workplace violence, and tampering), accidental cluster has low attributions of crisis responsibility (technical-error product harm and accidents), and preventable cluster has strong attributions of crisis responsibility (human-error product harm and accidents, management misconduct, and organizational misdeeds).  The article recommends di�erent crisis response strategies depending upon the attributions of crisis responsibility.

Coombs, W. T. & Holladay, S. J. (2006).  Halo or reputational capital:  Reputation and crisis management.  Journal of Communication Management, 10(2), 123-137. (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContentItem.do;jsessionid=BA4CB945377E41355EA956FAC2E6A84E?contentType=Article&contentId=1550758) This article examines if and when a favorable pre-crisis reputation can protect an organization with a halo e�ect.  The halo e�ect says that strong positive feelings will allow people to overlook a negative event-it can shield an organization from reputational damage during a crisis.  The study found that only in a very specific situation does a halo e�ect occur.  In most crises, the reputation is damaged suggesting reputational capital is a better way to view a strong, positive pre-crisis reputation.  An organization accumulates reputational capital by positively engaging publics.  A crisis causes an organization to loss some reputational capital.  The more pre-crisis reputational capital, the stronger the reputation will be a�er the crisis and the easier it should be to repair.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2012). Amazon. com’s Orwellian nightmare: exploring apology in an online environment. Journal of Communication Management, 16(3), 280-295.  (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/13632541211245758) The article demonstrated the value of online reactions by stakeholders to assess the e�ectiveness of a crisis communication e�ort including the need for additional communication.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, J. S. (2012). The paracrisis: The challenges created by publicly managing crisis prevention. Public Relations Review, 38(3), 408-415.  (http://www.researchgate.net/publication/257181505_The_paracrisis_The_challenges_created_by_publicly_managing_crisis_prevention)This article articulates the idea of a paracrisis.  The paracrisis looks like a crisis but is actually a crisis risk that must be managed publicly.  Failure to properly manage a paracrisis can result in the situation escalating into a crisis.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2014). How publics react to crisis communication e�orts: Comparing crisis response reactions across sub-arenas. Journal of Communication Management, 18(1), 40-57. (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/JCOM-03-2013-0015)  This article demonstrates the value of online reactions to evaluate an organization’s crisis communication e�ort.

Corporate Leadership Council. (2003). Crisis management strategies. Retrieved September 12, 2006, from  http://www.executiveboard.com/EXBD/Images/PDF/Crisis%20Management%20Strategies.pdf. [Now available here] (http://www.opscentre.com.au/resources/pdfs/Whitepapers/Whitepaper%20-%20Corporate%20Leadership%20Council%20-%20Crisis%20Management%20Strategies%20-%202003.pdf) This online PDF file summarizes key crisis management insights from the Corporate Leadership Council.  The topics include the value and elements of a crisis management plan (pp 1-3), structure of a crisis management team (pp. 4-6), communicating with employees (pp. 7-9), using web sites including “dark sites” (p. 7), using pre-packaged information/templates (p. 7), and the value of employee assistance programs (p. 10).  The file is an excellent overview to key elements of crisis management with an emphasis on using new technology.

Dean, D. H.  (2004.  Consumer reaction to negative publicity: E�ects of corporate  reputation, response, and responsibility for a crisis event.  Journal of Business Communication, 41, 192-211. (http://job.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/41/2/192) This article reports an experimental study that included a comparison how people reacted to expressions of concern verses no expression of concern.  Post-crisis reputations were stronger when an organization provided an expression of concern.

Deverell, E. (2010). Flexibility and Rigidity in Crisis Management and Learning at Swedish Public Organizations. Public Management Review, 12(5), 679-700.  (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14719031003633946#.VCF9CPldVkg) The study notes that organizations have di�iculty learning from crises.

Dilenschneider, R. L. (2000). The corporate communications bible: Everything you need to know to become a public relations expert. Beverly Hills: New Millennium. (http://www.amazon.com/Corporate- Communications-Bible-Robert-Dilenschneider/dp/1893224082/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195499096&sr=8-1) This book has a strong chapter of crisis communication (pp. 120-142).  It emphasizes how a crisis is a threat to an organization’s reputation and the need to be strategic with the communications response.

Downing, J. R. (2003).  American Airlines’ use of mediated employee channels a�er the 9/11 attacks.  Public Relations Review, 30, 37-48. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W5W- 4BH6JC4- 4&_user=2139813&_coverDate=03%2F31%2F2004&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000054276&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2139813&md5=46a6d403d4ac95852d9b1db88ba77e43)

This article reviews how American Airlines used its Intranet, web sites, and reservation system to keep employees informed a�er 9/11.  The article also comments on the use of employee assistance programs a�er a traumatic event.  Recommendations include using all available channels to inform employees during and a�er a crisis as well as recommending organizations “gray out” color from their web sites to reflect the somber nature of the situation.

Elliott, D., & Macpherson, A. (2010). Policy and practice: Recursive learning from crisis. Group & Organization Management, 35(5), 572-605.  (http://gom.sagepub.com/content/35/5/572.full.pdf) This article emphasized the general failure of organizations to learn from their crises.

Fearn-Banks, K. (2001). Crisis communications: A casebook approach (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. (http://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Communications-Casebook-Approach- Communication/dp/0805857729/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195499133&sr=1-1) This book is more a textbook for students using case studies.  Chapter 2 (pp. 18-33) has a useful discussion of elements of the crisis communication plan, a subset of the crisis management plan.  Chapter 4 has some tips on media relations (pp. 63-71).

Frandsen, F., & Johansen, W. (2011). The study of internal crisis communication: towards an integrative framework. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 16(4), 347-361.  (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/13563281111186977) This article calls for more research into internal crisis communication due to the stress crises create for employees.  It also argues for the value of employees as ambassadors during a crisis.

Fussell Sisco, H., Collins, E. L., & Zoch, L. M. (2010). Through the looking glass: A decade of Red Cross crisis response and situational crisis communication theory. Public Relations Review, 36(1), 21-27.  (http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/2/9/9/2/6/pages299267/p299267-1.php) The article applies guidance from Situational Crisis Communication (SCCT) to explain the behavior of a non-profit organization during crises.

Hearit, K. M. (1994, Summer). Apologies and public relations crises at Chrysler, Toshiba, and Volvo. Public Relations Review, 20(2), 113-125. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science? _ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W5W-45P4P2T- C4&_user=2139813&_coverDate=04%2F01%2F1994&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000054276&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2139813&md5=b411cc64a0486a105d910dec3f36f13e) This article provides a strong rationale for the value of quick but accurate crisis response.  The focus is on how a quick response helps an organization to control the crisis situation.

Hearit, K. M. (2006).  Crisis management by apology:  Corporate response to allegations of wrongdoing.  Mahwah, NJ:  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. (http://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Management-Apology-Allegations-Communication/dp/0805837892/ref=sr_1_1? ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195499190&sr=1-1) This book is a detailed, scholarly treatment of apologies that has direct application to crisis management.  Chapter 1 helps to explain the di�erent ways the term apology is used and concentrates on how it should be treated as a public acceptance of responsibility (pp. 1-18).  Chapter 3 details the legal and liability issues involved when an organization chooses to use an apology.

Holladay, S. J., & Coombs, W. T. (2013). Successful prevention may not be enough: A case study of how managing a threat triggers a threat. Public Relations Review, 39(5), 451-458. (http://www.researchgate.net/publication/259514860_Successful_prevention_may_not_be_enough_A_case_study_of_how_managing_a_threat_triggers_a_threat)  This case explores how e�orts to manage a crisis risk can trigger a crisis if handled ine�ectively.  There is also an elaboration of instructing and adjusting information.

Jin, Y. (2014). Examining publics’ crisis responses according to di�erent shades of anger and sympathy. Journal of Public Relations Research, 26(1), 79-101.  (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1062726X.2013.848143#.VCF-0_ldVkg) This research develops the idea of how the emotional reaction of a person during a crisis helps to determine the type of information they need to receive from crisis communication messages.

Jin, Y., Liu, B. F., Anagondahalli, D., & Austin, L. (2014). Scale development for measuring publics’ emotions in organizational crises. Public Relations Review.  (http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0363811114000848/1-s2.0- S0363811114000848-main.pdf?_tid=2f7a3018-432b-11e4-9b21-00000aab0f02&acdnat=1411481528_1951a74aa97bf7808b967ac342fd733c) This article reports the results of e�orts to develop a scale that can be used to measure emotional reactions during a crisis.  Emotions matter because they can what type of information people need to receive during a crisis.

Johansen, W., Aggerholm, H. K., & Frandsen, F. (2012). Entering new territory: A study of internal crisis management and crisis communication in organizations. Public Relations Review, 38(2), 270-279. (http://www.daneshgah.me/tarjome/modiriyat/288.pdf)  This study examines the internal crisis communication for Danish companies.  They found around 40% of companies thought of employees as ambassadors during a crisis.

Kellerman, B. (2006, April). When should a leader apologize and when not? Harvard Business Review, 84(4), 73-81. (http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml? id=R0604D&referral=2340) This article defines an apology as accepting responsibility for a crisis and expressing regret.  The value of apologies is highlighted along with suggestions for when an apology is appropriate and inappropriate.  An apology should be used when it will serve an important purpose, the crisis has serious consequences, and the cost of an apology will be lower than the cost of being silent.

Klein, J. & Dawar, N. (2004).  Corporate social responsibility and consumers’ attributions of brand evaluations in product-harm crisis.  International Journal of Marketing, 21, 203-217. (http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/summary_0198-208355_ITM) This article reports on an experimental study that compared how prior information about corporate social responsibility (a dimension of prior reputation) a�ected attributions of crisis responsibility.  People attribute much greater responsibility to the negative corporate social responsibility condition than to the neutral or positive conditions.  There was no di�erence between the attributions in the positive and neutral conditions.

Kriyantono, R. (2012). Measuring a company reputation in a crisis situation: An ethnography approach on the Situational Crisis Communication Theory. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 3(9). (http://www.ijbssnet.com/journals/Vol_3_No_9_May_2012/26.pdf)  Ethnographic methods and Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) are used to understand how people reacted to a crisis in Indonesia.

Lackluster online PR no aid in crisis response. (2002). PR News. (http://www.prnewsonline.com/subscription/2002/10/21/web-browser-lackluster-online-pr-no-aid-in-crisis-response/) Retrieved April 20, 2006, from http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe (http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe) This short article notes how journalists and other interested parties are using web sites during crises to collect information.  The article highlights the value of having a “dark site” ready before a crisis.  A sample of various criteria for a crisis web are discussed by reviewing Tyco’s web site as a case study.

Lerbinger, O. (1997). The crisis manager: Facing risk and responsibility. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. (http://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Manager-Facing-Responsibility- Communication/dp/0805823875/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195499377&sr=8-1) This book centers on seven types of crises:  natural, technological, confrontation, malevolence, skewed management values, deception, and management misconduct.  There is a strong focus on the role of media relations in crisis management (pp. 27-29 and pp. 31-34).

Liu, B. F., Austin, L., & Jin, Y. (2011). How publics respond to crisis communication strategies: The interplay of information form and source. Public Relations Review, 37(4), 345-353.  (https://instituteforpr.org/how- publics-respond-to-crisis-communication-strategies-the-interplay-of-information-form-and-source/)This article articulates the Social-Mediated Crisis Communication Model (SMCC) and notes the three di�erent types of social media publics.

Liu, B. F., Jin, Y., & Austin, L. L. (2013). The tendency to tell: Understanding publics’ communicative responses to crisis information form and source. Journal of Public Relations Research, 25(1), 51-67. (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1062726X.2013.739101)  This article elaborates on the Social-Mediated Crisis Communication Model (SMCC).Mitro�, I. I., Harrington, K., & Gai, E. (1996, September). Thinking about the unthinkable. Across the Board, 33(8), 44-48. This article reinforces the value of creating and training crisis management teams by having them conduct various types of exercises.

Mazzei, A., Kim, J. N., & Dell’Oro, C. (2012). Strategic value of employee relationships and communicative actions: Overcoming corporate crisis with quality internal communication. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 6(1), 31-44.  (https://instituteforpr.org/strategic-value-employee-relationships-communicative-actions/) The researchers examined reactions to internal crisis communication at an Italian company that had experienced a crisis.  They found a favorable reaction by employees that was attributed to pre-crisis risk communication e�orts.

Mazzei, A., & Ravazzani, S. (2011). Manager-employee communication during a crisis: the missing link. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 16(3), 243-254.  (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/13563281111156899) The article reports on survey results from Italian managers and employees about internal crisis communication.  Managers felt organizations were e�ective at internal crisis communication but employees were less positive about internal crisis communication e�orts.

Mazzei, A., & Ravazzani, S. (2014). Internal crisis communication strategies to protect trust Relationships:  A Study of Italian companies. International Journal of Business Communication, 2329488414525447.  (http://job.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/03/31/2329488414525447.full.pdf+html)The researchers used interviews and surveys to examine how employees felt about internal crisis communication.  They identified a general failure by management to use internal crisis communication in a strategic manner.

Schultz, F., Utz, S., & Göritz, A. (2011). Is the medium the message? Perceptions of and reactions to crisis communication via twitter, blogs and traditional media. Public relations review, 37(1), 20-27.  (https://instituteforpr.org/is-the-medium-the-message-perceptions-of-and-reactions-to-crisis-communication-via-twitter-blogs-and-traditional-media/) This is the initial study that found evidence to suggest there could be a channel e�ect in crisis communication—the channel a�ects how people react to the crisis messages.

Schwarz, A. (2012). How publics use social media to respond to blame games in crisis communication: The Love Parade tragedy in Duisburg 2010. Public Relations Review, 38(3), 430-437.  (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0363811112000264) This article examines social media messages to understand how perceptions of responsibility were constructing following the deaths at the Love Parade.  Situational Crisis Communication Theory provides the framework for the analysis.

Sohn, Y. J., & Lariscy, R. W. (2014). Understanding Reputational Crisis: Definition, Properties, and Consequences. Journal of Public Relations Research, 26(1), 23-43.  (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1062726X.2013.795865#.VCGERfldVkg)This article provides a detailed discussion and definition of reputational crises.  It helps the reader to understand the nature of reputational crises.

Sonnenfeld, S. (1994, July/August).  Media policy–What media policy?  Harvard Business Review, 72(4), 18-19. (http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml? id=94407&referral=2340) This is a short article that discusses the need for spokesperson training prior to a crisis.

Sturges, D. L. (1994).  Communicating through crisis: A strategy for organizational survival, Management Communication Quarterly, 7, 297-316. (http://mcq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/7/3/297) This article emphasizes how communication needs shi� during a crisis.  The first need is for instructing information, the information that tells people how to protect themselves physically from a crisis.  The next need is adjusting information, the information that helps people to cope psychologically with the crisis.  The initial crisis response demands a focus on instructing and adjusting information.  The third and final type of communication is reputation repair.  Reputation repair is only used once the instructing and adjusting information have been provided.

Taylor, M., & Kent, M. L. (2007).  Taxonomy of mediated crisis responses.  Public Relations Review, 33, 140-146. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W5W-4MP5KM1- 2&_user=2139813&_coverDate=06%2F30%2F2007&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000054276&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2139813&md5=91d647b1ca43a2883cde24abeaf999ed) This article summarizes the best practices for using the Internet during a crisis and advocates more organizations should be using the Internet, especially web sites, during a crisis. The six best practices are:  (1) include all your tradition media relations materials on your web site; (2) try to make use of the interactive nature of the Internet for your crisis web content; (3) provide detailed and clear information on web sites during for a product recall; (4) tell your side of the story on the crisis web site including quotations from managers; (5) when necessary, create di�erent web pages for di�erent stakeholders tailored to their interests in the crisis; and (6) work with government agencies including hyperlinks to relevant government agency web sites.

Tyler, L. (1997). Liability means never being able to say you’re sorry: Corporate guilt, legal constraints, and defensiveness in corporate communication. Management Communication Quarterly, 11(1), 51-73. (http://mcq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/11/1/51) This article discusses the legal constraints that prevent apologies during a crisis.  It is a hard look at the choices crisis managers must make between addressing victims in a particular way and financial constraints.  The article is a reminder that crisis management occurs within the larger context of organizational operations and is subject to financial constraints.

Ulmer, R. R., Sellnow, T. L., & Seeger, M. W. (2006). E�ective crisis communication: Moving from crisis to opportunity. Thousand Oaks: Sage. (http://www.amazon.com/E�ective-Crisis-Communication-Moving- Opportunity/dp/1412914183/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195500576&sr=8-1)This book is mix of lessons and case studies.  Many of the cases focus on large scale crises or what some would call disasters.  Large scale crises/disasters are unique because they require multiple agency coordination and are o�en managed by government agencies.  Chapter 12 (pp. 177-187) on renewal as a reputation repair strategy a�er a crisis in unique and informative.  Renewal focuses on optimism and an emphasis on moving to some new and better state a�er the crisis.  Not all organizations can engage in renewal a�er a crisis.  Renewal requires that an organization have performed ethically before the crisis and have had strong stakeholder relationships before the crisis.

Utz, S., Schultz, F., & Glocka, S. (2013). Crisis communication online: How medium, crisis type and emotions a�ected public reactions in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Public Relations Review, 39(1), 40- 46.  (http://www.academia.edu/3661388/Crisis_communication)This is one of the articles that argue for a channel e�ect in crisis communication.  The researchers claim the channel can a�ect how people respond to crisis communication e�orts.

Valentini, C., & Romenti, S. (2011). Blogging about crises: The role of online conversations in framing Alitalia’s performance during its crisis. Journal of Communication Management, 15(4), 298-313.  (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/13632541111183398)This research illustrates how blogs can be used to track and to evaluate reactions to corporate actions.

Veil, S. R., Sellnow, T. L., & Petrun, E. L. (2012). Hoaxes and the Paradoxical Challenges of Restoring Legitimacy Dominos’ Response to Its YouTube Crisis. Management Communication Quarterly, 26(2), 322-345.  (http://mcq.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/11/18/0893318911426685.full.pdf+html)This article is built around a case study of the Domino’s Pizza crisis that was triggered by an employee video on YouTube showing food adulteration.

Weber, M., Erickson, S. L., & Stone, M. (2011). Corporate reputation management: Citibank’s use of image restoration strategies during the US banking crisis. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, 15(2), 35-55. (http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Corporate+reputation+management%3A+Citibank's+use+of+image+restoration...-a0263157563)  The case analysis explores how Citigroup used corrective action in its crisis communication e�orts.  Both Image Restoration Theory and Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) are used to analyze the case.

Williams, K. D., Bourgeois, M. J., & Croyle, R. T. (1993). The e�ects of stealing thunder in criminal and civil trials. Law and Human Behavior, 17(6), 597.  (http://www.jstor.org/stable/1393964?seq=2) This article explains the idea of stealing thunder as it is used in the legal profession.  It was the inspiration for stealing thunder’s application to crisis communication

 

Share this:

Related Posts

2020 IPR Disinformation in Society Report (https://instituteforpr.org/2020-disinformation- report/) The second annual Institute for Public Relations (IPR) “Disinformation in Society” study...

Exploring Negative Peer Communication of Companies on Social Media and Its Impact on Organization-Public Relationships (https://instituteforpr.org/exploring-negative-peer- communication-of-companies-on-social-media-and-its-impact-on-organization-public- relationships/) This summary is provided by the IPR Digital Media Research Center Summary...

E�ects of Online Rumors on Attribution of Crisis Responsibility and Attitude Toward Organization During Crisis Uncertainty (https://instituteforpr.org/e�ects-of-online- rumors-on-attribution-of-crisis-responsibility-and-attitude-toward-organization-during- crisis-uncertainty/) This summary is provided by the IPR Digital Media Research Center Summary...

The Challenge of New Gatekeepers for Public Relations: A Comparative Analysis of the Role of Social Media Influencers for European and Latin American Professionals (https://instituteforpr.org/the-challenge-of-new-gatekeepers-for-public-relations-a- comparative-analysis-of-the-role-of-social-media-influencers-for-european-and-latin- american-professionals/) This summary is provided by the IPR Digital Media Research Center Summary...

Newsletter Archive (http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs044/1103180588460/archive/1104438478185.html)

Fair Use (https://instituteforpr.org/fair-use/)

Publication Policy (https://instituteforpr.org/publication-policy/)

Privacy Policy (https://instituteforpr.org/privacy-policy/) Contact (https://instituteforpr.org/contact/)

Sta� + Address (https://instituteforpr.org/about/sta�/)

IMPORTANT LINKS

SUBSCRIBE TO IPR’S RESEARCH LETTER

© Institute for Public Relations

Attachment 3

 (https://www.facebook.com/instituteforpr/)  (https://twitter.com/instituteforpr)  (https://www.youtube.com/c/InstituteforPR)  (https://www.linkedin.com/company/institute-for-public-relations/)  (https://www.instagram.com/instituteforpr/)

CRISIS MANAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATIONS

by Institute for PR (https://instituteforpr.org/author/institute-for-pr/) Posted on October 30, 2007 (https://instituteforpr.org/crisis-management-and-communications/)

Crisis management is a critical organizational function.  Failure can result in serious harm to stakeholders, losses for an organization, or end its very existence.  Public relations practitioners are an integral part of crisis management teams.  So a set of best practices and lessons gleaned from our knowledge of crisis management would be a very useful resource for those in public relations.  Volumes have been written about crisis management by both practitioners and researchers from many di�erent disciplines making it a challenge to synthesize what we know about crisis management and public relations’ place in that knowledge base.  The best place to start this e�ort is by defining critical concepts

There are plenty of definitions for a crisis.  For this entry, the definition reflects key points found in the various discussions of what constitutes a crisis.  A crisis is defined here as a significant threat to operations that can have negative consequences if not handled properly.  In crisis management, the threat is the potential damage a crisis can inflict on an organization, its stakeholders, and an industry.  A crisis can create three related threats:  (1) public safety, (2) financial loss, and (3) reputation loss.  Some crises, such as industrial accidents and product harm, can result in injuries and even loss of lives.  Crises can create financial loss by disrupting operations, creating a loss of market share/purchase intentions, or spawning lawsuits related to the crisis.  As Dilenschneider (2000) noted in The Corporate Communications Bible, all crises threaten to tarnish an organization’s reputation.  A crisis reflects poorly on an organization and will damage a reputation to some degree.  Clearly these three threats are interrelated.  Injuries or deaths will result in financial and reputation loss while reputations have a financial impact on organizations.

E�ective crisis management handles the threats sequentially.  The primary concern in a crisis has to be public safety.  A failure to address public safety intensifies the damage from a crisis. Reputation and financial concerns are considered a�er public safety has been remedied.  Ultimately, crisis management is designed to protect an organization and its stakeholders from threats and/or reduce the impact felt by threats.

Crisis management is a process designed to prevent or lessen the damage a crisis can inflict on an organization and its stakeholders.  As a process, crisis management is not just one thing.  Crisis management can be divided into three phases:  (1) pre-crisis, (2) crisis response, and (3) post-crisis.  The pre-crisis phase is concerned with prevention and preparation.  The crisis response phase is when management must actually respond to a crisis.  The post-crisis phase looks for ways to better prepare for the next crisis and fulfills commitments made during the crisis phase including follow-up information.  The tri-part view of crisis management serves as the organizing framework for this entry.

Prevention involves seeking to reduce known risks that could lead to a crisis.  This is part of an organization’s risk management program.  Preparation involves creating the crisis management plan, selecting and training the crisis management team, and conducting exercises to test the crisis management plan and crisis management team.  Both Barton (2001) and Coombs (2006) document that organizations are better able to handle crises when they (1) have a crisis management plan that is updated at least annually, (2) have a designated crisis management team, (3) conduct exercises to test the plans and teams at least annually, and (4) pre-dra� some crisis messages.  Table 1 lists the Crisis Preparation Best Practices.  The planning and preparation allow crisis teams to react faster and to make more e�ective decisions.  Refer to Barton’s (2001) Crisis in Organizations II or Coombs’ (2006) Code Red in the Boardroom for more information on these four lessons.

A crisis management plan (CMP) is a reference tool, not a blueprint.  A CMP provides lists of key contact information, reminders of what typically should be done in a crisis, and forms to be used to document the crisis response.  A CMP is not a step-by-step guide to how to manage a crisis.  Barton (2001), Coombs (2007a), and Fearn-Banks (2001) have noted how a CMP saves time during a crisis by pre-assigning some tasks, pre-collecting some information, and serving as a reference source.  Pre-assigning tasks presumes there is a designated crisis team.  The team members should know what tasks and responsibilities they have during a crisis.

Barton (2001) identifies the common members of the crisis team as public relations, legal, security, operations, finance, and human resources.  However, the composition will vary based on the nature of the crisis.  For instance, information technology would be required if the crisis involved the computer system.  Time is saved because the team has already decided on who will do the basic tasks required in a crisis.  Augustine (1995) notes that plans and teams are of little value if they are never tested.  Management does not know if or how well an untested crisis management plan with work or if the crisis team can perform to expectations.  Mitro�, Harrington, and Gia (1996) emphasize that training is needed so that team members can practice making decisions in a crisis situation.  As noted earlier, a CMP serves only as a rough guide.  Each crisis is unique demanding that crisis teams make decisions.  Coombs (2007a) summaries the research and shows how practice improves a crisis team’s decision making and related task performance.  For additional information on the value of teams and exercises refer to Coombs (2006) and the Corporate Leadership Council’s (2003) report on crisis management strategies.

A key component of crisis team training is spokesperson training.  Organizational members must be prepared to talk to the news media during a crisis.  Lerbinger (1997), Feran-Banks (2001), and Coombs (2007a) devote considerable attention to media relations in a crisis.  Media training should be provided before a crisis hits.  The Crisis Media Training Best Practices in Table 2 were drawn from these three books:

INTRODUCTION

DEFINITIONS

PRE-CRISIS PHASE

Table 1: Crisis Preparation Best Practices

1.  Have a crisis management plan and update it at least annually. 2.  Have a designate crisis management team that is properly trained. 3.  Conduct exercise at least annually to test the crisis management plan and team. 4.  Pre-dra� select crisis management messages including content for dark web sites and templates for crisis statements.  Have the legal department review and pre-approve these messages.

CRISIS MANAGEMENT PLAN

CRISIS MANAGEMENT TEAM

SPOKESPERSON

Public relations can play a critical role in preparing spokespersons for handling questions from the news media.  The media relations element of public relations is a highly valued skill in crisis management.  The public relations personnel can provide training and support because in most cases they are not the spokesperson during the crisis.

Finally, crisis managers can pre-dra� messages that will be used during a crisis.  More accurately, crisis managers create templates for crisis messages.  Templates include statements by top management, news releases, and dark web sites.  Both the Corporate Leadership Council (2003) and the Business Roundtable (2002) strongly recommend the use of templates.  The templates leave blank spots where key information is inserted once it is known.  Public relations personnel can help to dra� these messages.  The legal department can then pre-approve the use of the messages.  Time is saved during a crisis as specific information is simply inserted and messages sent and/or made available on a web site.

An organization may create a separate web site for the crisis or designate a section of its current web site for the crisis.  Taylor and Kent’s (2007) research finds that having a crisis web sites is a best practice for using an Internet during a crisis.  The site should be designed prior to the crisis.  This requires the crisis team to anticipate the types of crises an organization will face and the types of information needed for the web site.  For instances, any organization that makes consumer goods is likely to have a product harm crisis that will require a recall.  The Corporate Leadership Council (2003) highlights the value of a crisis web site designed to help people identify if their product is part of the recall and how the recall will be handled.  Stakeholders, including the news media, will turn to the Internet during a crisis.  Crisis managers should utilize some form of web-based response or risk appearing to be ine�ective.  A good example is Taco Bell’s E. coli outbreak in 2006.  The company was criticized in the media for being slow to place crisis- related information on its web site.

Of course not placing information on the web site can be strategic.  An organization may not want to publicize the crisis by placing information about it on the web site.  This assumes the crisis is very small and that stakeholders are unlikely to hear about it from another source.  In today’s traditional and online media environment, that is a misguided if not dangerous assumption.  Taylor and Kent (2007) and the Corporate Leadership Council emphasize that a web site is another means for an organization to present its side of the story and not using it creates a risk of losing how the crisis story is told. Refer to the PR News story “Lackluster Online PR No Aid in Crisis Response” (2002) for additional information about using dark web sites in a crisis,

Intranet sites can also be used during a crisis.  Intranet sites limit access, typically to employees only though some will include suppliers and customers.  Intranet sites provide direct access to specific stakeholders so long as those stakeholders have access to the Intranet.  Dowling’s (2003) research documents the value of American Airlines’ use of its Intranet system as an e�ective way to communicate with its employees following the 9/11 tragedy.  Coombs (2007a) notes that the communication value of an Intranet site is increased when used in conjunction with mass notification systems designed to reach employees and other key stakeholders.  With a mass notification system, contact information (phones numbers, e-mail, etc.) are programmed in prior to a crisis.  Contacts can be any group that can be a�ected by the crisis including employees, customers, and community members living near a facility.  Crisis managers can enter short messages into the system then tell the mass notification system who should receive which messages and which channel or channels to use for the delivery.  The mass notification system provides a mechanism for people to respond to messages as well.  The response feature is critical when crisis managers want to verify that the target has received the message.  Table 3 summarizes the Crisis Communication Channel Preparation Best Practices.

The crisis response is what management does and says a�er the crisis hits.  Public relations plays a critical role in the crisis response by helping to develop the messages that are sent to various publics.  A great deal of research has examined the crisis response.  That research has been divided into two sections:  (1) the initial crisis response and (2) reputation repair and behavioral intentions.

Practitioner experience and academic research have combined to create a clear set of guidelines for how to respond once a crisis hits.  The initial crisis response guidelines focus on three points:  (1) be quick, (2) be accurate, and (3) be consistent.

Be quick seems rather simple, provide a response in the first hour a�er the crisis occurs.  That puts a great deal of pressure on crisis managers to have a message ready in a short period of time.  Again, we can appreciate the value of preparation and templates.  The rationale behind being quick is the need for the organization to tell its side of the story.  In reality, the organization’s side of the story are the key points management wants to convey about the crisis to its stakeholders.  When a crisis occurs, people want to know what happened.  Crisis experts o�en talk of an information vacuum being created by a crisis.  The news media will lead the charge to fill the information vacuum and be a key source of initial crisis information.  (We will consider shortly the use of the Internet as well).  If the organization having the crisis does not speak to the news media, other people will be happy to talk to the media.  These people may have inaccurate information or may try to use the crisis as an opportunity to attack the organization.  As a result, crisis managers must have a quick response.  An early response may not have much “new” information but the organization positions itself as a source and begins to present its side of the story.  Carney and Jorden (1993) note a quick response is active and shows an organization is in control.  Hearit’s (1994) research illustrates how silence is too passive.  It lets others control the story and suggests the organization has yet to gain control of the situation.  Arpan and Rosko-Ewoldsen (2005) conducted a study that documented how a quick, early response allows an organization to generate greater credibility than a slow response.  Crisis preparation will make it easier for crisis managers to respond quickly.

Obviously accuracy is important anytime an organization communicates with publics.  People want accurate information about what happened and how that event might a�ect them.  Because of the time pressure in a crisis, there is a risk of inaccurate information.  If mistakes are made, they must be corrected.  However, inaccuracies make an organization look inconsistent.  Incorrect statements must be corrected making an organization appear to be incompetent.  The philosophy of speaking with one voice in a crisis is a way to maintain accuracy.

Speaking with one voice does not mean only one person speaks for the organization for the duration of the crisis.  As Barton (2001) notes, it is physically impossible to expect one person to speak for an organization if a crisis lasts for over a day.  Watch news coverage of a crisis and you most likely will see multiple people speak.  The news media want to ask questions of experts so they may need to talk to a person in operations or one from security.  That is why Coombs (2007a) emphasizes the public relations department plays more of a support role rather than being “the” crisis spokespersons.  The crisis team needs to share information so that di�erent people can still convey a consistent message.  The spokespersons should be briefed on the same information and the key points the organization is trying to convey in the messages.  The public relations department should be instrumental in preparing the spokespersons.  Ideally, potential spokespersons are trained and practice media relations skills prior to any crisis.  The focus during a crisis then should be on the key information to be delivered rather than how to handle the media. Once more preparation helps by making sure the various spokespersons have the proper media relations training and skills.

Quickness and accuracy play an important role in public safety.  When public safety is a concern, people need to know what they must do to protect themselves.  Sturges (1994) refer to this information as instructing information.  Instructing information must be quick and accurate to be useful.  For instance, people must know as soon as possible not to eat contaminated foods or to shelter-in-place during a chemical release.  A slow or inaccurate response can increase the risk of injuries and possibly deaths.  Quick actions can also save money by preventing further damage and protecting reputations by showing that the organization is in control.  However, speed is meaningless if the information is wrong.  Inaccurate information can increase rather than decrease the threat to public safety.

Table 2: Crisis Media Training Best Practices

1.  Avoid the phrase “no comment” because people think it means the organization is guilty and trying to hide something 2.  Present information clearly by avoiding jargon or technical terms.  Lack of clarity makes people think the organization is purposefully being confusing in order to hide something. 3.  Appear pleasant on camera by avoiding nervous habits that people interpret as deception.  A spokesperson needs to have strong eye contact,limited disfluencies such as “uhms” or “uhs”, and avoid distracting nervous gestures such as fidgeting or pacing.  Coombs (2007a) reports on research that documents how people will be perceived as deceptive if they lack eye contact, have a lot of disfluencies,or display obvious nervous gestures. 4.  Brief all potential spokespersons on the latest crisis information and the key message points the organization is trying to convey to stakeholders.

PRE-DRAFT MESSAGES

COMMUNICATION CHANNELS

Table 3: Crisis Communication Channel Preparation Best Practices

1.  Be prepared to use a unique web site or part of your current web site to address crisis concerns. 2.  Be prepared to use the Intranet as one of the channels for reaching employees and any other stakeholders than may have access to your Intranet. 3.  Be prepared to utilize a mass notification system for reaching employees and other key stakeholders during a crisis

CRISIS RESPONSE

INITIAL RESPONSE

The news media are drawn to crises and are a useful way to reach a wide array of publics quickly.  So it is logical that crisis response research has devoted considerable attention to media relations.  Media relations allows crisis managers to reach a wide range of stakeholders fast.  Fast and wide ranging is perfect for public safety—get the message out quickly and to as many people as possible.  Clearly there is waste as non-targets receive the message but speed and reach are more important at the initial stage of the crisis.  However, the news media is not the only channel crisis managers can and should use to reach stakeholders.

Web sites, Intranet sites, and mass notification systems add to the news media coverage and help to provide a quick response.  Crisis managers can supply greater amounts of their own information on a web site.  Not all targets will use the web site but enough do to justify the inclusion of web-base communication in a crisis response.  Taylor and Kent’s (2007) extensive analysis of crisis web sites over a multiyear period found a slow progression in organizations utilizing web sites and the interactive nature of the web during a crisis.  Mass notification systems deliver short messages to specific individuals through a mix of phone, text messaging, voice messages, and e-mail.  The systems also allow people to send responses.  In organizations with e�ective Intranet systems, the Intranet is a useful vehicle for reaching employees as well.  If an organization integrates its Intranet with suppliers and customers, these stakeholders can be reached as well.  As the crisis management e�ort progresses, the channels can be more selective.

More recently, crisis experts have recommended a third component to an initial crisis response, crisis managers should express concern/sympathy for any victims of the crisis.  Victims are the people that are hurt or inconvenienced in some way by the crisis.  Victims might have lost money, become ill, had to evacuate, or su�ered property damage.  Kellerman (2006) details when it is appropriate to express regret.  Expressions of concern help to lessen reputational damage and to reduce financial losses.  Experimental studies by Coombs and Holladay (1996) and by Dean (2004) found that organizations did experience less reputational damage when an expression of concern is o�ered verses a response lacking an expression of concern.  Cohen (1999) examined legal cases and found early expressions of concern help to reduce the number and amount of claims made against an organization for the crisis.  However, Tyler (1997) reminds us that there are limits to expressions of concern.  Lawyers may try to use expressions of concern as admissions of guilt.  A number of states have laws that protect expressions of concern from being used against an organization.  Another concern is that as more crisis managers express concern, the expressions of concern may lose their e�ect of people.  Hearit (2007) cautions that expressions of concern will seem too routine.  Still, a failure to provide a routine response could hurt an organization.  Hence, expressions of concern may be expected and provide little benefit when used but can inflict damage when not used.

Argenti (2002) interviewed a number of managers that survived the 9/11 attacks.  His strongest lesson was that crisis managers should never forget employees are important publics during a crisis.  The Business Roundtable (2002) and Corporate Leadership Council (2003) remind us that employees need to know what happened, what they should do, and how the crisis will a�ect them.  The earlier discussions of mass notification systems and the Intranet are examples of how to reach employees with information.  West Pharmaceuticals had a production facility in Kinston, North Carolina leveled by an explosion in January 2003.  Coombs (2004b) examined how West Pharmaceuticals used a mix of channels to keep employees apprised of how the plant explosion would a�ect them in terms of when they would work, where they would work, and their benefits.  Moreover, Coombs (2007a) identifies research that suggest well informed employees provide an additional channel of communication for reaching other stakeholders.

When the crisis results in serious injuries or deaths, crisis management must include stress and trauma counseling for employees and other victims.  One illustration is the trauma teams dispatched by airlines following a plane crash.  The trauma teams address the needs of employees as well as victims’ families.  Both the Business Roundtable (2002) and Coombs (2007a) note that crisis managers must consider how the crisis stress might a�ect the employees, victims, and their families.  Organizations must provide the necessary resources to help these groups cope.

We can take a specific set of both form and content lessons from the writing on the initial crisis response.  Table 4 provides a summary of the Initial Crisis Response Best Practices.  Form refers to the basic structure of the response.  The initial crisis response should be delivered in the first hour a�er a crisis and be vetted for accuracy.  Content refers to what is covered in the initial crisis response.  The initial message must provide any information needed to aid public safety, provide basic information about what has happened, and o�er concern if there are victims.  In addition, crisis managers must work to have a consistent message between spokespersons.

A number of researchers in public relations, communication, and marketing have shed light on how to repair the reputational damage a crisis inflicts on an organization.  At the center of this research is a list of reputation repair strategies.  Bill Benoit (1995; 1997) has done the most to identify the reputation repair strategies.  He analyzed and synthesized strategies from many di�erent research traditions that shared a concern for reputation repair.  Coombs (2007a) integrated the work of Benoit with others to create a master list that integrated various writings into one list.  Table 5 presents the Master List of Reputation Repair Strategies.  The reputation repair strategies vary in terms of how much they accommodate victims of this crisis (those at risk or harmed by the crisis).  Accommodate means that the response focuses more on helping the victims than on addressing organizational concerns.  The master list arranges the reputation repair strategies from the least to the most accommodative reputation repair strategies.  (For more information on reputation repair strategies see also Ulmer, Sellnow, and Seeger, 2006).

It should be noted that reputation repair can be used in the crisis response phase, post-crisis phase, or both.  Not all crises need reputation repair e�orts.  Frequently the instructing information and expressions of concern are enough to protect the reputation.  When a strong reputation repair e�ort is required, that e�ort will carry over into the post-crisis phase.  Or, crisis managers may feel more comfortable waiting until the post-crisis phase to address reputation concerns.

A list of reputation repair strategies by itself has little utility.  Researchers have begun to explore when a specific reputation repair strategy or combination of strategies should be used.  These researchers frequently have used attribution theory to develop guidelines for the use of reputation repair strategies.  A short explanation of attribution theory is provided along with its relationship to crisis management followed by a summary of lessons learned from this research.

Attribution theory believes that people try to explain why events happen, especially events that are sudden and negative.  Generally, people either attribute responsibility for the event to the situation or the person in the situation.  Attributions generate emotions and a�ect how people interact with those involved in the event.  Crises are negative (create damage or threat of damage) and are o�en sudden so they create attributions of responsibility.  People either blame the organization in crisis or the situation.  If people blame the organization, anger is created and people react negatively toward the organization.  Three negative reactions to attributing crisis responsibility to an organization have been documented:  (1) increased damage to an organization’s reputation, (2) reduced purchase intentions and (3) increased likelihood of engaging in negative word-of-mouth (Coombs, 2007b; Coombs & Holladay, 2006).

Most of the research has focused on establishing the link between attribution of crisis responsibility and the threat to the organization’s reputation.  A number of studies have proven this connection exists (Coombs, 2004a; Coombs & Holladay, 1996; Coombs & Holladay, 2002; Coombs & Holladay, 2006).  The research linking organizational reputation with purchase intention and negative word-of-mouth is less developed but so far has confirmed these two links as well (Coombs, 2007b; Coombs & Holladay, 2006).

Table 4: Initial Crisis Response Best Practices

1.  Be quick and try to have initial response within the first hour. 2.  Be accurate by carefully checking all facts. 3.  Be consistent by keeping spokespeople informed of crisis events and key message points. 4.  Make public safety the number one priority. 5.  Use all of the available communication channels including the Internet, Intranet, and mass notification systems. 6.  Provide some expression of concern/sympathy for victims 7.  Remember to include employees in the initial response. 8.  Be ready to provide stress and trauma counseling to victims of the crisis and their families, including employees.

REPUTATION REPAIR AND BEHAVIORAL INTENTIONS

Table 5: Master List of Reputation Repair Strategies

1.Attack the accuser: crisis manager confronts the person or group claiming something is wrong with the organization. 2.Denial: crisis manager asserts that there is no crisis. 3.  Scapegoat: crisis manager blames some person or group outside of the organization for the crisis. 4.  Excuse: crisis manager minimizes organizational responsibility by denying intent to do harm and/or claiming inability to control the events that triggered the crisis. Provocation: crisis was a result of response to some one else’s actions. Defeasibility: lack of information about events leading to the crisis situation. Accidental: lack of control over events leading to the crisis situation. Good intentions: organization meant to do well 5.  Justification: crisis manager minimizes the perceived damage caused by the crisis. 6.  Reminder: crisis managers tell stakeholders about the past good works of the organization. 7.  Ingratiation: crisis manager praises stakeholders for their actions. 8.  Compensation: crisis manager o�ers money or other gi�s to victims. 9.  Apology: crisis manager indicates the organization takes full responsibility for the crisis and asks stakeholders for forgiveness.

Coombs (1995) pioneered the application of attribution theory to crisis management in the public relations literature.  His 1995 article began to lay out a theory-based approach to matching the reputation repair strategies to the crisis situation.  A series of studies have tested the recommendations and assumptions such as Coombs and Holladay (1996), Coombs & Holladay, (2002) and Coombs (2004a), and Coombs, (2007b).  This research has evolved into the Situation Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT).  SCCT argues that crisis managers match their reputation repair strategies to the reputational threat of the crisis situation.  Crisis managers should use increasingly accommodative the reputation repair strategies as the reputational threat from the crisis intensifies (Coombs & Holladay, 1996; Coombs, 2007b).

Crisis managers follow a two-step process to assess the reputational threat of a crisis.  The first step is to determine the basic crisis type.  A crisis managers considers how the news media and other stakeholders are defining the crisis.  Coombs and Holladay (2002) had respondents evaluate crisis types based on attributions of crisis responsibility.  They distilled this data to group the basic crises according to the reputational threat each one posed.  Table 6 provides a list the basic crisis types and their reputational threat.

The second step is to review the intensifying factors of crisis history and prior reputation.  If an organization has a history of similar crises or has a negative prior reputation, the reputational threat is intensified.  A series of experimental studies have documented the intensifying value of crisis history (Coombs, 2004a) and prior reputation (Coombs & Holladay, 2001; Coombs & Holladay, 2006; Klein & Dawar, 2004).  The same crisis was found to be perceived as having much strong crisis responsibility (a great reputational threat) when the organization had either a previous crisis (Coombs, 2004a) or the organization was known not to treat stakeholders well/negative prior reputation (Coombs & Holladay, 2001; Coombs & Holladay, 2006; Klein & Dewar, 2004).  Table 7 is a set of crisis communication best practices derived from attribution theory-based research in SCCT (Coombs, 2007b, Coombs & Holladay, 1996; Coombs & Holladay, 2001; Coombs & Holladay, 2006).

In general, a reputation is how stakeholder perceive an organization.  A reputation is widely recognized as a valuable, intangible asset for an organization and is worth protecting.  But the threat posed by a crisis extends to behavioral intentions as well.  Increased attributions of organizational responsibility for a crisis result in a greater likelihood of negative word-of-mouth about the organization and reduced purchase intention from the organization.  Early research suggests that lessons designed to protect the organization’s reputation will help to reduce the likelihood of negative word-of-mouth and the negative e�ect on purchase intentions as well (Coombs, 2007b).

In the post-crisis phase, the organization is returning to business as usual.  The crisis is no longer the focal point of management’s attention but still requires some attention.  As noted earlier, reputation repair may be continued or initiated during this phase. There is important follow-up communication that is required.  First, crisis managers o�en promise to provide additional information during the crisis phase.  The crisis managers must deliver on those informational promises or risk losing the trust of publics wanting the information.  Second, the organization needs to release updates on the recovery process, corrective actions, and/or investigations of the crisis.  The amount of follow-up communication required depends on the amount of information promised during the crisis and the length of time it takes to complete the recovery process.  If you promised a reporter a damage estimate, for example, be sure to deliver that estimate when it is ready.  West Pharmaceuticals provided recovery updates for over a year because that is how long it took to build a new facility to replace the one destroyed in an explosion.  As Dowling (2003), the Corporate Leadership Counsel (2003), and the Business Roundtable (2002) observe, Intranets are an excellent way to keep employees updated, if the employees have ways to access the site.  Coombs (2007a) reports how mass notification systems can be used as well to deliver update messages to employees and other publics via phones, text messages, voice messages, and e-mail.  Personal e-mails and phone calls can be used too.

Crisis managers agree that a crisis should be a learning experience.  The crisis management e�ort needs to be evaluated to see what is working and what needs improvement.  The same holds true for exercises.  Coombs (2006) recommends every crisis management exercise be carefully dissected as a learning experience.  The organization should seek ways to improve prevention, preparation, and/or the response.  As most books on crisis management note, those lessons are then integrated into the pre-crisis and crisis response phases.  That is how management learns and improves its crisis management process.  Table 8 lists the Post-Crisis Phase Best Practices.

It is di�icult to distill all that is known about crisis management into one, concise entry.  I have tried to identify the best practices and lessons created by crisis management researchers and analysts.  While crises begin as a negative/threat, e�ective crisis management can minimize the damage and in some case allow an organization to emerge stronger than before the crisis.  However, crises are not the ideal way to improve an organization.  But no organization is immune from a crisis so all must do their best to prepare for one.  This entry provides a number of ideas that can be incorporated into an e�ective crisis management program.  At the end of this entry is an annotated bibliography.  The annotated bibliography provides short summaries of key writings in crisis management highlighting.  Each entry identifies the main topics found in that entry and provides citations to help you locate those sources.

Annotated Bibliography

Argenti, P. (2002, December).  Crisis communication:  Lessons from 9/11.  Harvard Business Review, 80(12), 103-109. (http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml? id=R0212H&referral=2342) This article provides insights into working with employees during a crisis.  The information is derived from interviews with managers about their responses to the 9/11 tragedies.

Arpan, L.M., & Roskos-Ewoldsen, D.R. (2005). Stealing thunder: An analysis of the e�ects of proactive disclosure of crisis information. Public Relations Review 31(3), 425-433. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W5W-4GH49NJ- 2&_user=2139813&_coverDate=09%2F30%2F2005&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000054276&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2139813&md5=da3487f8fece1c49adbfc9a2c2016aec)

Table 6: Crisis Types by Attribution of Crisis Responsibility

Victim Crises:  Minimal Crisis Responsibility Natural disasters: acts of nature such as tornadoes or earthquakes. Rumors: false and damaging information being circulated about you organization. Workplace violence: attack by former or current employee on current employees on-site. Product Tampering/Malevolence: external agent causes damage to the organization. Accident Crises:  Low Crisis Responsibility Challenges: stakeholder claim that the organization is operating in an inappropriate manner. Technical error accidents: equipment or technology failure that cause an industrial accident. Technical error product harm: equipment or technology failure that cause a product to be defective or potentially harmful. Preventable Crises: Strong Crisis Responsibility Human-error accidents: industrial accident caused by human error. Human-error product harm: product is defective or potentially harmful because of human error. Organizational misdeed: management actions that put stakeholders at risk and/or violate the law.

Table 7:  Attribution Theory-based Crisis Communication Best Practices

1.  All victims or potential victims should receive instructing information, including recall information.  This is one-half of the base response to a crisis. 2.  All victims should be provided an expression of sympathy, any information about corrective actions and trauma counseling when needed.  This can be called the “care response.” This is the second-half of the base response to a crisis. 3.  For crises with minimal attributions of crisis responsibility and no intensifying factors, instructing information and care response is su�icient. 4.  For crises with minimal attributions of crisis responsibility and an intensifying factor, add excuse and/or justification strategies to the instructing information and care response. 5.  For crises with low attributions of crisis responsibility and no intensifying factors, add excuse and/or justification strategies to the instructing information and care response. 6.  For crises with low attributions of crisis responsibility and an intensifying factor, add compensation and/or apology strategies to the instructing information and care response. 7.  For crises with strong attributions of crisis responsibility, add compensation and/or apology strategies to the instructing information and care response. 8.  The compensation strategy is used anytime victims su�er serious harm. 9.  The reminder and ingratiation strategies can be used to supplement any response. 10.  Denial and attack the accuser strategies are best used only for rumor and challenge crises.

POST-CRISIS PHASE

Table 8:  Post-Crisis Phase Best Practices

1.  Deliver all information promised to stakeholders as soon as that information is known. 2.  Keep stakeholders updated on the progression of recovery e�orts including any corrective measures being taken and the progress of investigations. 3.  Analyze the crisis management e�ort for lessons and integrate those lessons in to the organization’s crisis management system.

CONCLUSION

This article discusses an experiment that studies the idea of stealing thunder.  Stealing thunder is when an organization releases information about a crisis before the news media or others release the information.  The results found that stealing thunder results in higher credibility ratings for a company than allowing others to report the crisis information first.  This is additional evidence to support the notion of being quick in a crisis and telling the organization’s side of the story.

Augustine, N. R. (1995, November/December). Managing the crisis you tried to prevent. Harvard Business Review, 73(6), 147-158. (http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml?id=939X&referral=2340) This article centers on the six stages of a crisis:  avoiding the crisis, preparing to management the crisis, recognizing the crisis, containing the crisis, resolving the crisis, and profiting from the crisis.  The article reinforces the need to have a crisis management plan and to test both the crisis management plan and team through exercises.  It also reinforces the need to learn (profit) from the crisis.

Barton, L. (2001). Crisis in organizations II (2nd ed.). Cincinnati, OH: College Divisions South-Western. (http://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Organizations-II-Laurence-Barton/dp/0324024290/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1? ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195496891&sr=8-1) This is a very practice-oriented book that provides a number of useful insights into crisis management.  There is a strong emphasis on the role of communication and public relations/a�airs in the crisis management process and the need to speak with one voice.  The book provides excellent information on crisis management plans (a template is in Appendix D pp. 225-262); the composition of crisis management teams (pp. 14-17); the need for exercises (pp.  207-221); and the need to communicate with employees (pp. 86-101).

Benoit, W. L. (1995). Accounts, excuses, and apologies: A theory of image restoration. Albany: State University of New York Press. (http://www.sunypress.edu/details.asp?id=53056) This book has a scholarly focus on image restoration not crisis manage.  However, his discussion of image restoration strategies is very thorough (pp. 63-96).  These strategies have been used as reputation repair strategies a�er a crisis.

Benoit, W. L. (1997). Image repair discourse and crisis communication. Public Relations Review, 23(2), 177-180. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W5W-45HDB02- 6S&_user=2139813&_coverDate=04%2F01%2F1997&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000054276&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2139813&md5=4c04974c7c4f9f02e6a81ddce5ec8622) The article is based on his book Accounts, excuses, and apologies: A theory of image restoration and provides a review of image restoration strategies.  The image restoration strategies are reputation repair strategies that can be used a�er a crisis.  It is a quicker and easiest to use resource than the book.

Business”>http://www.nfib.com/object/3783593.html.”>Business ( mce_href=) Roundtable’s Post-9/11 crisis communication toolkit. (2002). Retrieved April 24, 2006, from http://www.nfib.com/object/3783593.html. (http://www.nfib.com/object/3783593.html.) This is a very user-friendly PDF files that takes a person through the crisis management process.  There is helpful information on web-based communication (pp. 73-82) including “dark sites” and the use of Intranet and e-mail to keep employees informed.  There is an explanation of templates, what are called holding statements or fill-in-the-blank media statements including a sample statement (pp. 28-29).  It also provides information of the crisis management plan (pp. 21-32), structure of the crisis management team (pp. 33-40) and types of exercises (pp. 89-93) including mock press conferences.

Carney, A., & Jorden, A. (1993, August). Prepare for business-related crises. Public Relations Journal 49, 34-35. (http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-9280355_ITM) This article emphasize the need for a message strategy during crisis communication.  Developing and sharing a strategy helps an organization to speak with one voice during the crisis.

Cohen, J. R.  (1999).  Advising clients to apologize.  S. California Law Review, 72, 1009-131. (http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~usclrev/pdf/072402.pdf) This article examines expressions of concern and full apologies from a legal perspective.  He notes that California, Massachusetts, and Florida have laws that prevent expressions of concern from being used as evidence against someone in a court case.  The evidence from court cases suggests that expressions of concern are helpful because they help to reduce the amount of damages sought and the number of claims filed.

Coombs, W. T. (1995). Choosing the right words: The development of guidelines for the selection of the “appropriate” crisis response strategies. Management Communication Quarterly, 8, 447-476. (http://mcq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/8/4/447?ck=nck) This article is the foundation for Situational Crisis Communication Theory.  It uses a decision tree to guide the selection of crisis response strategies.  The guidelines are based on matching the response to nature of the crisis situation.  A number of studies have tested the guidelines in the decision tree and found them to be reliable.

Coombs, W. T. (2004a). Impact of past crises on current crisis communications: Insights from situational crisis communication theory. Journal of Business Communication, 41, 265-289. (http://job.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/41/3/265) This article documents that past crises intensify the reputational threat to a current crisis.  Since the news media reminds people of past crises, it is common for organizations in crisis to face past crises as well.  Crisis managers need to adjust their reputation repair strategies if there are past crises-crisis managers will need to use more accommodative strategies than they normally would.  Accidents are a good example.  Past accidents indicate a pattern of problems so people will view the organization as much more responsible for the crisis than if the accident were isolated.  Greater responsibility means the crisis is more of a threat to the reputation and the organization must focus the response more on addressing victim concerns.

Coombs, W. T. (2004b).  Structuring crisis discourse knowledge: The West Pharmaceutics case.  Public Relations Review, 30, 467-474. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W5W- 4DD9GJ1- 1&_user=2139813&_coverDate=11%2F01%2F2004&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000054276&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2139813&md5=ba1587b4058cf39aa994cf7427cb4441) This article is a case analysis of the West Pharmaceutical 2003 explosion at its Kinston, NC facility.  The case documents the extensive use of the Internet to keep employees and other stakeholders informed.  It also develops a list of crisis communication standards based on SCCT.  The crisis communication standards o�er suggestions for how crisis managers can match their crisis response to the nature of the crisis situation.

Coombs, W. T. (2006). Code red in the boardroom: Crisis management as organizational DNA. Westport, CN: Praeger. (http://www.amazon.com/Code-Red-Boardroom-Management- Organizational/dp/0275989127/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195498396&sr=8-1) This is a book written for a practitioner audience.  The book focuses on how to respond to three common types of crises:  attacks on an organization (pp. 13-26), accidents (pp. 27-44), and management misbehavior pp. (45-64).  There are also detailed discussions of how crisis management plans must be a living document (pp. 77-90), di�erent types of exercises for crisis management (pp. 84-87), and samples of specific elements of a crisis management plan in Appendix A (pp. 103-109).

Coombs, W. T. (2007a).  Ongoing crisis communication:  Planning, Managing, and responding (2nd ed.).  Los Angeles:  Sage. (http://www.amazon.com/Ongoing-Crisis-Communication-Planning- Responding/dp/1412949912/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195498396&sr=8-2)This book is designed to teach students and managers about the crisis management process.  There is a detailed discussion of spokesperson training pp. (78-87) and a discussion of the traits and skills crisis team members need to posses to be e�ective during a crisis (pp. 66-77).  The book emphasizes the value of follow-up information and updates (pp. 147-148) along with the learning from the crisis (pp. 152-162).  There is also a discussion of the utility of mass notification systems during a crisis (pp. 97-98).

Coombs, W. T. (2007b).  Protecting organization reputations during a crisis:The development and application of situational crisis communication theory.  Corporate Reputation Review, 10, 1-14. (http://www.palgrave-journals.com/crr/journal/v10/n3/abs/1550049a.html) This article provides a summary of research conducted on and lessons learned from Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT).  The article includes a discussion how the research can go beyond reputation to include behavioral intentions such as purchase intention and negative word-of-mouth.  The information in the article is based on experimental studies rather than case studies.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (1996). Communication and attributions in a crisis: An experimental study of crisis communication. Journal of Public Relations Research, 8(4), 279-295. (http://www.leaonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s1532754xjprr0804_04) This article uses an experimental design to document the negative e�ect of crises on an organization’s reputation.  The research also establishes that the type of reputation repair strategies managers use does make a di�erence on perceptions of the organization.  An important finding is proof that the more an organization is held responsible for the crisis, the more accommodative a reputation repair strategy must be in order to be e�ective/protect the organization’s reputation.

Coombs, W. T. and Holladay, S. J.  (2001).  An extended examination of the crisis situation: A fusion of the relational management and symbolic approaches.  Journal of Public Relations Research, 13, 321-340. (http://www.leaonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/S1532754XJPRR1304_03) This study reports on an experiment designed to test how prior reputation influenced the attributions of crisis responsibility.  The study found that an unfavorable prior reputation had the biggest e�ect.  People rated an organization as having much greater responsibility for a crisis when the prior reputation was negative than if the prior reputation was neutral or positive.  Similar results were found for the e�ects of prior reputation on the post-crisis reputation.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2002). Helping crisis managers protect reputational assets: Initial tests of the situational crisis communication theory. Management Communication Quarterly, 16, 165-186. (http://mcq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/16/2/165) This article begins to map how stakeholders respond to some very common crises.  Using the level of responsibility for a crisis that people attribute to an organization, the research found that common crises can be categorized into one of three groups:  victim cluster has minimal attributions of crisis responsibility (natural disasters, rumors, workplace violence, and tampering), accidental cluster has low attributions of crisis responsibility (technical-error product harm and accidents), and preventable cluster has strong attributions of crisis responsibility (human-error product harm and accidents, management misconduct, and organizational misdeeds).  The article recommends di�erent crisis response strategies depending upon the attributions of crisis responsibility.

Coombs, W. T. & Holladay, S. J. (2006).  Halo or reputational capital:  Reputation and crisis management.  Journal of Communication Management, 10(2), 123-137. (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContentItem.do;jsessionid=BA4CB945377E41355EA956FAC2E6A84E?contentType=Article&contentId=1550758) This article examines if and when a favorable pre-crisis reputation can protect an organization with a halo e�ect.  The halo e�ect says that strong positive feelings will allow people to overlook a negative event-it can shield an organization from reputational damage during a crisis.  The study found that only in a very specific situation does a halo e�ect occur.  In most crises, the reputation is damaged suggesting reputational capital is a better way to view a strong, positive pre-crisis reputation.  An organization accumulates reputational capital by positively engaging publics.  A crisis causes an organization to loss some reputational capital.  The more pre-crisis reputational capital, the stronger the reputation will be a�er the crisis and the easier it should be to repair.

Corporate Leadership Council. (2003). Crisis management strategies. Retrieved September 12, 2006, from  http://www.executiveboard.com/EXBD/Images/PDF/Crisis%20Management%20Strategies.pdf. [Now available here (http://www.opscentre.com.au/resources/pdfs/Whitepapers/Whitepaper%20-%20Corporate%20Leadership%20Council%20-%20Crisis%20Management%20Strategies%20-%202003.pdf)] This online PDF file summarizes key crisis management insights from the Corporate Leadership Council.  The topics include the value and elements of a crisis management plan (pp 1-3), structure of a crisis management team (pp. 4-6), communicating with employees (pp. 7-9), using web sites including “dark sites” (p. 7), using pre-packaged information/templates (p. 7), and the value of employee assistance programs (p. 10).  The file is an excellent overview to key elements of crisis management with an emphasis on using new technology.

Dean, D. H.  (2004.  Consumer reaction to negative publicity: E�ects of corporate  reputation, response, and responsibility for a crisis event.  Journal of Business Communication, 41, 192-211. (http://job.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/41/2/192) This article reports an experimental study that included a comparison how people reacted to expressions of concern verses no expression of concern.  Post-crisis reputations were stronger when an organization provided an expression of concern.

Dilenschneider, R. L. (2000). The corporate communications bible: Everything you need to know to become a public relations expert. Beverly Hills: New Millennium. (http://www.amazon.com/Corporate- Communications-Bible-Robert-Dilenschneider/dp/1893224082/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195499096&sr=8-1) This book has a strong chapter of crisis communication (pp. 120-142).  It emphasizes how a crisis is a threat to an organization’s reputation and the need to be strategic with the communications response.

Downing, J. R. (2003).  American Airlines’ use of mediated employee channels a�er the 9/11 attacks.  Public Relations Review, 30, 37-48. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W5W- 4BH6JC4- 4&_user=2139813&_coverDate=03%2F31%2F2004&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000054276&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2139813&md5=46a6d403d4ac95852d9b1db88ba77e43) This article reviews how American Airlines used its Intranet, web sites, and reservation system to keep employees informed a�er 9/11.  The article also comments on the use of employee assistance programs a�er a traumatic event.  Recommendations include using all available channels to inform employees during and a�er a crisis as well as recommending organizations “gray out” color from their web sites to reflect the somber nature of the situation.

Fearn-Banks, K. (2001). Crisis communications: A casebook approach (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. (http://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Communications-Casebook-Approach- Communication/dp/0805857729/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195499133&sr=1-1) This book is more a textbook for students using case studies.  Chapter 2 (pp. 18-33) has a useful discussion of elements of the crisis communication plan, a subset of the crisis management plan.  Chapter 4 has some tips on media relations (pp. 63-71).

Hearit, K. M. (1994, Summer). Apologies and public relations crises at Chrysler, Toshiba, and Volvo. Public Relations Review, 20(2), 113-125. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science? _ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W5W-45P4P2T- C4&_user=2139813&_coverDate=04%2F01%2F1994&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000054276&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2139813&md5=b411cc64a0486a105d910dec3f36f13e) This article provides a strong rationale for the value of quick but accurate crisis response.  The focus is on how a quick response helps an organization to control the crisis situation.

Hearit, K. M. (2006).  Crisis management by apology:  Corporate response to allegations of wrongdoing.  Mahwah, NJ:  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. (http://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Management-Apology-Allegations-Communication/dp/0805837892/ref=sr_1_1? ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195499190&sr=1-1) This book is a detailed, scholarly treatment of apologies that has direct application to crisis management.  Chapter 1 helps to explain the di�erent ways the term apology is used and concentrates on how it should be treated as a public acceptance of responsibility (pp. 1-18).  Chapter 3 details the legal and liability issues involved when an organization chooses to use an apology.

Kellerman, B. (2006, April). When should a leader apologize and when not? Harvard Business Review, 84(4), 73-81. (http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml? id=R0604D&referral=2340) This article defines an apology as accepting responsibility for a crisis and expressing regret.  The value of apologies is highlighted along with suggestions for when an apology is appropriate and inappropriate.  An apology should be used when it will serve an important purpose, the crisis has serious consequences, and the cost of an apology will be lower than the cost of being silent.

Klein, J. & Dawar, N. (2004).  Corporate social responsibility and consumers’ attributions of brand evaluations in product-harm crisis.  International Journal of Marketing, 21, 203-217. (http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/summary_0198-208355_ITM) This article reports on an experimental study that compared how prior information about corporate social responsibility (a dimension of prior reputation) a�ected attributions of crisis responsibility.  People attribute much greater responsibility to the negative corporate social responsibility condition than to the neutral or positive conditions.  There was no di�erence between the attributions in the positive and neutral conditions.

Lackluster online PR no aid in crisis response. (2002). PR News. Retrieved April 20, 2006, from http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe (http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe) This short article notes how journalists and other interested parties are using web sites during crises to collect information.  The article highlights the value of having a “dark site” ready before a crisis.  A sample of various criteria for a crisis web are discussed by reviewing Tyco’s web site as a case study.

Lerbinger, O. (1997). The crisis manager: Facing risk and responsibility. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. (http://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Manager-Facing-Responsibility- Communication/dp/0805823875/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195499377&sr=8-1) This book centers on seven types of crises:  natural, technological, confrontation, malevolence, skewed management values, deception, and management misconduct.  There is a strong focus on the role of media relations in crisis management (pp. 27-29 and pp. 31-34).

Mitro�, I. I., Harrington, K., & Gai, E. (1996, September). Thinking about the unthinkable. Across the Board, 33(8), 44-48. This article reinforces the value of creating and training crisis management teams by having them conduct various types of exercises.

Sonnenfeld, S. (1994, July/August).  Media policy–What media policy?  Harvard Business Review, 72(4), 18-19. (http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/common/item_detail.jhtml? id=94407&referral=2340) This is a short article that discusses the need for spokesperson training prior to a crisis.

Sturges, D. L. (1994).  Communicating through crisis: A strategy for organizational survival, Management Communication Quarterly, 7, 297-316. (http://mcq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/7/3/297) This article emphasizes how communication needs shi� during a crisis.  The first need is for instructing information, the information that tells people how to protect themselves physically from a crisis.  The next need is adjusting information, the information that helps people to cope psychologically with the crisis.  The initial crisis response demands a focus on instructing and adjusting information.  The third and final type of communication is reputation repair.  Reputation repair is only used once the instructing and adjusting information have been provided.

Related Posts

Taylor, M., & Kent, M. L. (2007).  Taxonomy of mediated crisis responses.  Public Relations Review, 33, 140-146. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W5W-4MP5KM1- 2&_user=2139813&_coverDate=06%2F30%2F2007&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000054276&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=2139813&md5=91d647b1ca43a2883cde24abeaf999ed) This article summarizes the best practices for using the Internet during a crisis and advocates more organizations should be using the Internet, especially web sites, during a crisis. The six best practices are:  (1) include all your tradition media relations materials on your web site; (2) try to make use of the interactive nature of the Internet for your crisis web content; (3) provide detailed and clear information on web sites during for a product recall; (4) tell your side of the story on the crisis web site including quotations from managers; (5) when necessary, create di�erent web pages for di�erent stakeholders tailored to their interests in the crisis; and (6) work with government agencies including hyperlinks to relevant government agency web sites.

Tyler, L. (1997). Liability means never being able to say you’re sorry: Corporate guilt, legal constraints, and defensiveness in corporate communication. Management Communication Quarterly, 11(1), 51-73. (http://mcq.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/11/1/51) This article discusses the legal constraints that prevent apologies during a crisis.  It is a hard look at the choices crisis managers must make between addressing victims in a particular way and financial constraints.  The article is a reminder that crisis management occurs within the larger context of organizational operations and is subject to financial constraints.

Ulmer, R. R., Sellnow, T. L., & Seeger, M. W. (2006). E�ective crisis communication: Moving from crisis to opportunity. Thousand Oaks: Sage. (http://www.amazon.com/E�ective-Crisis-Communication-Moving- Opportunity/dp/1412914183/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1195500576&sr=8-1)This book is mix of lessons and case studies.  Many of the cases focus on large scale crises or what some would call disasters.  Large scale crises/disasters are unique because they require multiple agency coordination and are o�en managed by government agencies.  Chapter 12 (pp. 177-187) on renewal as a reputation repair strategy a�er a crisis in unique and informative.  Renewal focuses on optimism and an emphasis on moving to some new and better state a�er the crisis.  Not all organizations can engage in renewal a�er a crisis.  Renewal requires that an organization have performed ethically before the crisis and have had strong stakeholder relationships before the crisis.

Share this:

2020 IPR Disinformation in Society Report (https://instituteforpr.org/2020-disinformation- report/) The second annual Institute for Public Relations (IPR) “Disinformation in Society” study...

Exploring Negative Peer Communication of Companies on Social Media and Its Impact on Organization-Public Relationships (https://instituteforpr.org/exploring-negative-peer- communication-of-companies-on-social-media-and-its-impact-on-organization-public- relationships/) This summary is provided by the IPR Digital Media Research Center Summary...

E�ects of Online Rumors on Attribution of Crisis Responsibility and Attitude Toward Organization During Crisis Uncertainty (https://instituteforpr.org/e�ects-of-online- rumors-on-attribution-of-crisis-responsibility-and-attitude-toward-organization-during- crisis-uncertainty/) This summary is provided by the IPR Digital Media Research Center Summary...

The Challenge of New Gatekeepers for Public Relations: A Comparative Analysis of the Role of Social Media Influencers for European and Latin American Professionals (https://instituteforpr.org/the-challenge-of-new-gatekeepers-for-public-relations-a- comparative-analysis-of-the-role-of-social-media-influencers-for-european-and-latin- american-professionals/) This summary is provided by the IPR Digital Media Research Center Summary...

IMPORTANT LINKS

Newsletter Archive (http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs044/1103180588460/archive/1104438478185.html)

Fair Use (https://instituteforpr.org/fair-use/)

Publication Policy (https://instituteforpr.org/publication-policy/)

Privacy Policy (https://instituteforpr.org/privacy-policy/) Contact (https://instituteforpr.org/contact/)

Sta� + Address (https://instituteforpr.org/about/sta�/)

SUBSCRIBE TO IPR’S RESEARCH LETTER

© Institute for Public Relations

Attachment 4

Inter-organisational post-crisis communication

Restoring stakeholder confidence in the UK oil industry safety regime following two

helicopter incidents

Joanna McDonald and Isabella Crawford Department of Information, Communication and Media,

Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK

Abstract

Purpose – This paper aims to analyse the post-crisis communication response of the UK oil industry both from a management and employee perspective following two major helicopter incidents in 2009. The purpose of this paper is to develop further understanding of the merits of a cross-industry post-crisis communication strategy for certain crisis types.

Design/methodology/approach – This research is a single case study focusing on the Helicopter Task Group (HTG). Thirteen members of the HTG were interviewed and 250 questionnaires distributed to the workforce. Results were analysed against a literature review of current post-crisis communication theory.

Findings – The study demonstrates that where a crisis is deemed to genuinely cross company boundaries, an inter-organisational approach to post-crisis communications is of mutual benefit to all stakeholders, providing certain conditions for dialogue are met.

Research limitations/implications – This paper only focuses on one crisis event. Further research is required with other inter-organisational groups formed to lead a cross-industry response to a crisis.

Practical implications – This case study provides a model for cross-industry pre-crisis planning and post-crisis renewal strategy where the aim is not to attribute blame, but to respond to a wider community of concerns and issues that are deemed to cross company and institutional boundaries.

Originality/value – The research demonstrates that the process of rebuilding stakeholder relationships and renewal is possible prior to any formal attribution of blame or apology.

Keywords Crisis, Corporate communications, Relationship management, Issues management, Oil industry, Stakeholders

Paper type Research paper

1. Introduction In 2009, after two serious incidents involving North Sea helicopters the cross-industry trade association Oil & Gas UK initiated The Helicopter Task Group (HTG). It operated from April 2009 to August 2010 and brought together 23 stakeholder groups to “act as the focalpoint forsharinginformation,adviceandlearningacross the industryandwithother stakeholders” (Oil & Gas UK, 2009, p. 13). A core objective was “to improve confidence in the safety of helicopter operations” among the workforce (Oil & Gas UK, 2010a).

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at

www.emeraldinsight.com/1356-3289.htm

Post-crisis communication

173

Received 13 June 2011 Accepted 12 December 2011

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

Vol. 17 No. 2, 2012 pp. 173-186

q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1356-3289

DOI 10.1108/13563281211220300

In October 2010, Bob Keiller, CEO of PSN Group, was honoured by the International Regulators Forum in recognition of “the great leadership Bob displayed in his role as chair of the group”. He was the first individual to receive the Global Offshore Safety award. The HTG “model of engagement” was replicated in the UK Oil Spill Prevention and Response Advisory Group (OSPRAG), a cross industry forum created to consider issues arising from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill (International Regulators Forum, 2010; Oil & Gas UK, 2010a).

Virtually any major emergency event that incurs multiple loss of life is subject to a long period of inquiry before official findings are released and any blame attributed. The official process can leave all those impacted in “a state of limbo” (Molloy, 2010, p. 1) and “the impression can appear that there is very little activity ongoing“ (Birnie, 2010, p. 1). It took more than two years for the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) to publish its investigative reports into the accident, which even then do not “apportion blame or liability” (Air Accidents Investigations Branch, 2010). The post-crisis period is further prolonged which both the Scottish Police and Crown Office and Procurator-Fiscal Service (COPFS) consider whether any civil action is required (Herald Scotland, 2011).

The collaborative aspect of HTG, as well as its temporary existence, positions it outside the majority of post-crisis communication theory which focuses on the restoration of image, or renewal of individual entities or a community (Coombs, 2009; Jaques, 2009; Jaques, 2010; Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010; Griffin Padgett and Allison, 2010). Discourse of renewal and Restorative Rhetoric (RR), are categories of post-crisis communications which go “beyond issues of blame and responsibility” to instead “recognize opportunities and set new standards for service”. Instead of “reducing the offensiveness of the occurrence and maintaining a positive image”, they facilitate “dialogue between the pubic and crisis leaders” with the aim “of creating consensus around efforts to rebuilt, recreate and reconstitute organisation”. (Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010, pp. 128, 133, 134).

Since the formation of the cross-industry HTG was an unprecedented tactic in the management of post-crisis issues within the oil industry, the rationale for using this single case study was its revelatory nature. The main research question was “how effective was the HTG as an inter-organisational, post-crisis communications strategy?”.

2. Background The total UK offshore workforce is around 43,000 (Mitchell and Braithwaite, 2008, p. 484). There are “more than 25,000 helicopter flights carrying a half million passengers each year between the oil and gas operations in the North Sea” (OilVoice.com, 2010).

On 18 February 2009, a Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma helicopter, operated by Bond Offshore Helicopters (Bond), ditched at sea enroute to the BP ETAP (Eastern Trough Area Project) platform with 18 persons onboard (Osborne, 2009). All survived; confidence in UK oil and gas industry emergency procedures was apparently high (Bates et al., 2009; Gunn, 2009).

Within six weeks however, there were two further incidents, both fatal. On 12 March a Sikorsky S92-A helicopter operated by Cougar Helicopters crashed offshore of

CCIJ 17,2

174

Newfoundland, Canada, causing 17 fatalities; only 1 of 18 persons survived. Though the accident was in Canada, the Sikorsky S92 is also flown in the North Sea. On April 1, Flight 85N, a Eurocopter AS332 L2 Super Puma Mk 2, again operated by Bond, ditched in the North Sea while returning from BP Miller platform, resulting in 16 fatalities (Tonelli, 2009).

Between 1976 and 2006, over 50 million passengers were transported to and from UK offshore oil installations. In almost the same period, 1976-2009, there were 31 helicopter accidents, of which 12 were fatal, resulting in the loss of 118 lives (CAA, personal communication. 19 April 2011). Responsibility for regulating UK offshore health and safety and aviation safety resides with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) respectively (Health and Safety Executive, 2005).

A 2007 report describes the “long held perception” of the workforce that “offshore helicopter operations are a high risk mode of transport”, even its accident rate is “of a similar order” to car transportation (Oil & Gas UK, 2007, pp. 5, 7).

During a crisis, confidence is undermined and the efficacy of preventative measures is brought into question as the regional paper reflected:

Three major incidents in such a short time will again focus attention on safety procedures, maintenance regimes and possible equipment failures. It will hit the confidence of all who use these aerial workhorses of the North Sea (Press & Journal, 2009).

Offshore workers and contractor companies have no choice as to which operator they use. Helicopter travel is viewed “as part of the contract” (Mitchell and Braithwaite, 2008). Within two weeks of the Flight 85N accident, the pilots union BALPA was calling for a cross-industry safety summit. Regional organisers of both the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), and Unite, Britain’s largest union, who collectively represent thousands of offshore workers, were lobbying for the entire Superpuma L2 fleet to be grounded until a full explanation could be given (Bell, 2009). In the Scottish Parliament, First Minister Alex Salmond said that a public inquiry should be held (Crighton, 2009).

The 1992 Cormorant Alpha helicopter crash was described by one Union representative as a low point in terms of communication between stakeholders “because it epitomised what we all thought was wrong with the industry” (Molloy, 2010, p. 4). In 2009 there was potential for another hostile standoff. The industry however adopted a proactive stance, formed the Helicopter Task Group and opened dialogue with its stakeholders.

Literature review A literature search was conducted to build the conceptual framework of post-crisis communication and provided a reference for the methods of research and analysis (Hart, 2005). Sellnow et al. (2010, pp. 656, 660) propose that potential advantages may include: an increase in “credible reputation” through the “halo effect”, and “collaborative advantage” through combining knowledge, skills, resources and sharing risk. Heath suggests that, providing imbalances between participants can be managed, organisations can work “collectively to achieve superior operating standards

Post-crisis communication

175

and to foster mutually beneficial relationships with their stakeholders”, (Sellnow et al., 2010, p. 661).

Coombs (2007, p. 135) suggests that post-crisis communication is “what management says and does after a crisis” but Jaques (2009, pp. 35, 37) found little consensus on the “definition or parameters” for the concept. Heath and Millar state that post-crisis communication “demonstrates how, why and when the organization has put things right, as well as what it plans to do to prevent the recurrence of similar crises” ( Jaques, 2009, p. 36). Seeger and Griffin Padgett (2010, pp. 127, 128) see the post-crisis phase merging with the communication elements of “emergency management and response” as well as “risk perception and communication” because “a crisis creates high levels of uncertainty with key stakeholders” which in turn generates a high demand for information. In crisis and post-crisis stages, “representatives, leaders or spokespersons for organisations associated with a crisis are usually called on to offer explanations and accounts” (Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010).

Jaques (2009, p. 37) divides post-crisis communication approaches between “responsive” and “prospective”. Responsive strategies are characterised by a “post mortem” evaluation of blame, action to prevent future crises, lessons learned, return to control and closure. Typically they are “framed within the rhetorical tradition of apologia, or a discourse of defence”, as captured by Benoit which, according to Seeger and Griffin Padgett (2010, p. 130), remains “the most comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding post-crisis communication”. Benoit’s image-restoration strategies include: “denial, evading responsibility, reducing offensiveness of the event, corrective action and mortification“, (Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010, p. 130). Benoit applied this last strategy, mortification, “to confess and beg forgiveness,” to the case study of the Exxon Valdez oil spill (Benoit, 1997, p. 181). Mortification remains the typical strategy of the oil industry because of its “negative crisis history” (Maresh and Williams, 2010, p. 297). Seeger and Griffin Padgett (2010, p. 132) warn however that focusing on image restoration tends to “reify a view of rhetoric as strategy and a tendency to view accusations of wrong doing as problems of image as opposed to issues of substance”, which “has the potential to contribute to the perception of public relations as spin”.

Prospective strategies prepare for “aftershocks” ( Jaques, 2009, p. 37). Jaques (2007, p. 154) argues, that while many management models “present ‘post-crisis’ and ‘recovery’ as synonymous, the risks to an organisation post-crisis can be even greater than the crisis” itself ( Jaques, 2007, p. 154). Jaques (2007, p. 155) also cites the Exxon Valdez oil spill as one example where mishandling of crisis and post-crisis communications “led directly to prolonged and high profile public issues which had an impact far beyond the original event” ( Jaques, 2009, p. 41). For Jaques (2010, p. 443) Exxon Valdez evolved through several crises:

[. . .] first an environmental crisis (a major oil spill), then a management crisis (slow and inadequate response), then a management/litigation issue (sustained legal and public review of management response), and finally an industry safety issue.

“Crisis response”, Heath (2006, p. 247) argues, is a narrative that begins with “pre-crisis conditions” and continues into the “happily ever after”. The BP Deepwater Horizon

CCIJ 17,2

176

spill of 2010 again drew Exxon into the public sphere to comment (Reuters, 2010). In 1986 Phelps described it as “puzzling” that “so many CEO’s and leaders failed to include disaster recovery planning and post-crisis management as a major part of their overall goals” ( Jaques, 2009, p. 37).

The discourse of renewal is a prospective strategy which “extends past image restoration to post-crisis innovation and adaptation of the organisation” ( Jaques, 2009, p. 37). It focuses on “the constitutive nature of discourse and the natural tendencies of organization and communities to self organise following crisis or disaster”. It goes “beyond issues of blame and responsibility to recognize opportunities and set new standards for service”. Instead of “reducing the offensiveness of the occurrence and maintaining a positive image”, discourse of renewal and the restorative rhetoric (RR) facilitate “dialogue between the pubic and crisis leaders” with the aim “of creating consensus around efforts to rebuilt, recreate and reconstitute organisation”. (Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010, pp. 128, 133, 134). Whereas the rhetorical tradition applies to a wider social or political discourse, the discourse of renewal concentrates on the “rhetorical contexts of disasters and crises, usually large in scale with immediate or potential impacts on the larger community”. (Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010, p. 134).

Coombs (2009, p. 246) cautions that renewal strategy is not appropriate for all organisations or crises types. He outlines four criteria for its application:

(1) a strong ethical standard for the organisation pre-crisis; (2) strong stakeholder relationships for an organisation pre-crisis; (3) a focus on life beyond the crisis rather than seeking to escape blame; and (4) engaging in effective crisis communication.

Seeger and Griffin Padgett (2010, pp. 139, 140) acknowledge that the “discourse of renewal may be limited to specific contexts and limited kinds of crises and disasters”. Through the discourse of renewal, a leader who can “best connect with the public, build trust and create a vision for the future” often emerges to offer comfort and guidance, while being credible, honest and committed (Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010, p. 135). Northouse (2009, p. 3) considers leadership as a relationship, where “influence and authority are shared”. According to Northouse (2009, p. 3) this leadership approach has “ethical overtones” because the leader must “work with followers to achieve their mutual purposes” and in order to achieve this, be aware of the “followers’ interests, ideas, positions, attitudes and motivations.” This model of leadership has close affinity with the normative two way symmetrical model of communication proposed by Grunig and Hunt (1984). The necessity for effective and equal dialogue is also raised in RR. Griffin Padgett and Allison (2010, p. 381) state that “in order to be an effective leader during a crisis, one must be considered authentic and have the ability to influence others”. The ability to communicate with stakeholder groups is a critical trait. “Leadership virtues, including credibility, honesty and commitment” are also “associated with renewing discourse” (Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010, p. 135). Research conducted by Schoenberg (2005) found that communication skills built on a foundation of authenticity and personal influence were identifiable components of an effective crisis leader. “Ethical communication and value-based approaches” are fundamental to discourse of renewal (Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010, p. 137).

Post-crisis communication

177

Griffin Padgett and Allison (2010, p. 380) offer a new category of prospective response, “Restorative Rhetoric (RR)”. Building on the discourse of renewal, it applies to community-wide disasters where “the crisis in question is not a result of an organisation’s unethical behaviour or a grave company mistake”. RR takes account of layers of societal and other contexts in the dialogue that follows a crisis. It considers the rhetoric of the leader that emerges through the crisis to “restore faith in a core set of values and beliefs, facilitate healing for victims directly affected by the crisis and wider audiences”, “create a sense of security” and “establish a vision for the future”. They propose that in this specific crisis category, restoration is achieved through a visible leader who steers the community through: “(1) initial reaction; (2) assessment of the crisis; (3) issues of blame; (4) healing and forgiveness; and (5) corrective action and rebuilding through rhetorical vision”. Within RR, only once blame is established can leadership “guide the wave of resolution toward healing and absolution” (Griffin Padgett and Allison, 2010, p. 380). Authenticity is considered important to achieve phases 4 and 5 in order to secure “buy-in for rebuilding efforts” (Griffin Padgett and Allison, 2010, p. 389).

3. Methodology Both qualitative and quantitative devices were employed to enable the triangulation of data and enhance the validity of the research findings (Damon and Holloway, 2002; Yin, 2003).

Preliminary meetings were held with persons directly involved in the 2009 helicopter accidents in UK and Canada. These were not recorded or transcribed as they were intended only to illuminate the key priorities for research.

Documents were collected from HTG, industry web sites and participant organisations. The researcher also attended the final two HTG meetings and a helicopter safety awareness course.

A short, self-administered pre-coded questionnaire containing 28 questions was used to test the effectiveness of the HTG at addressing workforce concerns. 270 questionnaires issued were issued at offshore training courses and safety event in June and July 2010. 179 (66 per cent return rate) were completed. Of the responses 44 (24.6 per cent) were invalid. The software package SPSS was used to examine relationships between variables in the 135 valid responses. No tests for statistical significance were made as the data set was too small.

Twelve qualitative semi-structured interviews were held with representatives from each stakeholder group in HTG. Each interview was based around 19 questions and lasted approximately 60 minutes. The full text of each was transcribed then distilled into tables of key quotes per theme from each interviewee in a process termed “meaning condensation” (Kvale, 2009, p. 106). A pseudonym has been used for those interviewees that asked to remain anonymous.

4. Results and discussion There were many advantages in the HTG being formed, the most strategic being that the oil industry was “seen to be addressing concerns” (Molloy, 2010, p. 1). The inclusivity of HTG avoided accusations of an “industry white wash or cover up” and

CCIJ 17,2

178

quelled the call for an independent form of scrutiny which may not necessarily have contributed any better toward learning lessons and improving safety (Keiller, 2010a, p. 10). HTG was established as mechanism to “project manage” future issues as well as immediate ones (Cooper, 2010, p. 1). This action agrees with the recommendation by Coombs (2007, 2009) and Jaques (2007, 2009) to have a post-crisis issues management strategy in place, as well as a pre-crisis one. Jaques (2009, p. 39, 2010, p. 443) believes that incorporating issues management within crisis planning, in a “joint-relational cycle” offers a holistic approach that anticipates “longer-term post crisis events, coroners’ inquests, judicial or political inquiries, prosecution, prolonged litigation and hostile media scrutiny.”

Arguably Bond and BP benefitted most as they were not left to deal with media and stakeholder questions alone. Because of the circumstances of the accident however, “nobody in their right mind was pointing the finger at BP saying this is your problem, your issue”. Although both aircraft were chartered by BP and operated by Bond, they were full of contractors from companies across the industry meaning it was “almost instantaneously” an industry, rather than a company event (Keiller, 2010a, p. 6). The UK oil industry recognised that “the enormity of the accident and its impact meant that the industry ought to be seen to be doing something collectively“ (Allen, 2010, p. 1). Collective action was also motivated in part by the relationship between the industry and helicopter transportation:

Our workforce don’t have a choice whether they want to fly if they want to stay in the industry and we want skilled people to stay in the industry, so as an industry it’s in our interest, our common interest to manage our response collectively (Cooper, 2010, p. 1).

HTG provided a central forum to exchange learning, identify and deal with issues, raise questions, and highlight and address concerns. Each participant could report confidently and with insider knowledge to their own organisations, the media, or any other external party on the status of different agenda items, as well as defend the decision to not include certain items: “people could speak powerfully about what was happening in a way where it was obvious that there was trust and mutual respect,“ (Cooper, 2010, p. 9). Transparent dialogue resulted in consistent messages coming from HTG despite its very diverse membership. The press would “not only speak with . . . Oil & Gas UK, they would be going to . . . [the Union] for a quote and . . . it was very rare that there was anything between the two of them” (Thompson, 2010, p. 12). There were “no dissenting voices with respect to what the outcomes were” because all had been involved in making the decisions (Munro, 2010, p. 12). It became difficult for organisations to refuse implement proposed changes because “you were saying no, potentially very publically, to your peers . . . against the backdrop of 16 people having lost their lives” (Keiller, 2010a, p. 12).

For some, such as the unions and safety representatives, the opportunity to “be equals with a permanent seat at the table” and to contribute fully toward each decision was new (Keiller, 2010a, p. 8). “We’d been on the sidelines shouting for years so to have the opportunity to actually be in the group and getting actively involved and hopefully exerting some influence, no brainer” (Molloy, 2010, p.8). One safety representative

Post-crisis communication

179

described feeling “equal” at the table and senior industry figures “really wanting to hear” what he had to say (Patrick, 2010, p. 9).

The heightened level of trust and co-operation is perhaps best exemplified in the relationship between the unions and Bond:

... The unions were extremely pragmatic and extremely supportive to the point they were commenting at times about the fact that the helicopter operators had done absolutely everything that they could have done (Munro, 2010, p. 10).

This comment was mirrored by a union representative who felt: “we had to get across to our members that everything our helicopter operators were doing was in accordance with the regulations as they stood” (Molloy, 2010, p. 15).

Anticipated long-term benefits include enhanced trust, co-operation and a greater willingness to work openly toward consensus. HTG improved mutual understanding of respective “roles and functions and positions” (Molloy, 2010, p. 18). This aspect was perhaps particularly true for agencies that interface with, but are external to, the oil industry, who find that instead of “several big companies,” those traditionally being “your Shells and BPs and Cheverons etc, we now have a multitude of companies” to work with across a “much more fragmented structure” (Birnie, 2010, p. 18; Thompson, 2010, p. 2).

HTG started with the immediate issues of co-ordinating relative response; providing a consistent voice to the workforce and media and sharing lessons learned, but moved on to create a programme of work to improve helicopter safety. All representatives strived to avoid it being a “lip service” committee (Patrick, 2010, p. 9). There was a “genuine desire to get to a different place” following a major tragedy that left senior management, the workforce and the wider community asking questions (Stephen, 2010, p. 10). “Rather than a lot of time being put on spin, time was put into getting everybody to contribute” (Taylor, 2010, p. 12). It was made “very clear right from the outset that we weren’t going to investigate the incident technically” (Allen, 2010, p. 10), but HTG did have a clear agenda to improve helicopter safety. This unifying purpose marries with the discourse of renewal which often is a “very explicit call to learn from the mistakes of the past and make something positive from the pain and loss” (Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010, pp. 137, 389) and stands in contrast to the mortification strategy typically adopted by the oil industry.

According to Seeger and Griffin Padgett (2010, p.137), a renewal leader is one that can “best connect with the public, build trust and create a vision for the future”. The HTG took on the role of the listening, visionary leader for the UK oil industry and its wider community. One regulator described the UK oil industry as “the listening industry”, adding, “There’s a lot to be learned from the oil industry” (Civil Aviation Authority, 2010). While HTG “generated a huge amount of trust”, it recognised it also “uncovered a lot of difficulties to be overcome” (Munro, 2010, p. 18).

Many interviewees emphasised the significance of Keiller as Chairman. His dynamism, credibility, commitment and “aura” prevented power imbalances within the group and connected him and HTG with wider audiences (Patrick, 2010, p. 7). He met with families of victims and personally added names and signed 1,400 letters that were posted direct to people’s homes. He also wrote a two page letter which was

CCIJ 17,2

180

distributed to all offshore staff within his own company and sent to all industry MDs for them to modify and cascade in their own organisations. He described this effort as “the only time I have taken this ‘direct’ approach” (Keiller, 2010b). His personal endeavour is in direct alignment with the discourse of renewal which is based in “ethical communication grounded in core values”, and fulfils “the traditional role of the leader or CEO as a comforting and guiding figure” (Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010, pp. 135, 136).

The benefits of HTG membership agree with the proposals by Sellnow et al. (2010, p. 661) of “collaborative advantage” and achievement of “superior operating standards”, as well as fostering “mutually beneficial relationships” with stakeholders. It is also true that another benefit of “credible reputation” was achieved but image restoration was collateral advantage, not a primary motive. Many participants were personally very close to the event. Seeger and Griffin Padgett (2010, pp. 134, 137) suggest that “renewal emerges from a more natural instinct to rebuild or reconstitute order following loss” and a “form of natural cooperation and healing emerges that is not primarily concerned with strategic portrayals of causation and blame”. As one interviewee described: “there’s always that feeling whenever there is a crisis of what have we missed, where did it go wrong... I would expect in any major crisis that people would ask those questions” (Civil Aviation Authority, 2010). The collaborative aspect to HTG enabled every member organisation to unite and reconnect “with a core set of values and beliefs”, in this case, helicopter safety (Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010, p. 133). As a representative from the emergency services observed: “they’re all in competition in a very competitive market for all the different contracts and so on, but in that quite tight area of safety they were all working very closely together” (Thompson, 2010, p. 18). The clear benefit of establishing and participating in the HTG was to collectively restate and demonstrate that industry level commitment and present a unified voice to its closest constituency, the workforce. The questionnaire results bore this out: 94.1 per cent (127) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “with regard to helicopter travel, ‘the UK has a high safety standard and all is done to make things as safe as possible’”. HTG also achieved its primary objective “to improve confidence in the safety of helicopter operations” (Oil & Gas UK, 2010a) as 75.4 per cent (66) of respondent agreed or strongly agreed that they feel better informed about safety issues surrounding helicopters at the time of the questionnaire, than prior to the accident of flight 85N.

5. Conclusion Coombs noted that “strong ethical standards” and “strong stakeholder relationships” must already be established in pre-crisis relations if renewal strategy is to be successfully applied. Additionally, the post-crisis strategy must “focus on life beyond the crisis” and engage “in effective crisis communication” (Coombs, 2009, p. 246). The UK oil industry has consistently invested in its safety culture; exchanging best practice through Step Change for Safety and building stakeholder relationships via Oil & Gas UK (Offshoretechnology.com, 2005). These existing regimes provided a basis of credibility and trust within the workforce that HTG was able to use in order to “learn

Post-crisis communication

181

from the mistakes of the past and make something positive from the pain and loss” (Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010, p. 137).

HTG focused on tangible deliverables rather than spin and reputation management in order to develop “new standards of service” (Seeger and Griffin Padgett, 2010, p. 128) in helicopter safety. In building credibility and authority through wide inclusion and open decision making, HTG ultimately was successful in imposing change on the industry through peer pressure at leadership level and largely silence the “the thousand armchair” and “talking head” experts who may otherwise have helped to stir a second crisis in the “aftermath” (Taylor, 2010, p. 19; Thompson, 2010, p. 11).

Those interviewed suggested that the maturity of the UK oil industry, its small size, relatively strong resources, proximity to its community and importantly, its pre-crisis inter-organisational communication and networking structures between different stakeholders, including the very existence of Oil and Gas UK, a trade association that represents both operators and contractors, were factors which created the context for the formation of HTG (Oil & Gas UK, 2010b). These pre-existing factors marry with Jaques (2007, 2009) proposal of a melded pre and post crisis joint relational cycle.

HTG differed from RR and discourse of renewal on a number of points. First, HTG was a collaborative, inter-organisational group and not the group that experienced the crisis. Second, the renewal process was not of an organisation, but rather with a “core set of values and beliefs” about the importance in which the oil industry held helicopter safety in the industry. Third, the AAIB investigative reports were not published for either incident through the lifespan of HTG and even when they were, AAIB does not “apportion blame or liability” (Air Accidents Investigations Branch, 2010). Griffin Padgett and Allison (2010, p. 380) propose that RR follows similar stages to that of crisis management, that is:

(1) initial reaction;

(2) assessment of the crisis;

(3) issues of blame;

(4) healing and forgiveness; and

(5) corrective action and rebuilding through rhetorical vision.

HTG was able to achieve leadership and authenticity through a group rather than an individual, thus and progress towards “healing” before issues of accountability and responsibility were resolved.

The research found that very little guidance and literature exists for organisations who face dealing with the post-crisis “limbo” between crisis event and attribution of blame and responsibility and who therefore must manage issues that arise in the crisis “aftermath” (Molloy, 2010, p. 21). RR focuses on the rhetoric role of individual leaders, but not on providing a framework across an industry or community, though in this case study, HTG was taken to be the “leader”.

HTG proved to be a very effective inter-organisational post-crisis communications strategy in response to tragic events that impacted a wide community. Further research is required to develop the discourse of renewal and RR into a holistic,

CCIJ 17,2

182

non-linear model of post-crisis communications that includes strategies for pre and post crisis issues management and collaborative, inter-organisational leadership toward community renewal.

RR is very limited in its application by requiring that “issues of blame” be resolved before progress can be made. HTG demonstrated that it is possible to make very practical steps toward renewal and the creation of “a sense of security” long before any formal findings of causation or responsibility are found and without compromising the integrity of official investigations (Griffin Padgett and Allison, 2010, p. 381).

6. Recommendations The clear evidence of HTG is that where a crisis scenario genuinely spans company boundaries, and where the aim is not to attribute blame but instead to provide an response to a wider community of concerns, post-crisis communications planning should be incorporated into any major event planning, preferably at a cross-industry level. The boundary spanning issue would include any crisis to a critical business component that the industry is dependent on, but is out with their control or manufacture. The recommendations that this research into HTG offer are:

. The “limbo” between a major crisis event and the official findings of any investigation should be anticipated and planned for.

. That inter-organisational collaboration brings many advantages where a crisis is deemed to genuinely span company boundaries.

. The success of an inter-organisational post-crisis response will depend at least in part on an existing dialogue of trust and co-operation and that this should be ongoing pre and post crisis (Figure 1).

. The perspective of “the wider community” should be heard and properly understood.

. Early leadership that engages in open dialogue is required.

. Pre and post-crisis communication planning should be melded together within a response and recovery plan.

Figure 1. Model of

inter-organisational relationships for pre and

post crisis planning in boundary spanning issues

Post-crisis communication

183

References

Air Accidents Investigations Branch (2010), available at: hwww.aaib.gov.uk/home/index.cfm (accessed 29 September 2010)

Allen, C. (2010), interview, 6 July, Aberdeen.

Bates, D., Grant, C. and Ellicott, C. (2009), “Miracle in the North Sea: all 18 passengers and crew saved as oil-rig helicopter ditches in the ocean”, Daily Mail, available at: www.dailymail.co. uk/news/article-1149285/Miracle-North-Sea-All-18-passengers-crew-saved-oil-rig- helicopter-ditches-ocean.html (accessed 25 Aprill 2010).

Bell, G. (2009), “Pilots demand safety summit in clamour to ground Super Puma”, The Press and Journal, available at: www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/1167352 (accessed 22 September 2010).

Benoit, W.L. (1997), “Image repair discourse and crisis communication”, Public Relations Review, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 177-86.

Birnie, I. (2010), interview, 28 July, Aberdeen.

Civil Aviation Authority (2010), interview with CAA representative, 24 August, Aberdeen.

Coombs, W.T. (2007), “Attribution theory as a guide for post-crisis communication research”, Public Relations Review, Vol. 33 No. 2, pp. 135-9.

Coombs, W.T. (2009), “Crisis, crisis communication, reputation and rhetoric”, in Heath, R.L., Toth, E.L. and Waymer, D. (Eds), Rhetorical and Critical Approaches to Public Relations II, Routledge, Oxford, pp. 237-52.

Cooper, D. (2010), interview, 6 July, Aberdeen.

Crighton, R. (2009), “Seabed search for clues to Super Puma crash mystery”, The Press and Journal, available at: www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/1162652?UserKey¼ (accessed 25 April 2010).

Damon, C. and Holloway, I. (2002), Qualitative Research Methods in Public Relations and Marketing Communications, Routledge, New York, NY.

Griffin Padgett, D. and Allison, D. (2010), “Making a case for restorative rhetoric: Mayor Rudolph Giuliani & Mayor Ray Nagin’s response to disaster”, Communication Monographs, Vol. 77 No. 3, pp. 376-92.

Grunig, J.E. and Hunt, T. (1984), Managing Public Relations, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, NY.

Gunn, D. (2009), “North Sea helicopter crash: rescued workers ‘in good spirits’”, The Scotsman, available at: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/latestnews/North-Sea-helicopter-crash- Rescued.4996388.jp (accessed 25 April 2010).

Hart, C. (2005), Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination, Sage Publications, London.

Health and Safety Executive (2005), How Offshore Helicopter Travel is Regulated, Health and Safety Executive, Bootle.

Heath, R.L. (2006), “Best practices in crisis communication: evolution of practice through research”, Journal of Applied Communication Research, Vol. 34 No. 3, pp. 245-8.

Herald Scotland (2011), “North Sea helicopter crash caused by gearbox failure”, Herald and Times Group, available at: www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/north-sea- helicopter-crash-caused-by-gearbox-failure-mother-speaks-of-rape-victim-suicide. 15919098 (accessed 25 November 2011).

CCIJ 17,2

184

International Regulators Forum (2010), “International Regulators Forum global offshore safety awards”, International Regulators Forum, available at: www.irfoffshoresafety.com/ awards/2010awards.aspx (accessed 20 April 2011).

Jaques, T. (2007), “Issue management and crisis management: an integrated, non-linear, relational construct”, Public Relations Review, Vol. 33 No. 2, pp. 147-57.

Jaques, T. (2009), “Issue management as a post-crisis discipline: identifying and responding to issue impacts beyond the crisis”, Journal of Public Affairs, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 35-44.

Jaques, T. (2010), “Embedding issue management: from process to policy”, in Heath, R.L. (Ed.), The Sage Handbook of Public Relations, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Keiller, R. (2010a), interview, 21 July, Aberdeen.

Keiller, R. (2010b), personal communication, 22 July.

Kvale, S. (2009), Doing Interviews, Sage Publications, London.

Maresh, M. and Williams, D.E. (2010), “Oil industry crisis communication”, in Coombs, W.T. and Holladay, S.J. (Eds), The Handbook of Crisis Communication, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 285-300.

Mitchell, S.J. and Braithwaite, G.R. (2008), “Perceptions of safety and offshore helicopter travel”, International Journal of Energy, Vol. 2 No. 4, pp. 479-89.

Molloy, J. (2010), interview, 9 July, Aberdeen.

Munro, B. (2010), interview, 6 July, Aberdeen.

Northouse, P.G. (2009), Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Offshoretechnology.com (2005), “Step change for health and safety”, available at: www.offshore- technology.com/features/feature594/ (accessed 30 September 2010).

Oil & Gas UK (2007), UK Offshore Public Transport Helicopter Safety Record (1977-2006), Oil & Gas UK, London.

Oil & Gas UK (2009), “Industry task group focuses on helicopter safety”, Wireline, Vol. 9, June, p. 13.

Oil & Gas UK (2010a), “Knowledge centre: oil spill prevention and response advisory group”, available at: www.oilandgasuk.co.uk/knowledgecentre/OSPRAG.cfm (accessed 22 September 2010).

Oil & Gas UK (2010b), “About us”, available at: hwww.oilandgasuk.co.uk/aboutus/aboutus.cfm (accessed 30 September 2010)

OilVoice.com (2010), “North Sea helicopter traffic safety improves with Sensis wide area multilateration”, available at: www.oilvoice.com/n/North_Sea_Helicopter_Traffic_Safety_ Improves_with_Sensis_Wide_Area_Multilateration/509a018a1.aspx (accessed 22 September 2010).

Osborne, T. (2009), “AAIB releases preliminary report into Bond EC225 ditching”, The Shephard Group, Slough, available at: www.shephard.co.uk/news/rotorhub/aaib-releases- preliminary-report-into-bond-ec225-ditching/2220/ (accessed 22 September 2010).

Patrick, A. (2010), interview, 8 July, Aberdeen.

Press & Journal (2009), “Appalling loss of life: helicopter crash in North Sea”, Press & Journal, available at: www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/1151600 (accessed 22 September 2010).

Reuters (2010), “Special report: will the cleanup make the BP oil spill worse?”, Thompson Reuters, available at: www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6465O320100507?type¼ domesticNews (accessed 8 May 2010).

Post-crisis communication

185

Schoenberg, A.L. (2005), “Do crisis plans matter? A new perspective on leading during a crisis”, Public Relations Quarterly, Spring, pp. 2-6.

Seeger, M.W. and Griffin Padgett, D.R. (2010), “From image restoration to renewal: approaches to understanding postcrisis communication”, Review of Communication, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 127-41.

Sellnow, T.L., Veil, S.R. and Streifel, R.A. (2010), “Credibility seeking through an interorganisational alliance: instigating the Fen-Phen confrontation crisis”, in Coombs, W.T. and Holladay, S.J. (Eds), The Handbook of Crisis Communication, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 657-70.

Stephen, A. (2010), interview, 6 July, Aberdeen.

Taylor, B. (2010), interview, 13 July, Aberdeen.

Thompson, P. (2010), interview, 22 July, Aberdeen.

Tonelli, J. (2009), “Oil industry helicopter operations and safety performance review: update 2009”, Geophysical HSSE Subcommittee, International Association of Oil and Gas Producers, Weybridge, available at: www.iagc.org/attachments/contentmanagers/7823/ 08%20-%20OGP%20Geophysical%20HSSE%20SC%20Sept%202009_OGP% 20Aviation%20SC%20.pdf (accessed 19 April 2010).

Yin, R.K. (2003), Case Study Research, Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA.

About the authors Joanna McDonald works as a freelance communications consultant. She has a background in maritime emergency response and worked as a search and rescue professional for over ten years, which included providing training to support the UK oil and gas industry. As CEO of the Ugandan NGO National Lake Rescue Institute she was responsible for relationship and stakeholder management activities with beneficiary communities, donors, corporate partners and government. Joanna McDonald is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: [email protected]

Isabella Crawford is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Communication, Marketing and Media and her main areas of teaching and research are public relations and corporate communication. Isabella worked in the communications industry for 11 years and joined RGU in July 2005. Her primary research interests include the design, practice and impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies within developed economies. She is also interested in the changing role and perceptions of public relations within the NHS following the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act. In 2007/2008 she was the Principal Investigator for an externally funded research project examining the CSR strategy for a major oil and gas company. This research revealed a gap between academic and public perceptions of CSR. It also introduced a new analytical model for testing the value of different CSR strategies against core criteria.

CCIJ 17,2

186

To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: [email protected] Or visit our web site for further details: www.emeraldinsight.com/reprints

Attachment 5

Public Relations Review 33 (2007) 135–139

Attribution Theory as a guide for post-crisis communication research

W. Timothy Coombs ∗ Communication Studies, Eastern Illinois University, 600 Lincoln Avenue, Charleston, IL 61920, USA

Received 1 November 2006; received in revised form 1 November 2006; accepted 20 November 2006

Abstract

The field of crisis communication is poised to take the next in its evolution. Now is the time to move beyond the limits of the case study methods that shape the field’s development and shift to empirical methods. As the field matures, crisis managers need recommendations that are based on scientifically tested evidence rather than speculation. The argument for scientifically tested evidence for action is based on the evidence-based in management and medicine. This article discusses the role Attribution Theory has played and can continue to play in building scientifically tested evidence for crisis managers as well as providing an integrative mechanism for the diverse crisis research that spans a variety of disciplines. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Crisis communication; Attribution Theory; Crisis

Post-crisis communication, what management says and does after a crisis, is a robust area of research in communication and management. While prolific, the post-crisis communication research is often disjointed and atheoretical. Much of the extant writings consist of lists of what “to do” and what “not to do” drawn from case studies. Moreover, the case studies tend to be based on mediated accounts of the crisis and do not involve interviews with those involved in the crisis. What is underrepresented are theory-based studies designed to systematically identify and model the key variables in post-crisis communication. We “know” little about how people react to crises or crisis responses given the lack of experimental study of the phenomenon (Ahluwalia, Burnkrant, & Unnava, 2000; Dawar & Pillutla, 2000; Dean, 2004; Seeger, Sellnow, & Ulmer, 1998). What we need in crisis communication is a shift towards evidence-based management, the use of scientific evidence to guide managerial decision-making (Rousseau, 2005).

In communication-based crisis research, we have an over abundance of rhetorical studies that attempt to use descrip- tive data to claim issues of causality and theory building. There are also problems in preoccupations with finding “genres” in crisis communication that contribute little to theory development and testing. Apologia was a gateway for many into crisis communication. It was useful to think of organizations using communication to protect their public personas/reputations and provided a wealth of resources for developing crisis response strategies (Hearit, 2006). But that does not mean the genre should be the focal point of crisis communication. Some researchers seem bent on finding a new genre in every new crisis. Every crisis does have unique features. However, is it right to have a genre of one? Is not genre to be based on a pattern emerging from a number of works? Furthermore, of what value is discovering

∗ Tel.: +1 217 581 3324. E-mail address: [email protected]

0363-8111/$ – see front matter © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2006.11.016

136 W.T. Coombs / Public Relations Review 33 (2007) 135–139

another genre of crisis communication? While a valuable start for crisis communication, we seemed to have exhausted the yields from apologia. Post-crisis communication research can offer greater value to theory and practitioners if there is a grander picture that can unite and integrate the various “genres” in to usable applied knowledge.

Rhetorical cases’ studies provided the roots for the study of crisis communication in the communication field. It awakened us to the need to focus on what organizations say and do as well keyed us to the value of the situation in influencing crisis responses. However, the time has come to embrace the evolution of the field and influx of empirical studies of crisis communication (e.g., Arpan & Roskos-Ewoldsen, 2005; Dean, 2004; Huang, Lin, & Su, 2005). Crisis communication research should adopt the perspective of evidence-based management. This piece argues that Attribution Theory provides one useful beacon for this evolutionary track.

1. Attribution Theory as a guide

Two key traits of crises are that they are unexpected (we might know one might hit but not when) and negative. These are also the key characteristics that Attribution Theory expert Bernard Weiner identified as driving people’s need to search for causes of an event (Weiner, 1985,1986). It is logical to connect crises and Attribution Theory. Stakeholders will make attributions about the cause of a crisis; they will assess crisis responsibility. Was the crisis a result of situational factors or something the organization did? Indeed, extant research forges a link between Attribution Theory and crises (e.g., Bradford & Garrett, 1995; Coombs, 1995; Härtel, McColl-Kennedy & McDonald, 1998; Jorgensen, 1994,1996; McDonald & Härtel, 2000; Stockmyer, 1996).

The attributions stakeholders make about crisis responsibility have affective and behavioral consequences for an organization (Coombs & Holladay, 2005; McDonald & Härtel, 2000). If the organization is deemed responsible, the reputation will suffer. In turn, stakeholders may exit the relationship and/or create negative word-of-mouth. Management has a vested interest in preventing either of these two negative outcomes.

1.1. Early application of Attribution Theory to crisis

The first true studies of crisis communication appear in the management literature with works appearing in the 1980s. While the study of apologia pre-dates the 1980s, its application to crisis communication did not occur until the later 1980s. Mowen (1980) was among the first to systematically broach the idea of a crisis response. Mowen also initiated an important conceptual link for crisis communication, the use of Attribution Theory. Wiener (1986) built Attribution Theory on the premise that people need to assign responsibility for events. Attribution Theory posits that people look for the causes of events, especially unexpected and negative events. Most experts agree that a crisis is negative and unexpected. When using Attribution Theory, the threat of a crisis is largely a function of crisis responsibility/blame. Managers should evaluate the situation to determine which crisis response is best for the situation (Coombs, 1995, 2004; Mowen, 1980).

Product harm crises were used for the initial development of crisis communication. For product harm crises, four crisis response strategies have served as the focal point of research: denial, forced compliance, voluntary compliance, and super effort. Denial involves the organization claming there is no threat from their product. Voluntary compliance occurs when the government forces a recall or other remediation efforts. Voluntary compliance is when a company recalls or takes remediation efforts on its own accord. Super efforts involve voluntary compliance plus compensation and an extensive communication campaign to promote the effort (Siomkos & Kurzbard, 1994).

Researchers have documented that crises have negative effects on market share, sales of the recalled product, stock prices, purchase intention, and sales of other products by the company (taint-the-line) (Dawar, 1998; Siomkos & Kurzbard, 1994). The crisis response can reduce or eliminate these negative effects. It is important to note that management researchers look beyond reputation (character) to include other variables. Again, this is not just apologia. The management recognition of various outcomes more accurately reflects the demands faced by crisis managers. They are not just wrestling with reputational concerns but with legal and financial ones as well.

Bradford and Garrett (1995) applied Attribution Theory to ethical crises, a departure from the product harm line of research. Bradford and Garrett developed a model, based in Attribution Theory, which was designed to explain what crisis response to select based upon the nature of the ethical crisis. We find Attribution Theory has now been applied to a variety of crisis types. However, the research is made comparable by the theoretical linkage. The research shares similar theoretical and methodological assumptions.

W.T. Coombs / Public Relations Review 33 (2007) 135–139 137

1.2. Situational crisis communication theory

Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) applies Attribution Theory based ideas to a wider array of crises. SCCT draws upon experimental methods and social–psychological theory. This is true to the Attribution Theory roots of SCCT. SCCT advances and test hypotheses related to how perceptions of the crisis situation affect the crisis response and the effects of crisis responses on outcomes such as reputation, emotions, and purchase intention. SCCT research extends and is comparable to the early product harm and ethical crises research found in the management and marketing literatures.

SCCT begins with the crisis manager examining the crisis situation in order to assess the level of the reputational threat of a crisis. The threat is the amount of damage a crisis could inflict on the organization’s reputation if no action is taken. Three factors in the crisis situation shape the reputational threat: (1) initial crisis responsibility, (2) crisis history, and (3) relationship history/prior reputation. Crisis managers follow a two-step process for using these three factors to assess the reputational threat.

The first step in assessing the reputational threat is to determine the initial crisis responsibility attached to a crisis. Initial crisis responsibility is a function of stakeholder attributions of personal control for the crisis by the organization – how much stakeholders believe organizational actions caused the crisis (Coombs, 1995). Research has consistently demonstrated that increased attributions of crisis responsibility produce lower reputational scores – is a greater repu- tational threat (Coombs & Holladay, 1996,2002,2004). The initial assessment is based upon the crisis type. The crisis type is how the crisis is being framed. Frames are cues that stakeholders use to interpret crises (Coombs & Holladay, 2002; Dowling, 2002). A crisis type is a frame that indicates how people should interpret the crisis events. Was the event an accident, sabotage, or criminal negligence?

SCCT posits that each crisis type generates specific and predictable levels of crisis responsibility—attributions of organizational responsibility for the crisis. SCCT research has identified three crisis clusters based upon attributions of crisis responsibility by crisis type: (1) victim cluster has very weak attributions of crisis responsibility (natural disasters, workplace violence, product tampering, and rumor) and the organization is viewed as a victim of the event; (2) accidental cluster has minimal attributions of crisis responsibility (technical-error accident, technical-error product harm, and challenge) and the event was considered unintentional or uncontrollable by the organization; and (3) intentional cluster has very strong attributions of crisis responsibility (human-error accident, human-error product harm, and organizational misdeed) and the event was considered to be purposeful (Coombs & Holladay, 2002).

By identifying the crisis type, the crisis manager can determine how much crisis responsibility stakeholders will attribute to the organization at the onset of the crisis. In turn, crisis responsibility indicates the initial reputational threat because crisis responsibility has been proven to be negatively related to organizational reputation (Coombs & Holladay, 1996,2001).

The second step in assessing the threat involves two intensifying factors, consistency and distinctiveness, derived from Kelley’s principle of covariance (Kelley, 1972; Kelley & Michela, 1980; Martinko, Douglas, Ford & Gundlach, 2004). Consistency is operationalized as crisis history; whether or not an organization has had a similar crisis in the past. Consistency is high if an organization previously has had similar events. A history of crises suggests an organization has an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed. The organization is consistently having problems.

Distinctiveness is operationalized as relationship history/prior reputation; how well or poorly an organization has treated stakeholders in other contexts. Distinctiveness is low if the organization has a history of treating stakeholders badly. An organization shows little consideration for stakeholders across a number of domains, not just in this crisis. The crisis is not distinctive. Either high consistency or low distinctiveness increases the threat from a crisis. Each indicates that the crisis is part of a pattern of behaviors rather than an isolated incident (Coombs, 2004).

Distinctiveness (relationship history/prior reputation) and consistency (crisis history) have both a direct and indirect effect on the reputational threat posed by the crisis. Either low distinctiveness or high consistency will intensify attributions of crisis responsibility thereby indirectly affecting the reputational threat. Moreover, the two factors have a direct effect on the reputational threat that is separate from crisis responsibility (Coombs, 2004). Crisis history (consistency) and relationship history/prior reputation (distinctiveness) are used to adjust the initial assessment of the threat. SCCT posits that either a crisis history or a negative relationship history/prior reputation will intensify the reputational threat. Applied to crisis management, a victim crisis becomes treated as an accident crisis and an accident crisis becomes treated as an intentional crisis when either consistency is high (crisis history) or distinctiveness is low (negative relationship history) (Coombs & Holladay, 2001,2004).

138 W.T. Coombs / Public Relations Review 33 (2007) 135–139

The crisis response strategies vary in their perceived acceptance of responsibility for the crisis. SCCT’s general tenant is that as the reputational threat and negative affect increases, crisis managers should utilize crisis response strategies with the requisite level of accepting crisis responsibility. Put another way, crisis managers need to accept grater levels of responsibility as the reputational threat intensifies. SCCT has been applied beyond reputation. The factors shaping the reputational threat also serve to shape the affect generated by crisis and purchase intentions (Coombs & Holladay, 2005). Refer to Coombs (2006) for a fuller discussion of SCCT recommendations for post-crisis communication.

2. Integrative nature of Attribution Theory

Attribution Theory provides a common set of concepts and shared methods that allow for easier integration of research findings from different researchers. Kelly’s covariation principle is an example. Kelley’s work is built on the concepts of consensus, distinctiveness, and consistency (Kelley & Michela, 1980). Studies that share the use of covariation can be compared. The research will share experimental methods and how the variables should relate to one another. Exact operationalization of variables might differ but the consistent conceptualization of concepts results in similar operationalizations. The shared concepts and methods made it possible to integrate a number of diverse product harm crisis studies into one larger set of recommendations for crisis managers (Laufer & Coombs, 2006).

The idea for evidence-based management is derived from evidence-based medicine. The focus is on using scientif- ically proven results to guide actions in medicine and now management (Rousseau, 2005). This piece argues that we should extend the ideas to create evidence-based crisis communication and move away from the speculation offered by cases built from mediated reports of crises. Attribution Theory provides a mechanism for integrating the various studies of crisis communication to build a set of principles for evidence-based crisis communication.

3. Summary

Post-crisis communication research should continue along its newer, empirical track. Such research is providing tested results to crisis managers rather than speculation based on case studies. We move away from decisions based on unsystematic data toward evidence-based decisions. Attribution Theory is an historical and still viable theory for integrating crisis communication research. A common theoretical link allows for the integration of research from various researchers in diverse fields. We begin to build upon one another’s work and see how the pieces can begin to be integrated into a larger whole. Moreover, there is a broad research agenda to pursue based upon Attribution Theory. A partial list would include application of fundamental attribution error to crises and implications for crisis communication, the ability of crisis response strategies to shape perceptions of the crisis frames, how crisis response strategies can trigger the discounting principle, and relationship of crisis frames to counter-factual thinking. With Attribution Theory as a connecting point, diverse streams of research can converge into to a river of post-crisis communication knowledge that provides a mechanism for evidence-based crisis communication.

References

Ahluwalia, R., Burnkrant, R. E., & Unnava, H. R. (2000). Consumer response to negative publicity: The moderating role of commitment. Journal of Marketing Research, 27, 203–214.

Arpan, L. M., & Roskos-Ewoldsen, D. R. (2005). Stealing thunder: Analysis of the effects of proactive disclosure of crisis information. Public Relations Review, 31, 425–433.

Bradford, J. L., & Garrett, D. E. (1995). The effectiveness of corporate communicative responses to accusations of unethical behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 14, 875–892.

Coombs, W. T. (1995). Choosing the right words: The development of guidelines for the selection of the “appropriate” crisis response strategies. Management Communication Quarterly, 8, 447–476.

Coombs, W. T. (2004). Impact of past crises on current crisis communications: Insights from situational crisis communication theory. Journal of Business Communication, 41, 265–289.

Coombs, W. T. (2006). The protective powers of crisis response strategies: Managing reputational assets during a crisis. Journal of Promotion Management, 12, 241–260.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (1996). Communication and attributions in a crisis: An experimental study of crisis communication. Journal of Public Relations Research, 8, 279–295.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2001). An extended examination of the crisis situation: A fusion of the relational management and symbolic approaches. Journal of Public Relations Research, 13, 321–340.

W.T. Coombs / Public Relations Review 33 (2007) 135–139 139

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2002). Helping crisis managers protect reputational assets: Initial tests of the situational crisis communication theory. Management Communication Quarterly, 16, 165–186.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2004). Reasoned action in crisis communication: An attribution theory-based approach to crisis management. In D. P. Millar, & R. L. Heath (Eds.), Responding to crisis: A rhetorical approach to crisis communication (pp. 95–115). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2005). Exploratory study of stakeholder emotions: Affect and crisis. In N. M. Ashkanasy, W. J. Zerbe, & C. E. J. Hartel (Eds.), Research on emotion in organizations: Volume 1: The effect of affect in organizational settings (pp. 271–288). New York: Elsevier.

Dawar, N. (1998). Product-harm crises and the signaling ability of brands. International Studies of Management & Organization, 28, 109–119. Dawar, N., & Pillutla, M. M. (2000). Impact of product-harm crises on brand equity: The moderating role of consumer expectations. Journal of

Marketing Research, 27, 215–226. Dean, D. W. (2004). Consumer reaction to negative publicity: Effects of corporate reputation, response, and responsibility for a crisis event. Journal

of Business Communication, 41, 192–211. Dowling, G. (2002). Creating corporate reputations: Identity, image and performance. New York: Oxford University Press. Härtel, C., McColl-Kennedy, J. R., & McDonald, L. (1998). Incorporating attribution theory and the theory of reasoned action within an affective

events theory framework to produce a contingency predictive model of consumer reactions to organizational mishaps. Advances in Consumer Research, 25, 428–432.

Hearit, K. M. (2006). Crisis management by apology: Corporate response to allegations of wrongdoing. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Huang, Y. H., Lin, Y. H., & Su, S. H. (2005). Crisis communicative strategies in Taiwan: Category, continuum, and cultural implication. Public Relations Review, 31, 229–238.

Jorgensen, B. K. (1994). Consumer reaction to company-related disasters: The effect of multiple versus single explanations. Advances in Consumer Research, 21, 348–352.

Jorgensen, B. K. (1996). Components of consumer reaction to company-related mishaps: A structural equation model approach. Advances in Consumer Research, 23, 346–351.

Kelley, H. H. (1972). The process of causal attribution. American Psychologist, 28, 107–128. Kelley, H. H., & Michela, J. L. (1980). Attribution theory and research. Annual Review of Psychology, 31, 457–501. Laufer, D., & Coombs, W. T. (2006). How should a company respond to a product harm crisis? The role of corporate reputation and consumer-based

cues. Business Horizon, 10(2), 123–137. Martinko, M. J., Douglas, S. C., Ford, R., & Gundlach, M. J. (2004). Dues paying: A theoretical explication and conceptual model. Journal of

Management, 30, 49–69. McDonald, L., & Härtel, C. E. J. (2000). Applying the involvement construct to organisational crises. In Proceedings of the Australian and New

Zealand Marketing Academy Conference (pp. 799–803). Gold Coast, Australia: Griffith University, Department of Marketing. Mowen, J. C. (1980). Further information on consumer perceptions of product recalls. Advances in Consumer Research, 7, 519–523. Rousseau, D. M. (2005). Is there such a thing as “evidence-based management”? Academy of Management Review, 31, 256–269. Seeger, M. W., Sellnow, T. L., & Ulmer, R. R. (1998). Communication, organization, and crisis. In M. E. Roloff (Ed.), Communication Yearbook

21. Thousand Oaks (pp. 231–276). CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Siomkos, G. J., & Kurzbard, G. (1994). The hidden crisis in product harm crisis management. European Journal of Marketing, 28(2), 30–41. Stockmyer, J. (1996). Brands in crisis: Consumer help for deserving victims. Advances in Consumer Research, 23, 429–435. Weiner, B. (1985). An attributional theory of achievement motivation and emotion. Psychology Review, 92, 548–573. Weiner, B. (1986). An attributional theory of motivation and emotion. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.

  • Attribution Theory as a guide for post-crisis communication research
    • Attribution Theory as a guide
      • Early application of Attribution Theory to crisis
      • Situational crisis communication theory
    • Integrative nature of Attribution Theory
    • Summary
    • References

Attachment 6

International Journal of Communication 13(2019), 2026–2044 1932–8036/20190005

Copyright © 2019 (Nora Denner, Benno Viererbl, and Thomas Koch). Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd). Available at http://ijoc.org.

A Matter for the Boss? How Personalized Communication Affects

Recipients’ Perceptions of an Organization During a Crisis

NORA DENNER BENNO VIERERBL THOMAS KOCH

Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany

A crisis can pose a serious threat to an organization. Parties, NGOs, and companies alike need to secure their reputation when a crisis hits. When choosing an adequate crisis communication strategy, organizations must also decide who should communicate with the public. Although many organizations choose to place high-level executives such as the chairperson up front, few studies have analyzed the effects of personalized communication in times of crisis on an organization’s image or reputation. In the current study, therefore, we conduct two experiments to investigate the effects of personalized crisis communication. We vary both the crisis type and the level of personalization. Our findings suggest that personalized statements have a more favorable impact on an organization’s image than unpersonalized statements. Furthermore, statements from an organization’s leader are perceived as most appropriate, followed by those from a spokesperson and unpersonalized statements. Keywords: personalization, organizational communication, crisis communication, crisis management, reputation, leadership, experimental research Individuals have always been a central part of politics and economics. The role of politicians and

businesspeople, and especially the role of leaders, in political and economic processes has long been recognized (Gaines-Ross, 2000; Holtz-Bacha, Langer, & Merkle, 2014; Kaase, 1994; Park & Berger, 2004; Poguntke & Webb, 2005). The focus on individuals in communication is known as personalization. Political parties put their leaders up front while companies use CEO communication to engage with their stakeholders.

Recently, there has been considerable research interest in whether there is a trend toward more

personalization. Studies have examined institutional personalization (e.g., Webb & Poguntke, 2005; Zerfaß, Verčič, & Wiesenberg, 2016; for an overview in political communication, see Balmas, Rahat, Sheafer, & Shenhav, 2014) and media personalization (e.g., Balmas & Sheafer, 2013; Brettschneider & Vollbracht, 2011; Park & Berger, 2004; Rahat & Sheafer, 2007; for an overview in political communication, see Balmas

Nora Denner: [email protected] Benno Viererbl: [email protected] Thomas Koch: [email protected] Date submitted: 2018–10–29

International Journal of Communication 13(2019) A Matter for the Boss? 2027

et al., 2014). However, few scholars have investigated the effects of personalized communication on an organization’s or institution’s image (for exceptions, see Kruikemeier, van Noort, Vliegenthart, & de Vreese, 2013; Otto & Maier, 2016).

Effective communication can be crucial, particularly when an institution is in crisis. Party members

embezzle funds, ministers secretly employ family members, CEOs hide problems, or sudden accidents occur. If such incidents become public, there can be tremendous effects on an organization’s image and reputation (Benoit, 1995; Coombs, 2010). A crisis is defined as a reputational threat with a significant impact on the interaction between an organization and its stakeholders (Coombs, 2007). Research has shown that leaders are often in the focus of media coverage, presumably to demonstrate that the handling of the crisis is a high priority (Balmas & Sheafer, 2013; Brettschneider & Vollbracht, 2011; Eisenegger & Konieczny-Wössner, 2010). Therefore, organizations must treat crises as serious threats and apply effective crisis management (Barton, 2001; Coombs & Holladay, 2006). While many studies deal with the effects of different crisis response strategies and focus on what management or leadership says when facing a crisis, little is known about who should communicate with the public. Research does not explain how the perception of an organization is affected by whether a crisis response is given directly by the leader or by a spokesperson or whether the organization releases an unpersonalized statement. This question might depend on the type of crisis an organization faces. Coombs (2007) identifies different types of crisis based on the attribution of responsibility. The end-members of the continuum are victim crises characterized by weak attributions of responsibility (e.g., damage caused by natural disasters or false rumors) and preventable crises with very strong attributions of responsibility (e.g., violations of laws or regulations by management).

While the choice of an appropriate strategy depends on the type of crisis (Coombs, 2007), the

nature of the crisis could also affect recipients’ expectations. Building on previous research on personalization and crisis communication, we report the results of two experiments in which we investigate the effects of different levels of personalization and types of crisis on an organization’s image and the attribution of responsibility.

The Concept of Personalization

Personalization is a popular concept (Adam & Maier, 2010; Balmas & Sheafer, 2013; Rahat &

Sheafer, 2007) that has been extensively analyzed in the field of political communication (Adam & Maier, 2010; Balmas & Sheafer, 2013; Holtz-Bacha et al., 2014; Kaase, 1994; Karvonen, 2010; McAllister, 2007; Rahat & Sheafer, 2007; Reinemann & Wilke, 2007; Van Aelst, Sheafer, & Stanyer, 2012). However, there is still no general agreement on what exactly personalization means (Balmas et al., 2014; Hoffmann & Raupp, 2006; Van Aelst et al., 2012). One major problem within personalization research is the use of a broad range of conceptualizations and definitions. There is still no consensus on an exact definition (Adam & Maier, 2010), and the concept remains fragmented (Lengauer & Winder, 2013).

However, it is largely agreed that personalization refers to a trend (Brettschneider & Gabriel, 2002;

Kaase, 1994; Karvonen, 2010) toward an increasing representation of individuals over time. Personalization in the context of political communication means a shift in focus from issues to people and at the same time away from parties toward individual politicians and political leaders (Adam & Maier, 2010; Karvonen, 2010;

2028 Nora Denner, Benno Viererbl, and Thomas Koch International Journal of Communication 13(2019)

Santen & van Zoonen, 2009; Van Aelst et al., 2012). This understanding of personalization is not to be confused with the understanding in the context of customization of online content, for example, banner ads or recommendations. There seems to be a broad consensus that personalization may be situated in three areas—institutional, media, and behavioral personalization—and that it contains various subdimensions (e.g., Adam & Maier, 2010; Balmas et al., 2014; Langer, 2007; Reinemann & Wilke, 2007; Van Aelst et al., 2012).

Van Aelst et al. (2012) review different conceptualizations, operationalizations, and findings to

elaborate their own conceptualization of personalization. Based on the literature, they distinguish between two forms of personalization: individualization and privatization. Individualization describes how individuals have become a central focus of media coverage while institutions and organizations have become less relevant. Privatization refers to the description of people in high-level positions as ordinary persons; for example, the presentation of a party leader as a nature lover or as a passionate home handyman. Both dimensions can be divided into two subdimensions. That is, privatization may involve a shift either toward individuals’ personal characteristics (nonpolitical/nonprofessional traits) or personal lives (private life and personal interests). For individualization, the shift is either toward the greater visibility of individuals in general or the more concentrated visibility of leaders.

When looking at the use of leaders in communication, we can draw from both political

communication research and public relations research. Park and Berger (2004) find that coverage of CEOs in the four leading newspapers in the USA increased from 1990 to 2000. They also find evidence of increasingly positive reporting on CEOs. Brettschneider and Vollbracht (2011) look at the coverage of companies in Germany between 2002 and 2007 and find a general increase in topics related to management and the share of news coverage focusing on CEOs and other top executives. Zerfaß et al. (2016) examine the positioning of CEOs and other top executives in the public sphere. A majority of the analyzed companies positioned their CEOs and top executives, but only a minority guided these activities through a sound management process. Denner, Heitzler, and Koch (2018) find broad diversity in the media representation of CEOs in German news media articles. However, they find that rather strong personalization patterns are dominant: there is a strong focus on CEOs as leaders who are presented as individualists, planners, or spokespeople for the entire industry.

Political communication research can also contribute to the question of how leaders are perceived.

Balmas and Sheafer’s (2013) longitudinal analysis shows that media coverage of foreign countries focuses increasingly on state leaders rather than on countries as a whole. Reinemann and Wilke (2007) analyze German press coverage of German elections, 1949–2005, and found no evidence of media personalization, probably because the main focus has always been on the chancellor. However, the introduction of televised debates has meant that characteristics such as appearance and media performance have become more important. Heffernan and Webb (2005) find evidence that general election campaigns in Britain have become more candidate centered, with parties offering leaders greater prominence in their campaigns.

Political and economic organizations may use personalization as a strategic tool by involving

individuals (e.g., leaders or spokespersons) in their communication, thereby establishing a relationship between a cause (i.e., a crisis) and a responsible or affected person (Szyszka, 2010). Following the

International Journal of Communication 13(2019) A Matter for the Boss? 2029

assumption that the image of the leader can influence how partisan and stakeholder groups perceive and evaluate the organization, personalization may have a positive influence on perceptions in general (Brettschneider & Vollbracht, 2011). According to Fombrun (1996), an organization’s reputation is built on the numerous individual images of the organization held by various stakeholder groups. Observers inside and outside the company associate these images with the company (Barnett, Jermier, & Lafferty, 2006). These images bring together stakeholders’ reactions to the organization, which may differ among stakeholders in terms of valence (Fombrun, 1996).

The strategic use of individuals, especially leaders, in an organization’s external communication is

particularly important in crisis situations: When the leader is present and involved in external crisis communication, the crisis management appears more robust. This is especially helpful in situations where the integrity of an organization or its reputation is fundamentally at risk (Eisenegger, 2010; Eisenegger & Konieczny-Wössner, 2010; Imhof, 2010; Lucero, Tan Teng Kwang, & Pang, 2009). Research suggests that crisis communication managers hope to gain beneficial effects through individualized statements (i.e., Brettschneider & Vollbracht, 2011; Eisenegger & Konieczny-Wössner, 2010). We argue that individualized crisis communication emphasizes how seriously an organization is treating the critical incident. In turn, appearing to take crisis management seriously might positively affect public perception of the affected organization.

Crisis Communication

Crises can strike all types of organizations: political parties, city councils, family-run businesses,

large retail chains, and listed companies. Well-reasoned crisis management can reduce the loss of an organization’s reputation or image and can therefore palliate the aftermath of a crisis (Benoit, 1997; Coombs, 2010). To limit any potential damage, organizations may choose from a wide range of communication strategies (Benoit & Pang, 2008; Coombs, 2007, 2010). When determining an appropriate strategy, the organization must address a multitude of questions and issues. In addition to the actual content of a statement, organizations also need to address specific formal aspects—for example, the crisis history of the organization and its reputation (Ulmer, Sellnow, & Seeger, 2011).

Coombs’ (2007) situational crisis communication theory (SCCT) is one of the most applied and

prolific theory-based approaches for dealing with crises through communication (Ma & Zhan, 2016). A crisis can be defined as “the perception of an unpredictable event that threatens important expectancies of stakeholders and can seriously impact an organization’s performance and generate negative outcomes” (Coombs, 2007, p. 2). Following this definition, a crisis can be described as a reputational threat with a significant impact on the interaction between an organization and its stakeholders (Ulmer, 2001; Coombs, 2007). Based on attribution theory (B. Weiner, 1986; D. Weiner, 2006), SCCT links the crisis situation to specific crisis management strategies intended to protect the organization’s reputation. Attribution theory assumes that individuals consider the causes of a particular crisis situation and decide to whom they should attribute blame (B. Weiner, 1986).

To react to these attributions, SCCT proposes a two-step process for selecting an appropriate crisis

management strategy. The first step is to identify the extent to which the stakeholders hold the organization

2030 Nora Denner, Benno Viererbl, and Thomas Koch International Journal of Communication 13(2019)

accountable for the incident. The second is to consider the organization’s crisis history and reputation as these two factors have an impact on how responsibility is attributed (Coombs, 2010). This attribution of responsibility can play a key role in shaping perceptions of the organization’s reputation and stakeholders’ emotions and, indirectly, their behavior (Coombs, 2010). To counteract any negative effects, an appropriate crisis management strategy should be used to influence stakeholders’ perceptions in favor of the organization (Coombs, 2007).

For the first step, SCCT offers a systematization of crisis accountability and divides crisis types into

three clusters. The victim cluster includes crises in which the organization itself is also a victim. In this case, stakeholders attribute minimal responsibility to the organization. Typical examples are rumors, natural disasters, and other external events that damage the organization. The accidental cluster includes crises in which the organization’s actions leading to the crisis were unintentional, such as technical errors leading to a malfunction. Here, low or moderate responsibility is attributed to the organization. If an organization knowingly places people at risk, takes inappropriate actions, or violates laws and regulations, the crisis can be assigned to the preventable cluster, with a high attribution of responsibility (Coombs, 2007; Coombs & Holladay, 2001). Knowledge of the degree of responsibility stakeholders attribute to the organization is, among other factors, important in assessing the reputational threat of a crisis. If an organization bears the bulk of the responsibility for the crisis, there might be greater damage to its reputation, leading to angry stakeholders, declining customer loyalty, a poor public image, or a shift in the way stakeholders interact with the organization—for instance, through negative word-of-mouth communication (Coombs, 2007).

Therefore, organizations strategically try to protect their image in times of crises. In particular,

crisis managers hope to gain positive effects through statements voiced by individuals (Brettschneider & Vollbracht, 2011; Eisenegger & Konieczny-Wössner, 2010). While individual statements might emphasize the serious treatment of a crisis, they can evoke positive effects on public perception and enhance the perceived image of an organization. Accordingly, we state the following hypothesis:

H1: Personalized statements have a more positive effect on recipients’ perception of an organization’s

image than unpersonalized statements. If organizations choose to use personalized statements in their communication, they also need to

decide which individual should speak out on the issue. Following the conceptualization of Van Aelst et al. (2012), we can distinguish between different types of speakers. Personalized statements by the organizational leader clearly indicate a concentrated visibility as they show a focus on a high-ranking representative (Brettschneider & Vollbracht, 2011; Van Aelst et al., 2012). In contrast, statements made by a more generic spokesperson lack this leadership focus and reveal a higher visibility of individuals in general. Unpersonalized statements do not focus on high-ranking representatives or individuals in general. Research on political communication often considers the visibility of a country’s leader versus the visibility of the leader’s party or the country as a whole (Balmas & Sheafer, 2013; Rahat & Sheafer, 2007; Reinemann & Wilke, 2007; Wilke & Reinemann, 2001). Studies in the field of corporate communications demonstrate that the CEO is frequently deployed as a high-ranking representative of a company in external communications. Purposeful positioning of the organization’s leader, as a form of individualized, leadership- orientated personalization, might have a positive influence on the organization’s reputation. This assumption

International Journal of Communication 13(2019) A Matter for the Boss? 2031

is reinforced by the strong link between a CEO’s image and the reputation of the organization itself (Gaines- Ross, 2000; Mazur, 1999; Sauerhaft & Atkins, 1989). The intentional visibility of leaders can therefore be understood as an instrument to sharpen and enhance an organization’s profile or image (Park & Berger, 2004; Szyszka, 2010) while at the same time simplifying the issue (Balmas & Sheafer, 2013). If not the leader, it is likely that an official spokesperson will represent the organization in a crisis situation. Although such spokespersons are well trained and skilled in public communication, we claim that the leader as the highest representative of an organization has a more positive influence on the organization’s image. We therefore argue that the visibility of leaders enhances the perceived image of the organization more than the visibility of general representatives, such as spokespersons. Accordingly, we pose the following hypothesis:

H2: A personalized statement from an organization’s leader has a more positive effect on an

organization’s image than a personalized statement by a spokesperson. According to SCCT (Coombs, 2007) an organization’s crisis communication strategy needs to be

appropriately adapted to the specific crisis to be effective. While Coombs (2007) refers mainly to the content of an organization’s reaction, this need for specificity also applies to the formal aspects of crisis communication statements. Considering the high attribution of responsibility in preventable crises, the affected organization needs to show a great willingness for reparation to protect its public image and reputation. In the case of low or even no attribution of responsibility, a smaller effort might be made to repair and protect the organization’s image. In addition, the SCCT implies that a suitable and rapid response from the organization is essential in crisis communication. However, it is not only the content and speed of the response that are crucial: who communicates the crisis statement is also important (Arpan, 2002). Here, the choice of speaker should be adjusted to the severity of the crisis (Troester, 1991). In the event of severe corporate crises, CEOs often become the voice of the organization as they are perceived as credible moral authorities (Seeger & Ulmer, 2001). Corresponding to this, findings by Lee, Kim, and Wertz (2014) indicate that crisis statements given by the CEO could reduce perceived organizational crisis responsibility in cases of severe crises. These effects can be explained by the organization’s high commitment to alleviate the consequences of a crisis transported by the CEO statement (Lee et al., 2014). In cases of victim crises, such a high commitment might be perceived as not necessary or even inadequate. Thus, the expounded positive effects of personalized communication should have a stronger effect on an organization’s perceived image in a preventable crisis:

H3: Personalized statements have a more positive effect on an organization’s image in the case of a

preventable crisis than in the case of a victim crisis. By choosing a certain speaker to voice a personalized statement in a crisis situation, the

organization might also influence the way the public perceives and attributes responsibility for critical incidents (Szyszka, 2010). However, we believe a spokesperson is held less responsible for the critical incident as he or she is perceived only as a disseminator of information. We therefore state the following hypothesis:

H4: Recipients attribute more responsibility to an organization’s leader than to a spokesperson.

2032 Nora Denner, Benno Viererbl, and Thomas Koch International Journal of Communication 13(2019)

In addition to the effects of crisis statements on the organization’s image and attribution of responsibility, it is crucial to know whether such statements are perceived as appropriate. By appropriate we mean that the statement is perceived as suitable for responding to a crisis. Since an individual person gives the rather anonymous organization a “face” and provides an emotional touch for the communication (Brettschneider & Vollbracht, 2011; Park & Berger, 2004), we conclude that a personalized statement might help make a crisis response more appropriate: While the reputation of a representative can help shape the perception of an organization (Men, 2012; Sohn, Weaver Lariscy, & Tinkham, 2009), communication by the representative—that is, the organizational leader or a spokesperson—in a crisis context should evoke the impression of serious crisis management.

H5: In crisis communication, personalized statements are perceived as more appropriate than

unpersonalized statements. The assumed effects are based, in part, on the positive impact of the image of the organization’s

leader on the perception of the organization (Gaines-Ross, 2000; Mazur, 1999). Conversely, the question arises as to how the appearance of the organization’s leader in crisis communication affects the public perception of the leader. Alsop (2004) suggests that the image of an organization’s leader is inseparably linked to the image of the organization. However, few studies have addressed how personalized statements affect the image of an organization’s leader in different crisis scenarios. On the one hand, statements given by the leader could convey the impression that the crisis is being handled in a serious manner (Lucero et al., 2009) and thus will positively enhance the leader’s image. On the other hand, there might be the risk of transferring negative effects from the crisis to the leader. Therefore, we pose the following research question:

RQ1: How do personalized statements affect the image of an organizational leader in different types of

crisis?

Method

Overall We conducted two experiments in Germany. In both experiments, we used a 2 (crisis type:

preventable vs. victim) x 3 (personalization: not personalized/spokesperson/leader) between-subjects design. Participants were randomly assigned to one of six versions of a fictitious news article. In Experiment 1, participants read an article about the temporary ineffectiveness of a vaccine. The article mentioned the cause of the problem, a failure in the cold storage of either the (fictitious) manufacturer itself or an external supplier (factor 1). The organization published a press release that included statements from (a) the organization, (b) a spokesperson, or (c) the CEO as the leader of the organization (factor 2). In Experiment 2, participants read an article dealing with the failed construction of a children’s daycare center. The cause of the failure was either a bureaucratic mistake made by the responsible (fictitious) local council or an external law firm (factor 1). Similar to Experiment 1, the council published a press release including statements either from (a) the council, (b) a spokesperson, or (c) the mayor as the leader of the council (factor 2).

International Journal of Communication 13(2019) A Matter for the Boss? 2033

Stimuli In the first experiment, participants read an article describing a crisis situation at a (fictitious)

pharmaceutical organization, Prinox. The article criticized Prinox because a batch of its vaccine against mumps, measles, and rubella had been found to be ineffective. A breakdown of the refrigeration system was cited as the reason for its ineffectiveness. We chose this crisis scenario because it could be presented either as a victim crisis or a preventable crisis with just minor changes to the article; that is, the failed refrigeration system belonged either to Prinox itself or to an external supplier. To highlight this aspect, we varied the heading as well as two sentences in the first paragraph of the article. All other information on the crisis scenario was identical throughout all article versions.

In the second experiment, the presented news article described a crisis situation in a (fictitious)

municipality called Neustadt. The article describes the failed construction of a planned daycare center for children that could not be built because of a bureaucratic failure. For a two-month period, the local council had the right of first refusal on a centrally located piece of real estate. However, the council did not make use of the right and let the deadline pass. As a result, the city had to look for new land or face much higher costs. Again, this crisis scenario could plausibly be presented either as a victim or a preventable crisis. In the case of the victim crisis, an external law firm specializing in real estate let the deadline pass as a result of understaffing. In the case of the preventable crisis, the relevant council meeting did not reach a quorum, and therefore could not approve the land purchase, because many councilors were absent owing to an upcoming holiday. All other information on the crisis scenario was identical throughout all versions of the article.

As a second factor, we manipulated the level of personalization in both experiments. In the case

of the unpersonalized condition, the organization issued the statement (Experiment 1: Prinox; Experiment 2, Neustadt council). In the two personalized statement scenarios, a representative of the organization personally issued the statement. In Experiment 1, the representative was either the CEO or a spokesperson for Prinox; in Experiment 2, it was either the mayor of Neustadt or a spokesperson for the council. In all three cases, the article quoted the representative or the organization several times. If the leader or the spokesperson was quoted, the article stated the person’s name (the same name was used in each condition to exclude any interference effect) and repeatedly referred to his or her position (spokesperson or leader) within the organization. Except for the named descriptions, the statements were identical in all versions of the article.

At the end of the study, we provided extensive debriefing. All participants were informed about the

actual purpose of the investigation, the fictitiousness of the case was clarified in detail, and we apologized for the (necessary) deception.

Measures

Organization’s image. We relied on Koch, Denner, Viererbl, and Himmelreich (2019) for measuring

the organizational image. We adopted the items competent/incompetent and professional/unprofessional but replaced qualified/unqualified with reliable/unreliable. Consequently, we measured the organizational

2034 Nora Denner, Benno Viererbl, and Thomas Koch International Journal of Communication 13(2019)

image using three 5-point semantic differential scales (competent–incompetent, reliable–unreliable, professional–unprofessional) and used these to form an index (Experiment 1: M = 2.25, SD = 0.97, α = .86; Experiment 2: M = 3.62, SD = 0.89, α = .86).

Appropriateness of communication. Participants rated the appropriateness of communication on a

5-point semantic differential scale (appropriate–not appropriate; Experiment 1: M = 3.21, SD = 1.31; Experiment 2: M = 2.94, SD = 1.40).

Attribution of responsibility. We measured the attribution of responsibility for the crisis separately

for each player (organization, leader, and spokesperson) using a 5-point scale from 1 “no responsibility at all” to 5 “full responsibility” (Experiment 1: Morganization = 4.22, SDorganization = 1.02; Mleader = 3.55, SDleader = 0.97; Mspokesperson = 1.68, SDspokesperson = 1.35; Experiment 2: Morganization = 4.03, SDorganization = 0.89; Mleader = 3.10, SDleader = 1.02; Mspokesperson = 1.70, SDspokesperson = 0.95).

Image of the organization’s leader. We used the same items that we used to measure the

organizational image but replaced reliable/unreliable with capable/uncapable since we found it more suitable for measuring the image of a person. We measured the image of the organization’s leader with three items using 5-point semantic differential scales (competent–incompetent, capable–not capable, professional– unprofessional) and formed an index (M = 2.60, SD = 0.69, α = .80).

Participants

For Experiment 1, we recruited 211 participants (61% female; MAge = 31.5, SD = 11.9) via social

media. For Experiment 2, we recruited a student sample of 279 participants (72% female; MAge = 20.91, SD = 1.96) in several classes at a university.

Manipulation Check

We checked whether our manipulation of both independent variables was successful. For the

personalization factor, we asked participants whether a spokesperson, the leader, or the organization was cited in the article. In both experiments, 86% responded correctly (Experiment 1: χ2(6) = 319.67, p < .001; Experiment 2: χ2(4) = 348.15, p < .001). For the crisis type, we asked participants where the refrigeration breakdown or the bureaucratic failure occurred. In Experiment 1, 88% of the participants gave the correct answer corresponding to their assigned experimental group (χ2(3) = 128.16, p < .001), while in Experiment 2, 94% of the participants gave the correct answer (χ2(2) = 233.08, p < .001).

Results of Experiment 1

In Experiment 1, we investigated how the type of crisis and the degree of personalization affected

the organizational image, the perceived appropriateness of the organization’s communication, and the attribution of responsibility in a corporate setting.

International Journal of Communication 13(2019) A Matter for the Boss? 2035

Effects on the Organization’s Image

To analyze the effects of our treatment on an organization’s image, we calculated a two-way ANOVA. The analysis showed a significant main effect of crisis type on the organization’s image, F(1, 205) = 20.15, p < .001, η² = .09. Recipients perceived the organization’s image more positive in a crisis where it was perceived as a victim (M = 2.80, SD = 0.99) than in a preventable crisis for which it could be held responsible (M = 2.26, SD = 0.88).

Moreover, personalization had a significant main effect on the organization’s image, F(2, 205) =

5.91, p < .01, η² = .06. The post-hoc test revealed that a personalized statement by the CEO (MCEO = 2.76, SDCEO = 0.97) and by the spokesperson (Mspokesperson = 2.55, SDspokesperson = 0.98) led to a more positive perception of the image than an unpersonalized statement (M = 2.28, SD = 0.92). Thus, H1 is confirmed. However, there was no significant difference between the personalized statements made by the CEO and the spokesperson (p > .05). Therefore, we reject H2.

We found no significant interaction effect for our two experimental factors, F(2, 205) = 1.82, p >

.05, η² = .02. There seemed to be no interaction between the effects of crisis type and level of personalization on the organization’s image. H3 is therefore rejected.

Effects on the Attribution of Responsibility

According to H4, recipients should attribute more responsibility to the organization’s leader than to

a spokesperson. To test this assumption, we calculated a repeated measures ANOVA to control for the crisis type and degree of personalization. Comparison of the means for the two persons revealed considerable differences, F(1, 205) = 391.99, p < .001, η² = .66. In both crisis scenarios and independent from the degree of personalization, recipients attribute more responsibility to the CEO (Mpreventable = 3.28, SD = 1.38; Mvictim = 3.81, SD = 1.28) than to the spokesperson (Mpreventable = 1.73, SD = 0.97; Mvictim = 1.63, SD = 1.01). Thus, H4 is supported.

Effects on the Perceived Appropriateness of Crisis Communication

Finally, we analyzed the effects of crisis type and personalization on the perceived appropriateness of

the crisis communication. The analysis showed no significant main effect of crisis type on the perceived appropriateness of the statement, F(1, 205) = 1.96, p > .05, η² = .01. The perceived appropriateness was not affected by whether the crisis was presented as a victim crisis (M = 3.32, SD = 1.24) or a preventable crisis (M = 3.31, SD = 1.36). However, there was a significant main effect of personalization, F(2, 205) = 15.70, p < .001, η² = .13, on the perceived appropriateness. When the article cited the CEO’s personal statement, perceived appropriateness was higher (MCEO = 3.76, SDCEO = 1.22) than when it cited a spokesperson (Mspokesperson = 3.27, SDspokesperson = 1.23) or when it cited no individualized statement (M = 2.64, SD = 1.23). Post-hoc tests showed significant differences among all three groups. Therefore, H5 is confirmed.

2036 Nora Denner, Benno Viererbl, and Thomas Koch International Journal of Communication 13(2019)

Results of Experiment 2 Experiment 2 replicated Experiment 1, but used a political context. Again, we investigated how the

type of crisis and the degree of personalization affected the image of the organization, the perception of whether the organization’s communication was appropriate, and the attribution of responsibility. We also measured whether our experimental factors affected the perceived image of an organization’s leader.

Effects on an Organization’s Image

The analysis showed a significant main effect of crisis type on the organization’s image, F(1, 273)

= 118.03, p < .001, η² = .30. Recipients perceived the image more positively when the organization was presented as a victim (M = 2.87, SD = 0.85) than in a preventable crisis where the organization could be held responsible (M = 1.91, SD = 0.64).

Furthermore, personalization had a significant main effect on the organization’s image, F(2, 273)

= 4.21, p < .05, η² = .03. Post-hoc analyses revealed that a personalized statement by the mayor (Mmayor = 2.57, SDmayor = 0.94) led to a more positive image than a statement given by the spokesperson (Mspokesperson = 2.28, SDspokesperson = 0.92) or an unpersonalized statement (M = 2.31, SD = 0.78). This only partly confirms H1. There was a significant difference between the statement given by the mayor and the personalized statement by the spokesperson (p < .05), thereby providing support for H2.

As prior, we found no significant interaction effect for our two experimental factors, F(2, 273) =

0.46, p > .05, η² = .01. Consequently, our results revealed no relation between the effects of crisis type and level of personalization on the organization’s image. We therefore reject H3.

Effects on the Attribution of Responsibility

H4 postulates that recipients attribute more responsibility to an organization’s leader than to a

spokesperson. Again, we calculated a repeated measures ANOVA to control for the crisis type and degree of personalization. Comparison of the means for the two persons revealed considerable differences, F(1, 266) = 257.40, p < .001, η² = .49. In both crisis scenarios and independent from the degree of personalization, recipients attribute more responsibility to the mayor (Mpreventable = 3.21, SD = 1.01; Mvictim = 2.98, SD = 1.03) than to the spokesperson (Mpreventable = 1.73, SD = 0.97; Mvictim = 1.71, SD = 0.93). Thus, H4 is supported.

Effects on the Perceived Appropriateness of Crisis Communication

Next, we analyzed the effects of crisis type and personalization on the perceived appropriateness

of the crisis communication. We found a significant main effect of crisis type on the perceived appropriateness of the statement, F(1, 266) = 5.34, p < .05, η² = .02. The communication was perceived as more appropriate in the case of a preventable crisis (M = 3.54, SD = 1.00) than in the case of a victim crisis (M = 3.24, SD = 1.19).

International Journal of Communication 13(2019) A Matter for the Boss? 2037

We also found a significant main effect of the degree of personalization, F(2, 266) = 3.04, p < .05, η² = .03, on the perceived appropriateness. Statements given by the mayor (Mmayor = 3.50, SDmayor = 1.07) or a spokesperson (Mspokesperson = 3.51, SDspokesperson = 1.08) were perceived as more appropriate than statements given by the council (Mcouncil = 3.16, SDcouncil = 1.14). Hence, H5 is confirmed.

Effects on the Perception of an Organization’s Leader

Finally, we analyzed how the crisis type and the degree of personalization affected the perception

of an organization’s leader (RQ1). We found no significant main effect of the type of crisis on the perceived image of the organization’s leader, F(1, 272) = 2.95, p > .05, η² = .01. Hence, the perception of the leader did not differ between a victim crisis (M = 2.66, SD = 0.70) and a preventable crisis (M = 2.53, SD = 0.69). However, there was a significant main effect for the degree of personalization, F(2, 272) = 21.81, p < .001, η² = .14. A statement given by the mayor (Mmayor = 2.96, SDmayor = 0.75) affected the image more positively than a statement given by a spokesperson (Mspokesperson = 2.38, SDspokesperson = 0.59) or an unpersonalized statement (Mcouncil = 2.46, SDcouncil = 0.59). There was no significant interaction between the two factors, F(2, 272) = 0.41, p > .05, η² = .00.

Discussion

In two experiments this study examined the effects of personalized crisis communication on

recipients’ perception of an organization and its leaders by varying both the crisis type (preventable vs. victim crisis) and the level of personalization. The findings show that the image of an organization is assessed more positively when the crisis communication was personalized. This is especially the case when statements are made by the leader of an organization. Thus, it seems to pay off if CEOs personally convey messages in crisis situations.

Both experiments revealed consistent findings depending on the type of crisis: In the case of a

preventable crisis, the organization is perceived more negatively than in the case of a victim crisis. Furthermore, consistent with Coombs (2007), our results confirm that recipients attribute more responsibility to an organization and its representatives in the case of a preventable crisis. However, there was no interaction effect between the crisis type and the degree of personalization on the organization’s image. This leads us to conclude that the effects of individualized statements do not depend on a specific crisis type. Conversely, individualized crisis communication does not annul the effects arising from the attribution of responsibility for different types of crisis. The effects of perceived responsibility appear to be so strong that they cannot be overcome by communication-style factors such as individualized statements.

Because the attribution of responsibility plays an important role in crisis communication (Coombs,

2007), we took a closer look at who is held responsible in a crisis situation. As hypothesized, recipients attributed significantly less responsibility to the spokesperson than to an organization’s leader. Even if this finding seems not surprising at first, the strength of the effect is quite remarkable: While recipients attribute a lot of responsibility to an organization’s leader, both in the case of a preventable crisis and in the case of a victim crisis, the spokesperson is not held responsible. It seems that spokespersons are perceived as professional representatives who fulfill their duty by informing the public but are not the persons to blame

2038 Nora Denner, Benno Viererbl, and Thomas Koch International Journal of Communication 13(2019)

if something goes wrong in an organization. It might be that spokespersons are not perceived as part of the management and, hence, are not seen as having management responsibilities. This is particularly interesting as communication is often defined as a unique management function—recipients, however, seem to perceive spokespersons as minor employees.

In the appropriateness of the communication, we found that an individualized statement from the

leader was perceived as most appropriate, followed by a spokesperson’s statement and an unpersonalized statement. This is in line with our theoretical assumptions: If the leader is central to the organization’s communication in a crisis situation, stakeholders and the public are more likely to consider the organization to be taking the crisis seriously if the leader is placed up front (Lucero et al., 2009; Ucelli, 2002). Other, nonleadership representatives also convey the impression of strong crisis management, at least in comparison with unpersonalized statements.

Our findings on the effects on an organization’s leader’s image indicate that statements issued by

the leader have a more positive impact on the public’s perception of the leader than statements voiced by a spokesperson or the organization. Apparently, personal statements emphasize the leader’s competence and convey that both the company and the leading executives are taking the management of the crisis seriously. Hence, personalized crisis statements can enhance both the image of the organization and the perception of its leaders.

Overall, we find evidence that individualized statements may help an organization maintain its

image and improve the perception of its communication style. These positive effects of personalization are independent of the particular type of crisis. An organization can express its serious approach to crisis management through the use of individualized communication. In addition, statements given by the leader of an organization positively enhance the public’s perception of the leader.

Thus, our findings support the idea that personalized crisis statements can be used as a strategic

tool in crisis communication. Statements voiced by the CEO or other organization leaders evoke particularly positive effects on the perceived image of an organization. Although these effects are not affected by the type of crisis, the results contribute to the understanding of public perception processes in crisis communication. While Lee, Kim and Wertz (2014) show that statements voiced by the CEO could significantly lower public attributions of crisis responsibility, our study indicates similar favorable effects for the perceived image of both the organization and its leader. In terms of crisis responsibility, our findings show substantial differences among actors that should be further investigated in future studies.

Regarding the interpretation of our results, we must consider a number of limitations. First, our

experiment focused on the specific dimension of individualization, and thus we can only draw conclusions concerning this particular aspect of personalization. No inference can be drawn on how the privatization dimension affects the perception of an organization in crisis. Future research should address the question of how different types of personal information change the perceived image of an organization: does the effect depend on whether the information refers to personal characteristics (e.g., competence and performance) or to the details of an individual’s personal life? Furthermore, to test the effects of leadership- oriented individualization versus the general visibility of individuals, we chose to operationalize these

International Journal of Communication 13(2019) A Matter for the Boss? 2039

subdimensions using the leader and a spokesperson. Although the appearance of such players in public corporate statements tends to be common and externally valid, the findings do not necessarily apply to other public speakers. Further studies should test whether the use of different representatives for the two forms of individualization leads to different results, for example by comparing a board member with an ordinary employee. Likewise, further studies should focus on the question of how different personalities and personal backgrounds influence the effects of personalized crisis statements. Our study used fictitious organizations and leaders, and thus the recipients did not have any preexisting attitudes toward them. However, different characters are likely to evoke different public perceptions that interact with the effects of personalized crisis communication statements. This is particularly relevant against the background of the image transfer between an organization’s leader and the organization itself.

The second limitation is that the specific topics of the chosen crisis scenarios reduce the

generalizability of our results. Other scenarios might alter the effects reported here and should therefore be explored in future research. As varying degrees of involvement would be expected, follow-up studies could focus on personal involvement and sociodemographic variables, which might even enhance the effects of different crisis communication strategies. For example, if the issue of the crisis is important to the participants, they might process the information differently. Our subjects were comparatively young, so their perceptions probably differed from those of older recipients, especially with regard to the crisis scenario of Experiment 2.

Third, when measuring attitudes (i.e., perceived image), experimental designs cannot take into

account the long-term image-building process. Our study measures the perceived image directly after the reception of a single stimulus representing a totally fictitious scenario. Thus, the subjects’ perceptions were based on a single exposure. These limitations could be addressed using research designs that include multiple measurement points and/or several exposures to acts of corporate communication.

Fourth, we used single-item measures for appropriateness of communication as well as for

attribution of responsibility. A multi-item measurement would have been more precise. Additionally, a single item is also limited in its capability to provide enough points of discrimination, and we cannot display if the one-item measurements are reliable. In future studies, the measurement of those two items should be further elaborated, and multi-item scales should be used.

References Adam, S., & Maier, M. (2010). Personalization of politics: A critical review and agenda for research.

Communication Yearbook, 34, 213–257. doi:10.1080/23808985.2010.11679101 Alsop, R. J. (2004). The 18 immutable laws of corporate reputation: Creating, protecting and repairing

your most valuable asset. New York, NY: Dow Jones & Co.

2040 Nora Denner, Benno Viererbl, and Thomas Koch International Journal of Communication 13(2019)

Arpan, L. M. (2002). When in Rome? The effects of spokesperson ethnicity on audience evaluation of crisis communication. Journal of Business Communication, 39, 314–340. doi:10.1177/002194360203900302

Balmas, M., Rahat, G., Sheafer, T., & Shenhav, S. R. (2014). Two routes to personalized politics:

Centralized and decentralized personalization. Party Politics, 20, 37–51. doi:10.1177/1354068811436037

Balmas, M., & Sheafer, T. (2013). Leaders first, countries after: Mediated political personalization in the

international arena. Journal of Communication, 63, 454–475. doi:10.1111/jcom.12027 Barnett, M. L., Jermier, J. M., & Lafferty, B. A. (2006). Corporate reputation: The definitional landscape.

Corporate Reputation Review, 9, 26–38. doi:10.1057/palgrave.crr.1550012 Barton, L. (2001). Crisis in organizations II. Cincinnati, OH: South-Western College Pub. Benoit, W. L. (1995). Accounts, excuses, and apologies: A theory of image restoration. Albany, NY: State

University of New York Press. Benoit, W. L. (1997). Image repair discourse and crisis communication. Public Relations Review, 23,

177–186. doi:10.1016/S0363-8111(97)90023-0 Benoit, W. L., & Pang, A. (2008). Crisis communication and image repair discourse. In T. Hansen-Horn &

B. Neff (Eds.), Public relations: From theory to practice (pp. 244–261). Boston, MA: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.

Brettschneider, F., & Gabriel, O. W. (2002). The nonpersonalization of voting behavior in Germany. In

A. King (Ed.), Leaders’ personalities and the outcomes of democratic elections (pp. 127–157). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Brettschneider, F., & Vollbracht, M. (2011). Personalization of corporate coverage. In S. Helm, K. Liehr-

Gobbers, & S. Storck (Eds.), Reputation management (pp. 267–289). Heidelberg, Germany: Springer.

Coombs, W. T. (2007). Protecting organization reputations during a crisis: The development and

application of Situational Crisis Communication Theory. Corporate Reputation Review, 10, 163–176. doi:10.1057/palgrave.crr.1550049

Coombs, W. T. (2010). Parameters for crisis communication. In W. T. Coombs & S. J. Holladay (Eds.), The

handbook of crisis communication (pp. 17–53). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

International Journal of Communication 13(2019) A Matter for the Boss? 2041

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. (2001). An extended examination of the crisis situations: A fusion of the relational management and symbolic approaches. Journal of Public Relations Research, 13, 321– 340. doi:10.1207/S1532754XJPRR1304_03

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2006). Unpacking the halo effect: Reputation and crisis management.

Journal of Communication Management, 10, 123–137. doi:10.1108/13632540610664698 Denner, N., Heitzler, N., & Koch, T. (2018). Presentation of CEOs in the media: A framing analysis.

European Journal of Communication, 33, 271–289. doi:10.1177/0267323118763876 Eisenegger, M. (2010). Eine Phänomenologie der Personalisierung [A phenomenology of personalization].

In M. Eisenegger & S. Wehmeier (Eds.), Personalisierung in der Organisationskommunikation [Personalization in organizational communication] (pp. 11–26). Wiesbaden, Germany: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Eisenegger, M., & Konieczny-Wössner, E. (2010). Regularitäten personalisierter Reputationskonstitution in

der medienvermittelten Kommunikation [Regularities of personalized reputation constitution in media-mediated communication]. In M. Eisenegger & S. Wehmeier (Eds.), Personalisierung in der Organisationskommunikation [Personalization in organizational communication] (pp. 117–131). Wiesbaden, Germany: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Fombrun, C. J. (1996). Reputation: Realizing value from the corporate image. Boston, MA: Harvard

Business Press. Gaines-Ross, L. (2000). CEO reputation: A key factor in shareholder value. Corporate Reputation Review,

3, 366–370. doi:10.1057/palgrave.crr.1540127 Heffernan, R., & Webb, P. (2005). The British prime minister: Much more than “first among equals.” In

T. Poguntke & P. Webb (Eds.), The presidentialization of politics: A comparative study of modern democracies (pp. 26–62). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Hoffmann, J., & Raupp, J. (2006). Politische Personalisierung. Disziplinäre Zugänge und theoretische

Folgerungen [Political personalization. Disciplinary approaches and theoretical conclusions]. Publizistik, 51, 456–478. doi:10.1007/s11616-006-0240-y

Holtz-Bacha, C., Langer, A. I., & Merkle, S. (2014). The personalization of politics in comparative

perspective: Campaign coverage in Germany and the United Kingdom. European Journal of Communication, 29, 153–170. doi:10.1177/0267323113516727

Imhof, K. (2010). Personalisierte Ökonomie [Personalized economy]. In M. Eisenegger & S. Wehmeier

(Eds.), Personalisierung in der Organisationskommunikation [Personalization in organizational communication] (pp. 29–50). Wiesbaden, Germany: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

2042 Nora Denner, Benno Viererbl, and Thomas Koch International Journal of Communication 13(2019)

Kaase, M. (1994). Is there personalization in politics? Candidates and voting behaviour in Germany. International Political Science Review, 15, 211–230. doi:10.1177/019251219401500301

Karvonen, L. (2010). The personalisation of politics: A study of parliamentary democracies. Colchester,

UK: ECPR Press. Koch, T., Denner, N., Viererbl, B., & Himmelreich, S. (2019). Corporate responses to critical journalistic

interview requests: An experimental study on crisis prevention. Corporate Reputation Review, 22, 1–9. doi:10.1057/s41299-018-0054-7

Kruikemeier, S., van Noort, G., Vliegenthart, R., & de Vreese, C. H. (2013). Getting closer: The effects of

personalized and interactive online political communication. European Journal of Communication, 28, 53–66. doi:10.1177/0267323112464837

Langer, A. I. (2007). A historical exploration of the personalisation of politics in the print media: The

British prime ministers (1945–1999). Parliamentary Affairs, 60, 371–387. doi:10.1093/pa/gsm028

Lee, J., Kim, S., & Wertz, E. K. (2014). How spokesperson rank and selected media channels impact

perceptions in crisis communication. Public Relations Journal, 8(2), 1–21. Retrieved from http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Vol8/No2/

Lengauer, G., & Winder, G. (2013). (De)personalization of campaign communication: Individualization and

hierarchization in party press releases and media coverage in the 2008 Austrian parliamentary election campaign. Communications, 38(1), 13–39. doi:10.1515/commun-2013-0002

Lucero, M., Tan Teng Kwang, A., & Pang, A. (2009). Crisis leadership: When should the CEO step up?

Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 14, 234–248. doi:10.1108/13563280910980032

Ma, L., & Zhan, M. (2016). Effects on attributed responsibility and response strategies on organizational

reputation: A meta-analysis of situational crisis communication theory research. Journal of Public Relations Research, 28, 102–119. doi:10.1080/1062726X.2016.1166367

Mazur, L. (1999). Time to buff the chief executive’s global charisma. Marketing, 20, 20. McAllister, I. (2007). The personalization of politics. In R. J. Dalton & H.-D. Klingemann (Eds.), The Oxford

handbooks of political science: The Oxford handbook of political behaviour (pp. 571–588). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Men, L. R. (2012). CEO credibility, perceived organizational reputation, and employee engagement. Public

Relations Review, 38, 171–173. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2011.12.011

International Journal of Communication 13(2019) A Matter for the Boss? 2043

Otto, L., & Maier, M. (2016). Mediated and moderated effects of personalized political communication on political trust. Communications, 41, 21–45. doi:10.1515/commun-2015-0028

Park, D.-J., & Berger, B. K. (2004). The presentation of CEOs in the press, 1990–2000: Increasing

salience, positive valence, and a focus on competency and personal dimensions of image. Journal of Public Relations Research, 16, 93–125. doi:10.1207/s1532754xjprr1601_4

Poguntke, T., & Webb, P. (2005). The presidentialization of politics in democratic societies: A framework

for analysis. In T. Poguntke & P. Webb (Eds.), The presidentialization of politics: A comparative study of modern democracies (pp. 1–25). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Rahat, G., & Sheafer, T. (2007). The personalization(s) of politics: Israel, 1949–2003. Political

Communication, 24, 65–80. doi:10.1080/10584600601128739 Reinemann, C., & Wilke, J. (2007). It’s the debates, stupid! How the introduction of televised debates

changed the portrayal of chancellor candidates in the German press, 1949–2005. The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 12, 92–111. doi:10.1177/1081180X07307185

Santen, R., & van Zoonen, L. (2009, May). Popularization and personalization in political communication.

Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association, Chicago, IL.

Sauerhaft, S., & Atkins, C. (1989). Image wars: Protecting your organization when there’s no place to

hide. New York, NY: Wiley. Seeger, M. W., & Ulmer, R. R. (2001). Virtuous responses to organizational crisis: Aaron Feuerstein and

Milt Colt. Journal of Business Ethics, 31, 369–376. doi:10.1023/A:1010759319845 Sohn, Y. “YJ,” Weaver Lariscy, R., & Tinkham, S. F. (2009). The impact of CEO reputation: Negative news

and economic decisions. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 3, 1–18. doi:10.1080/15531180802606596

Szyszka, P. (2010). Personalisierung und CEO-Positionierung: Theoretische Reflektion eines

Praxisproblems. [Personalization and CEO positioning: Theoretical reflection of a practice problem]. In M. Eisenegger & S. Wehmeier (Eds.), Personalisierung in der Organisationskommunikation [Personalization in organizational communication] (pp. 91–114). Wiesbaden, Germany: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Troester, R. (1991). The corporate spokesperson in external organizational communication: What we

know and what we need to know. Management Communication Quarterly, 4, 528–540. doi:10.1177/0893318991004004006

2044 Nora Denner, Benno Viererbl, and Thomas Koch International Journal of Communication 13(2019)

Ucelli, L. (2002). The CEO’s “how to” guide to crisis communications. Strategy & Leadership, 30, 21–24. doi:10.1108/10878570210422111

Ulmer, R. R. (2001). Effective crisis management through established stakeholder relationships.

Management Communication Quarterly, 14, 590–615. doi:10.1177/0893318901144003 Ulmer, R. R., Sellnow, T. L., & Seeger, M. W. (2011). Effective crisis communication: Moving from crisis to

opportunity. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publishing. Van Aelst, P., Sheafer, T., & Stanyer, J. (2012). The personalization of mediated political communication:

A review of concepts, operationalizations and key findings. Journalism, 13, 203–220. doi:10.1177/1464884911427802

Webb, P., & Poguntke, T. (2005). The presidentalization of contemporary democratic politics: Evidence,

causes, and consequences. In T. Poguntke & P. Webb (Eds.), The presidentialization of politics: A comparative study of modern democracies (pp. 336–356). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Weiner, B. (1986). An attributional theory of motivation and emotion. New York, NY: Springer. Weiner, D. (2006). Crisis communications: Managing corporate reputation in the court of public opinion.

Ivey Business Journal. Retrieved from https://iveybusinessjournal.com/publication/crisis- communications-managing-corporate-reputation-in-the-court-of-public-opinion/

Wilke, J., & Reinemann, C. (2001). Do the candidates matter? Long-term trends of campaign coverage—

A study of the German press since 1949. European Journal of Communication, 16, 291–314. doi:10.1177/0267323101016003001

Zerfaß, A., Verčič, D., & Wiesenberg, M. (2016). Managing CEO communication and positioning: A cross-

national study among corporate communication leaders. Journal of Communication Management, 20, 37–55. doi:10.1108/JCOM-11-2014-0066

Attachment 7

Title:

Authors:

Source:

Document Type:

Subject Terms:

Abstract:

Full Text Word Count:

Accession Number:

Database:

Record: 1

Attribution Theory.

Thompson, Sherry

Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2019. 8p.

Article

Attribution (Social psychology)

Attribution theory is used to explain how people, who inherently work to organize and understand

their life experiences, will attribute their successes and failures to four factors: ability, effort, task

difficulty, and luck. Each of these factors has been analyzed using three characteristics (i.e., Locus

of Control, Stability, and Controllability). Attribution Theory also draws from principles of Motivation

Theory and Expectancy Theory to help explain how students' perceptions of their successes and

failures impacts persistence and resiliency. This article also includes some best practice suggestions

based on the tenets of attribution theory.

4832

89164082

Research Starters

Attribution Theory

Attribution theory is used to explain how people, who inherently work to organize and understand their life experiences, will attribute their

successes and failures to four factors: ability, effort, task difficulty, and luck. Each of these factors has been analyzed using three

characteristics (i.e., Locus of Control, Stability, and Controllability). Attribution Theory also draws from principles of Motivation Theory and

Expectancy Theory to help explain how students' perceptions of their successes and failures impacts persistence and resiliency. This article

also includes some best practice suggestions based on the tenets of attribution theory.

RESEARCH STARTERS

ACADEMIC TOPIC OVERVIEWS

Educational Psychology > Attribution Theory

Overview

What makes a winner win? Is it all in one's attitude? Why do some people with apparent talents never seem to achieve as others predict?

How can the interaction between a person's perceptions and the actual talents a person has be used to help each student reach full

potential? These types of questions are often answered through the application of attribution theory. Attribution theory originated as a

subsection of the theories of personality. Personality psychologists were working to describe what makes individuals unique by identifying

the relatively unchanging aspects of people that make them unique individuals. However, there were many different approaches to the

questions. Some psychologists focused on identifying and describing personality characteristics that define mental illness and poor social

adjustment (i.e., abnormal psychology). Others chose to focus on identifying and describing the personality characteristics of people viewed

as mentally healthy. They wanted to understand, and eventually be able to predict, why life events affect people in different ways. During

this period of time, psychologists divided into two camps that differed on whether they believed one's inborn traits are integral in

determining personality or whether the key factor is the environment in which one is reared (this argument has often been referred to as the

continuing nature/ nurture debate). Almost everyone has come to a realization that there is most likely a mix of the two influences that work

together to create uniqueness in individuals, although there is little agreement on how much of each are contributing to that mix (Ridley,

2003). Attribution theory is one of the theories formulated using an assumption that both inborn traits and one's environment will be

reflected in one's personality. It posits that people will inherently work to organize their observations as they try to make meaning of their

experiences.

This organizing will necessitate the creation of categories into which the observations can be sorted. The categories will be created and

labeled by each person and will be influenced by both personal temperament and life experiences (Weiner, Nierenberg, & Goldstein, 1976).

For example, two students might attend the same campus party and, on telling their friends about their weekends, one might describe the

party as fun and exciting while the other describes it as out of control and dangerous. The two students attended the same event but, based

on their temperaments and past experiences, chose different categories in which to store their memories of the party.

As the theory of attribution was further refined and developed, researchers realized its impact on how people are motivated, moving the

theory from ideas about what makes personalities unique to a theory of understanding how a student's self-perceptions intersect with all

learning experiences (i.e., social learning theory). More recently, researchers have linked attribution theory to expectancy theory, which has

helped them to better explain the role of persistence and resiliency in the learning process.

Explaining Behavior

Attribution theory says that people will interpret their successes and failures in life in a way that relates to their existing thinking and

behavior. It assumes that people try to figure out why they do what they do. The types of explanations people provide to explain their own

behaviors can predict how persistent they will be when faced with a difficult task in the future (Weiner, 1985).

Research suggests a student's self-perceptions will strongly influence performance and expectations for success. Self-perceptions also

influence the degree of effort a person will choose to put into a difficult or complex task. In most cases, a student will interpret his or her

environment in such a way as to maintain homeostasis (i.e., a stable version of one's internalized self-image) (Festinger, 1957). For

instance, if a person's self-perception is one of being a poor student, any success will be attributed to factors other than personal ability,

whereas a person whose self-perception is one of being a good student will tend to attribute successes to ability (Maatt, Nurmi, & Stattin,

2007).

The Three Attributes

Most theorists sort out explanations of success or failure using polarities of three attributes that can help define personality:

* Locus of control (Internal/External) - this indicates whether a person attributes successes and failures to personal characteristics and

behaviors or external circumstances (Rotter, 1975);

* Stability (Stable/Changeable) - this indicates whether a person believes the causes of success or failure can be easily changed; and

* Controllability (Controllable/Not Controllable) - this indicates whether a person believes the behavior or circumstance is something he or

she has the power to personally alter or whether that person believes it is out of his/her control (Weiner, Nierenberg, & Goldstein, 1976).

Theorists believe future academic success can be predicted by listening to how a person describes her or his current successes and

failures--combining the three attributes listed above with what the student expects to gain from the learning situation (Feather, 1988). These

three attributes can be used to help define four constructs associated with learning situations:

* Ability

* Effort

* Task difficulty

* Luck

Table 1 illustrates which attributes are most usually associated with each learning construct.

Table 1: Attribute Locations in Learning Constructs

Table 1: Attribute Locations in Learning Constructs

Ability Effort Task Difficulty Luck Int. Locus Control X X Ex. Locus Control X X Stable X X Changeable X X Controllable X Not Controllable

X X X

Locus of Control

Locus of control is best determined by finding who or what exercises the most control over the factors that lead to a learning outcome. If a

student believes personal characteristics or behaviors are primarily affecting the outcome of a situation, the locus of control is internal.

Some examples of internal control characteristics include attitude, intelligence, and ability. Some examples of internal control behaviors

include class attendance, time spent studying, and quality of effort put into studying. Hence, internal control factors can be defined as what

the student is personally contributing to the learning experience.

If a student believes external factors are primarily affecting the outcome of a learning experience, the locus of control is external. If a

student believes luck (good or bad) or classroom politics are primarily affecting the outcome of a learning experience, the locus of control is

external. Some examples of statements that attribute the outcome to external control include: "good thing I brought my lucky rabbit's foot";

"the gods are against me"; and "the teacher doesn't like me." Additionally, if a student is completely unable to predict the outcome of a

situation, it is considered a situation affected by external control (Rotter, 1966).

Locus of control is a very important variable in the attribution equation. Good students who believe luck is guiding their successes do not

appear to gain confidence in their own abilities to initiate success. They may not acquire the sense of self-efficacy that is so very important

in creating resiliency and persistence in difficult learning situations (Feather, 1988). Poor students who believe bad luck is guiding them are

not motivated to work at getting a better grasp of the materials that need to be learned. On the converse, good students who attribute

success solely to ability and do poorly on a test may have their faith in their abilities challenged, causing them to give up in despair.

Research suggests students do better in future learning situations when they attribute poor performance to external controls and credit

internal controls for their successes (Rotter, 1966).

Stability

The idea that ability, effort, task difficulty, and luck are either stable or changeable can be a bit confusing. Task difficulty and ability are

identified as stable, however practice and study can increase skills (thereby decreasing task difficulty) because of an increase in ability.

Students who are taught to rely on ability (which is an internal, stable factor) --and are also taught that ability can be changed with effort--

will develop a healthy resilience that will help motivate them to learn and persist in the face of failure (Rotter, 1975). Luck is identified as

changeable because general beliefs indicate luck changes at whim. Yet it is common knowledge that one can change one's own luck. It is

detrimental for students to believe their success or failure lies purely in luck. These students will have low motivation to develop new

learning strategies and will not be able to optimize the learning that can be gleaned from failures (Weiner, Nierenberg, & Goldstein, 1976).

Stability is best described as whether a student believes the causes of the learning outcome can be easily changed. People generally

spend a lot of time thinking about past activities and outcomes. For example, if a student fails a major exam he or she may spend

considerable time trying to determine what went wrong (this is sometimes referred to as the causative effect) (Darke & Freedman, 1997;

Weiner, Nierenberg, & Goldstein, 1976). The student might decide the failure happened because of staying up all night on the Internet and

not bothering to study. Or the student might attribute the poor test score to breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend just prior to the test.

These types of causes are considered changeable because they are circumstances the student would be able to change if that student

could convince the teacher to let him or her re-test. On the converse, this student might attribute the test failure on an inability to grasp the

subject contents despite best efforts at studying because the subject matter was too difficult for the student. Or the student may believe the

test was highly subjective and the teacher did not like the student. These types of causes would be considered stable because they would

be difficult or impossible to change in order to create success if the student could convince the teacher to give a second chance at the test.

Regardless of how the student perceives the learning outcome, he/she is developing expectations for future learning experiences.

Controllability

Controllability indicates whether a person believes the behavior or circumstance can be personally altered should the person choose to

alter it. Ability and task difficulty are generally perceived out of the student's purview of control. Luck is seen as partially in and partially out

of the person's purview of control. Effort is primarily seen as an action controlled by the individual; however, in the face of failure, a teacher

has great potential control a student's efforts.

Following the notion that good teaching will help children link ability to guided effort in the academic arena, some researchers have refined

the word effort by renaming it strategic effort. They say a teacher can teach strategic effort by helping a student understand that failures are

actually problem-solving situations for which the student will need to strategize in order to succeed (Clifford, 1984).

Expectancy Theory

Expectancy theory suggests a student will use past experiences to forecast probabilities for success in a new learning experience. The

perceived probability for success will contribute to the future behavior of the student (Mischel, Jeffrey, & Patterson, 1974; Weiner, 1991). If

the probability for success is too high or too low, then the student will likely put little time or effort into studying.

Research by Weiner, Nierenberg, and Goldstein (1976) strongly suggests expectancy of success is more closely correlated to stability than

to locus of control, meaning that a student's belief that the factors can be changed to alter future outcomes is very important in creating the

skill of persistence in students.

Expectancy theory was originated by Lewin (1938) as a theory of motivation. In 1957, Atkinson moved the theory neatly into achievement

motivation theory by suggesting that expectancies for success, based on past experiences, drive an individual's future persistence and

striving for success. Several psychologists have tested this theory in the real world and have expanded the definition set forth by Atkinson

to create a clear, robust theory that provides a model of achievement choices relating to persistence and self-concept in children based on

three constructs: expectancies for success, beliefs about ability or competence, and subjective task values (Feather, 1988; Wigfield, Tonks,

& Eccles, 2004).

Expectancy is a very important piece of the attribution equation when trying to predict outcomes in learning situations. It describes how the

previous experiences will contribute to determining how hard a student will be willing to work to master the material. When a student

perceives two situations to be similar, outcome expectancies will tend to be generally the same. Experiences in other similar situations will

influence what the student perceives as a potential outcome of the new situation, influencing the amount or quality of effort the student will

be willing to contribute to the learning situation. The more similar the situation, the more specific will be the expectancies developed by the

student. Also, the more experience the student has in similar learning situations, the stronger and more specific will be the expectancies of

the student (Wigfield, Tonks, & Eccles, 2004).

It is important to create learning situations in which students in younger grades can experience success. These students are developing

expectancies that will be carried with them throughout their academic experience. Teachers can take care to create expectancies that align

with what the children value in the school experience (e.g., belonging, love of learning, etc.) as they create a psychological atmosphere that

will likely stay with the child for the duration of the K-12 experience. Positive early learning experiences that result in outcomes that are tied

to a child's efforts and abilities will provide children the opportunity to develop perceptions and expectancies that will lead to academic

success. If a child has developed an expectancy of failure (i.e., learned helplessness), it is important for teachers to take time and effort to

alter the student's causal perceptions so that the child will be motivated to alter behaviors in or to create opportunities for future success

(Weiner, 1991). It is equally important to create learning situations in which new college-age students can experience success and develop

the skills needed to maintain resilience in difficult situations; this may come in handy during graduate school and during life in general.

Applications

Effort does not mean asking the student to continue to try without providing the guidance and skills necessary to succeed. It involves

devoting effective academic learning time to the task rather than just trying harder or spending more time doing what led to failure in the

first place. Effective teachers provide guidance to their students, allowing the students to learn from failure while providing avenues in which

the students can learn or improve the required skill set that can lead to success (Clifford, 1984). Telling a student who lacks the requisite

ability to generally "try harder" or that the student did not "try hard enough" will only frustrate that student; he or she will think the teacher is

accusing him or her of laziness when, in reality, that student may have worked very hard while lacking the requisite skills or study strategies

to succeed. The situation will not motivate the student to succeed nor will it cultivate academic resilience in the student. It is important to

understand that instructing a struggling student to generally try harder implies control for effort is in the student's purview when, in reality,

the guided effort provided by the teacher may be the only venue that will allow the student to succeed.

Additionally, allowing a student to fail repeatedly while making adequate efforts will discourage the student from making any serious efforts

to succeed; the student will stop believing in his or her personal ability and will stop believing the failure is tied to lack of effort. Skilled

teachers provide opportunities for success in between occasions of failure. This helps build resilience in students by helping establish a

sense of personal ability in each student coupled with a knowledge that guided effort can lead to task mastery (Wigfield, Tonks, & Eccles,

2004). Students with high ratings of self-esteem and high ratings of academic achievement tend to rate their successes as internal, stable,

and uncontrollable while rating their failures as external, changeable, and controllable. Additionally, they tend to report an expectation for

success (Weiner, 2000). Students who are high achievers are not reluctant to approach learning tasks. When faced with failure, they often

conclude bad luck or a poor exam was the reason. However, it is fallacious to allow children to believe ability is the sole contributor to

success or failure because they will often be intimidated by failure and quit prematurely, not realizing that a little practice or a little more

effort would have resulted in task mastery. On the converse, low achievers do not even use success positively. They attribute their success

to luck or some other external factor, avoiding the personal responsibility of bringing success to their assignments and thus divorcing

themselves from the notion that they can succeed. Educators of young children can encourage success and lifelong learning commitments

in students by helping them cultivate the belief that effort is personally initiated and will result in success. Children will acquire the skills

needed to maintain persistence in challenging academic tasks if they can be taught to attribute their successes to effort and ability and their

failures to lack of effort or bad luck (Feather, 1988).

Implementing Attribution Theory in the Classroom

How can teachers/professors construct a robust learning environment in which the students are motivated to succeed using the precepts of

attribution theory? Here are a few ideas:

Academic Diversity

K-12 teachers can diversify the learning experience by providing opportunities for students to enjoy successes relative to their own abilities.

Successes optimally based on measures of each student's past performance will build confidence and a sense of self-efficacy in each

student. Creating academic diversity can be a challenge--but it can be achieved. It might entail encouraging some students to complete a

research paper describing democracy while other students are completing a research paper contextualizing Stalin's life, leadership, and

eventual demise. It might include providing math problems at different levels of complexity for students of differing abilities. All students will

need to work through achievable challenges (i.e., not too easy and not too hard) if they are to develop an internal locus of control for

classroom success.

Continued Approval

Another important task that both teachers and professors can engage in to promote long-term resilience and self-efficacy is that of

providing high levels of approval to encourage the development of an expectancy of achievement in each student. Provide encouragement

and compliments when a student does well and attribute the student's success to internal control factors. When a student does poorly,

identify some external factors that may have interfered with the student's ability to succeed, being careful to verbally identify the successes

that may be interlaced with the poor performance (Lobel & Bempechat, 1993; Weiner, 1985).

Here is an example of the power of creating positive expectancies in a young student: A third grade student came bouncing out of the

classroom to read to a parent volunteer. The volunteer remembered the child (from kindergarten) as one who had struggled with learning to

read. She pulled out the lower-level readers as the boy sat down to read with her. The student smiled up at the volunteer and reminded her

that she had volunteered in his class during kindergarten. Then he said, "I was the best reader in that class!" The volunteer smiled to

herself and asked, "Wow, how did you know that?" The boy said, "My mom told me every day!" The subsequent reading session was a

delight as the boy demonstrated his now excellent reading ability. Good educators (and parents) never underestimate the power of their

words on students.

Regulate Classroom Competition

Take care with how competition in the classroom is utilized. Classroom competitions tend to reinforce a sense of ability in high-ability

students while diminishing a sense of ability in low-ability students. Competitions can lead to a sense of despair and lack of motivation in

children who are constantly and publicly bested by their peers or it can be utilized in ways that alert students to what skills or knowledge

sets they need to improve. Using general classroom competition sparely while encouraging students to improve their knowledge and skills

based on their own performances can work to encourage students to strengthen their belief in internal controls for success while also

allowing them to understand their own performances relative to the general class.

Terms & Concepts

Abnormal Psychology: The branch of psychology that studies the symptoms, causes, prevention, treatment, and complications of mental

and emotional disorders (i.e., neuroses, psychoses, and developmental disabilities) (Webster, 2001).

Construct: An abstract concept that has been made concrete by using testing or observable behaviors for the purposes of research (e.g., a

psychologist may make intelligence concrete by measuring it via test scores, a student's class performance, or an assessment by a

teacher).

Expectancy Theory: A commonly accepted theory that explains how people choose between alternative behaviors. Motivational force is

believed to be the driving factor in decision making and the strength of that force can be calculated by multiplying expected outcome by

performance expectations by value attached to the outcome. If any of the three variables is given a weight of zero, there will be no

motivation to perform.

Homeostasis: A stable balance: equilibrium. A tendency to try to maintain balance between interdependent elements. People will work to

balance personal beliefs with lived experiences, which may sometimes include ignoring or altering parts of the experiences that might

create imbalance in the belief system (Festinger, 1957).

Learned Helplessness: Individuals who are subject to negative experiences in which they believe they have no control over the outcome

will eventually stop taking any action to avoid the adverse outcome. Students who expect to fail and believe control of the outcome is not in

their hands will typically give up trying and passively suffer the adverse consequences (Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale, 1978).

Nature/Nurture Debate: Debates among members of the schools of psychology and philosophy over the relative importance of an

individual's innate qualities (i.e., nature) versus personal experiences (i.e., nurture) in determining individual differences in how people

behave. Studies grounded in genetic research suggest many key human traits should be, at least, partially attributed to innate qualities

possessed by the individual.

Polarities: A term that, when defined, encompasses opposite direction or contrasted properties. For example, the opposite polarities

included in the term "temperature" would be hot and cold.

Resiliency: The ability to keep going during very hard times without being overwhelmed or acting in dysfunctional or harmful ways.

Self-Efficacy: A person's beliefs regarding whether one has the power to create change with personal actions (Bandura, 1994).

Bibliography

Abramson, L. Y., Seligman, M. E., & Teasdale, J. D. (1978). Learned helplessness in humans; Critique and reformulation. Journal of

Abnormal Psychology, 87 , 49-74.

Atkinson, J. W. (1957). Motivational determinants of risk-taking behavior. Psychological Review, 64 , 359-372.

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Human Behavior 4, pp. 71-81. New York: Academic

Press.

Carless, S., & Waterworth, R. (2012). The importance of ability and effort in recruiters' hirability decisions: An empirical examination of

attribution theory. Australian Psychologist, 47 , 232-237. Retrieved December 11, 2013 from EBSCO Online Database Education Research

Complete. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=83512570&site=ehost-live

Clifford, M. M. (1984). Thoughts on a theory of constructive failure. Educational Psychologist, 19 , 108-120.

Darke P. R. & Freedman, J. L. (1997). The belief in good luck scale. Journal of Research in Personality, 31 , 486-511.

Demetriou, C. (2011). The attribution theory of learning and advising students on academic probation. NACADA Journal, 31 , 16-21.

Retrieved December 11, 2013 from EBSCO Online Database Education Research Complete.

http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=69855418&site=ehost-live

Feather, N. T. (1988). Added Values, valences, and course enrollment: Testing the role of personal values within an expectancy valence

framework. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80 , 381-391.

Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance . Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Lewin, K. (1938). The conceptual representation and measurement of psychological forces. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Lobel, T. E. & Bempechat, J. (1993). Children's need for approval and achievement motivation: An interactional approach. European

Journal of Personality, 7, 37-46.

Maatt, S., Nurmi, J. & Stattin, H. (2007). Achievement orientations, school adjustment, and well-being: A longitudinal study. Journal of

Research on Adolescence, 17 , 789-812. Retrieved November 24, 2007 from EBSCO online database, Education Research Complete,

http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=27727862&site=ehost-live

Mischel, W., Jeffery, K. M., & Patterson, C. J. (1974). The layman's use of trait and behavioral information to predict behavior. Journal of

Research in Personality, 8 , 231-242.

Ridley, M. (2003) Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes us Human. Harper Collins.

Rotter, J. B. (1975). Some problems and misconceptions related to the construct of internal versus external control of reinforcement.

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 43 , 56-67. Retrieved November 24, 2007 from EBSCO online database,

PsycARTICLES:%5FHL0:AN:ccp-43-1-56::%5F http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pdh&AN=ccp-

43-1-56&site=ehostlive%5Fhl%5F

Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monograph, 80, 1-28.

Webster's New World College Dictionary, 4th edition. (2001).

Weiner, B. (2000). Intrapersonal and interpersonal theories of motivation from an attributional perspective. Educational Psychology Review,

12 , 1-14. Retrieved November 24, 2007 from EBSCO online database, Academic Search Premier,

http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a2h&AN=3135215&site=ehost-live

Weiner, B. (1991). Metaphors in motivation and attribution. American Psychologist, 46 , 921-930. Weiner, B. (1985). An attributional theory

of achievement motivation and emotion. Psychological Review, 92 , 548-573.

Weiner, B. Nierenberg, R., & Goldstein, M. (1976), Social learning (locus of control) versus attributional (causal stability) interpretations of

expectancy of success. Journal of Personality, 44 , 52-48. Retrieved November 24, 2007 from EBSCO online database, Academic Search

Premier, http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=7379253&site=ehost-live

Wigfield, A., Tonks, S. & Eccles, J. S. (2004). Expectancy - value theory in cross-cultural perspective. In D. McInerney & S. Van Etten

(Eds.), Research on Sociocultural Influences on Motivation and Learning volume 4: Big Theories Revisited. Greenwich, CT: Information

Age Press.

Wintle, W. D. (1965). The man who thinks he can. In H. Felleman (Ed.), Poems That Live Forever. New York, NY: Doubleday.

Yui-Chung Chan, J., Keegan, J. P., Ditchman, N., Gonzalez, R., Xi Zheng, L., & Fong, C. (2011). Stigmatizing attributions and vocational

rehabilitation outcomes of people with disabilities. Rehabilitation Research, Policy & Education, 25 (3/4), 135-148. Retrieved December 11,

2013 from EBSCO Online Database Education Research Complete. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/login.aspx?

direct=true&db=ehh&AN=74648324&site=ehost-live

Suggested Reading

Borkowski, J. G., Schneider, W., & Pressley, M. (1989). The challenges of teaching good information processing to learning disabled

students. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 36 , 169-185.

Hsien, P. H. (2005). How college students explain their grades in a foreign language course: The interrelationship of attributions, self-

efficacy, language learning, beliefs, and achievement. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A, 65 (10-A).

Jones, E. E., Kannouse, H. H., Kelley, R. E., Nisbett, S. V., & Weiner, B. (Eds.). (1972). Attribution: Perceiving the Causes of Behavior.

Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press.

Peterson, S., & Schreiber, J. (2012). Personal and interpersonal motivation for group projects: Replications of an attributional analysis.

Educational Psychology Review, 24 , 287-311. Retrieved December 11, 2013 from EBSCO Online Database Education Research

Complete. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=74638577&site=ehost-live

Woodcock, S., & Vialle, W. (2011). Are we exacerbating students' learning disabilities? An investigation of preservice teachers' attributions

of the educational outcomes of students with learning disabilities. Annals of Dyslexia, 61 , 223-241. Retrieved December 11, 2013 from

EBSCO Online Database Education Research Complete. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/login.aspx?

direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67281134&site=ehost-live

~~~~~~~~

Essay by Sherry Thompson, Ed.D.

Dr. Sherry Thompson is a graduate of the University of Utah. She has written articles on workplace satisfaction, employee turnover, and the

impacts of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Her other areas of interest include ethics, agentic shift, and student supports in

higher education.

Copyright of Attribution Theory -- Research Starters Education is the property of Great Neck Publishing and its content may not be copied

or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print,

download, or email articles for individual use.

Attachment 8

See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230081321

Attribution Theory in the Organizational Sciences: A Case of Unrealized

Potential

Article  in  Journal of Organizational Behavior · January 2011

DOI: 10.1002/job.690

CITATIONS

116 READS

1,281

3 authors, including:

Some of the authors of this publication are also working on these related projects:

Measuring emotions View project

Paul Harvey

University of New Hampshire

63 PUBLICATIONS   2,544 CITATIONS   

SEE PROFILE

Marie Dasborough

University of Miami

90 PUBLICATIONS   2,158 CITATIONS   

SEE PROFILE

All content following this page was uploaded by Marie Dasborough on 05 November 2019.

The user has requested enhancement of the downloaded file.

Journal of Organizational Behavior

J. Organiz. Behav. 32, 144–149 (2011)

Published online 25 August 2010 in Wiley Online Library

(wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/job.690

The Attribution theory in the organizational

Incubator

*Please address corresp and [email protected]

Copyright # 2010

sciences: A case of unrealized potential

MARK J. MARTINKO1*, PAUL HARVEY2* AND

MARIE T. DASBOROUGH3* 1College of Business, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, U.S.A. 2Whittemore School of Business and Economics, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, U.S.A. 3School of Business, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, U.S.A.

Summary We argue that although attributional processes appear to affect virtually all goal and reward oriented behavior in organizations, they have not received adequate attention in the organ- izational sciences. In this Incubator, we encourage scholars to unlock the potential of attribution theory to develop more complete explanations of organizational behavior. Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Introduction

Attribution processes have been underutilized in the organizational sciences, yet have tremendous

potential to explain a wide range of workplace behaviors. The validity of attribution theory and the

tools to measure attributional processes are well-documented and frequently used by social

psychologists (Martinko, Douglas, & Harvey, 2006). We suspect that the underutilization of attribution

theory in the organizational sciences may have originated from concerns raised in the early-1980s that

cast attribution theory in an overly negative light. In this Incubator, we address those concerns and

demonstrate that attributions are relevant to many organizational phenomena, with a particular

emphasis on attribution styles, which are stable and reliable predictors of human behavior (e.g.,

Martinko, Harvey, & Douglas, 2007).

Definition, Role, and Function of Attributions

When we refer to attribution theory we are referring to the work of Heider (1958), Kelley (1973), and

Weiner (1986), which defines attributions as individuals’ explanations for the causes of their successes

ondence via email to any or all of the above authors at [email protected]; [email protected]; .com

John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Received 22 January 2010 Accepted 25 January 2010

ATTRIBUTION THEORY IN THE ORGANIZATIONAL SCIENCES 145

and failures. The basic premise is that people have an innate desire to understand the causes of

important outcomes in their lives and that their attributions influence their responses to these outcomes

(Heider, 1958). Typical attributional explanations for outcomes are ability, effort, the nature of the task,

and luck.

Attributions are individuals’ beliefs about the causes of their successes and failures (i.e., rewards

and punishments) and influence expectancies, emotions, and behaviors (Martinko et al., 2007).

Recognizing that behavior is influenced by rewards and punishments, as almost all organizational

scholars would agree, and that attributions influence behaviors, it follows that the entire range of

organizational behaviors that are influenced by rewards/punishments are also affected by attributions.

Because rewards and punishments are important, individuals have a vested interest in knowing their

causes.

In addition to attributions for specific events, recent research demonstrates that attribution styles are

useful for understanding individual behaviors (see Martinko et al., 2007). Attribution styles are stable,

trait-like tendencies to make certain types of attributions that affect behaviors across situations.

Attribution styles can affect interpersonal relations and, as these relations unfold over time, the effects

of styles become more pronounced. Thus, although a specific attribution may not predict relationship

quality, the consistency with which a style manifests itself over time may have significant impacts on

work relationships. Research indicates that attribution styles are related to perceptions of the quality of

leader-member relations, victimization, aggression, entitlement, self-efficacy, and the perceived

desirability of job candidates. There is also reason to believe that attribution styles are related to other

outcomes, such as organizational citizenship behavior, justice, and burnout. Next, we discuss why

attribution theory has been underutilized, and discuss areas where attribution processes can help

address organizational research questions.

A Brief History of Attribution Theory in the Organizational Sciences

The importance of attributions and attribution styles is well recognized in psychology where significant

journal space and sections of introductory texts are devoted to attribution processes. There is

proportionately less journal space devoted to attribution topics in the organizational literature. To

illustrate this disparity, we performed a search for the term ‘‘attribution’’ in the PsychARTICLES

(psychology) and ScienceDirect (business) databases from 1995 to 2008. We found 279 articles in the

PsychARTICLES database, but only 46 in the ScienceDirect database. Although this analysis probably

underestimates the true volume of organizationally relevant attributional research—Martinko et al.

(2006) cited almost 200 relevant publications and 33 attributional papers were presented at the 2009

Academy of Management conference—it illustrates the disparity between the two fields. Thus while

attributions appear to be an integral part of explanations for behavior in psychology, they have played a

lesser role in organizational sciences, suggesting that they are underutilized.

We believe that this lack of attention stems, at least in part, from two criticisms. These criticisms

appeared when attribution theory was emerging and there were relatively few attribution scholars to

address them. First, Mitchell (1982) argued that many factors influence leader behavior and that

attributions account for only a small proportion of the variance in behaviors. We find Mitchell’s

criticism puzzling since he had already made this point when he introduced an attributional model of

leader-member relations and began working in this area (Green & Mitchell, 1979). In response to this

criticism, Martinko et al. (2007) examined a sample of research on antecedents of leader behavior and

Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Organiz. Behav. 32, 144–149 (2011)

DOI: 10.1002/job

146 M. J. MARTINKO ET AL.

found that the per cent of variance explained by attributions (ranging from 17 to 36 per cent) was

comparable or superior to that explained by other factors such as charisma, political skill, and core self-

evaluations (ranging from 5 to 18 per cent). It is also noteworthy that numerous studies have found

consistent support for the notion that leaders’ attributions explain a significant percentage of the

variance in their attitudes and behaviors. For example, the Ashkanasy and Gallois (1994) study found

that attributions accounted for 23–51 per cent of variance in leaders’ evaluations of subordinates’

performance.

We view the Mitchell (1982) criticism as unfair on two counts. First, as demonstrated by the

aforementioned research, attributions do account for a significant proportion of the variance in leaders’

behaviors as compared to other predictors. Second, we view the Mitchell criticism as a ‘‘straw man’’

argument in that, as far as we know, no one (except maybe Green and Mitchell) ever suggested that

attributions accounted for more variance than any other predictor of leader behavior.

The second criticism is that attribution processes are not used on a routine basis because they are too

cognitively demanding and are thus limited to highly significant or unusual events (Lord & Smith,

1983). An example of when this criticism applies is when an employee makes a snide remark. In this

case, Lord and Smith would contend that supervisors are most likely to use a cognitive heuristic and

react instantaneously without going through the rational attribution process before reacting. We agree,

but also believe that the cognitive labor criticism is another ‘‘straw man’’ argument in that attribution

theorists have never claimed that explicit attributions are made in everyday interactions. In contrast,

attribution theorists have long recognized the issue of scope by consistently asserting that attribution

processes are cued by unexpected, surprising, and important events (Weiner, 1986) as opposed to

routine everyday situations. Thus, we see the cognitive labor criticism as recognition of a known

boundary condition and not a flaw. Additionally, we highlight that attribution styles, which are

heuristics that do not require laborious cognitive effort, are likely to influence a wide range of routine

behaviors traditionally thought to fall outside the scope of attribution theory.

Areas for Attribution Theory Research

Leadership

The opportunities for relating attributions to leadership are extensive. Initial work on the Green and

Mitchell (1979) model demonstrated that leaders’ attributions for subordinate behaviors were related to

disciplinary actions. Later, a series of studies by Ashkanasy and his colleagues (e.g., Ashkanasy &

Gallois, 1994) essentially validated the Green and Mitchell (1979) model, confirming the predicted

relationships between causal dimensions and leaders’ attributions.

At least some of the failure to extend this area may be due to the criticisms described earlier. It may

also be that because attribution theory is rooted in psychology, its application to leadership has not been

obvious to leadership scholars. Additionally, the recent dominance of transformational leadership and

LMX theories combined with a movement away from trait approaches has likely discouraged the use of

attribution theory in this domain. It is notable, however, that the growth of research on characteristics

related to attributions, such as core self-evaluations, may signal a new interest in trait-like variables.

Although we believe that exploring the effects of both leader and subordinate attributions for explicit

events is warranted, there may be even greater potential in studying attribution styles. Recent research

(e.g., Martinko et al., 2007) has demonstrated that incompatible attribution styles are related to

members’ perceptions of LMX quality. However, this research has only looked at two potential

Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Organiz. Behav. 32, 144–149 (2011)

DOI: 10.1002/job

ATTRIBUTION THEORY IN THE ORGANIZATIONAL SCIENCES 147

attribution styles and, as demonstrated by Martinko (2002), when combining the stability and locus of

causality dimensions, there are sixteen possible intrapersonal styles and sixteen interpersonal styles.

To illustrate the impact of just two of these styles, consider one leader with an interpersonal

attribution style that favors internal, stable, and uncontrollable attributions (e.g., intelligence) and

another who favors external, unstable, and controllable attributions (e.g., organizational policies) for

the performance outcomes of employees. A leader with the former style is apt to assume employees

‘‘either have it or they don’t’’ and spend little time nurturing a poor-performer. The second type of

leader would tend to view the same employee’s performance as a function of organizational procedures

and try to change policies rather than holding the employee accountable. Thus, the attributional lens

through which leaders diagnose and attempt to resolve performance issues may be significantly

influenced by their attribution styles. Further complicating the issue is the fact that the employees have

their own attribution styles that may conflict with those of their leaders. Thus, the knowledge and theory

concerned with attribution styles provides unique insights into the causes of leader-member conflicts.

Another area for future research is the influence of subordinates’ attributional styles on their

evaluations of leaders. Research on leader phenomena such as abusive supervision and ethical

leadership often treat subordinate ratings as objective indicators of these variables. We expect that

biased attributions distort subordinates’ perceptions of their leaders’ behaviors. For example, when

subordinates have self-serving attribution styles that dispose them to attribute negative outcomes to

external factors, it is likely that they view legitimate criticisms from their supervisors as unfair.

Similarly, we expect that these types of attribution styles may lead to perceptions of abusive and

unethical leadership.

Collective attributions

A number of studies indicate that corporate reports demonstrate self-serving attribution biases (see

Martinko et al., 2006). At the group level, it would seem that developing and testing theory to explain

how groups develop attributions would be useful. Given the established power of group-level

phenomena to influence the perceptions of group members, it is reasonable to expect that the group

dynamic could shape the attributions of members. To explore this possibility, we suggest that research

comparing the attribution styles of individuals within and outside the group context could be helpful in

determining if group dynamics can alter a person’s attributional tendencies. Specific group

characteristics such as cohesiveness, diversity, and longevity might influence the development of a

group-level attribution style and the likelihood that members would subjugate their own attributional

tendencies to those of the group. Research in this area could help to answer questions about why groups

engage in phenomena such as risky-shift and groupthink. For example, if groups systematically

attribute failure to bad luck they might be inclined to repeat mistakes.

Attributions and attribution styles may contribute to group/team identification. Attribution styles

have not been traditionally treated as a team-level construct. We argue, however, that they can and

should be applied to the team level of analysis in keeping with the multi-level movements.West, Patera,

and Carsten (2009) recently examined team optimism, conceptualized as an attribution and measured

using explanatory styles. We believe this is another fruitful direction for empirical research.

Extending this idea, we suggest that the attributions team members make, individually or

collectively, for the team’s performance can influence the extent to which they identify with the team.

For example, when a team succeeds and the members of the team attribute the success to the ability and

effort of the team members, it is likely that they also feel a part of and identify with the team. On the

other hand, when members are self-serving and take personal credit for team successes while blaming

failures on their teammates, it seems less likely that a bond of loyalty and identification within and

Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Organiz. Behav. 32, 144–149 (2011)

DOI: 10.1002/job

148 M. J. MARTINKO ET AL.

among teammembers will develop. While the effects of these types of attributions on team identity and

performance processes have not yet been formally tested, we believe that attributions have considerable

potential for explaining team dynamics.

Conclusion

We believe that attributions are an integral part of the motivation process and play an important role in

explaining virtually all reward-oriented behavior in organizations. The research suggestions presented

here are only a small subset of the potential applications of attribution theory. We argue that attribution

theory is not typically applied to organizational behavior, in part, as a result of early criticisms. These

criticisms are inappropriate in the context of research focused on attribution styles and addressing

situations and outcomes within the intended scope of attribution theory. Properly understood and

applied in the correct context, attribution theory offers a wealth of explanatory possibilities, which we

hope that scholars will explore. Comparing the widespread use of attribution theory in social

psychology to its limited use by organizational scholars, we are drawn to one conclusion: when it

comes to attribution theory, the organizational sciences have a lot of catching up to do.

Author biographies

Martinko is the Bank of America, Professor of Management at Florida State University where he has

authored, co-authored, or edited eight books and numerous articles concerning attribution theory and

leadership. He is an associate editor for the Journal Organizational Behavior and serves on the editorial

boards four other journals.

Harvey is an assistant professor of Organizational Behavior at the University of New Hampshire. He

serves on the editorial boards for Journal of Organizational Behavior and Journal of Leadership and

Organizational Studies. His research publications have examined attributions, leadership, and abusive

supervision.

Dasborough is an assistant professor of Organizational Behavior at the University of Miami. She

currently serves on editorial boards for Journal of Organizational Behavior, The Leadership Quarterly,

and the ad hoc review board for Journal of Applied Psychology.Her scholarly publications focus on the

topics of leadership, attribution, and emotions.

References

Ashkanasy, N.M., & Gallois, C. (1994). Leader attribution and evaluations: Effects of locus of control, supervisory control, and task control. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 59, 27–50.

Green, S. G., & Mitchell, T. R. (1979). Attributional processes of leaders in leader-member interactions. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 23, 429–458.

Heider, F. (1958). The psychology of interpersonal relations. New York: Wiley.

Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Organiz. Behav. 32, 144–149 (2011)

DOI: 10.1002/job

ATTRIBUTION THEORY IN THE ORGANIZATIONAL SCIENCES 149

View publicatioView publicatio

Kelley, H. H. (1973). The process of causal attributions. American Psychologist, 28, 107–128. Lord, R. G., & Smith, J. E. (1983). Theoretical, informational, information processing, and situational factors affecting attributional theories of organizational behavior. Academy of Management Review, 8, 50–60.

Martinko, M. J. (2002). Thinking like a winner: A guide to high performance leadership. Tallahassee, FL.: Gulf Coast Publishing.

Martinko, M. J., Douglas, S. C., & Harvey, P. (2006). Attribution theory in industrial and organizational psychology: A review. In G. P. Hodgkinson, & J. K. Ford (Eds.), International review of industrial and organizational psychology (Vol. 21, pp. 127–187). Chichester, UK: Wiley.

Martinko, M. J., Harvey, P., & Douglas, S. C. (2007). The role, function, and contribution of attribution theory to leadership: A review. The Leadership Quarterly, 18, 561–585.

Mitchell, T. R. (1982). Attributions and actions: A note of caution. Journal of Management, 8, 65–74. Weiner, B. (1986). An attributional theory of motivation and emotion. New York: Springer-Verlag. West, B. J., Patera, J. L., & Carsten, M. K. (2009). Team level positivity: Investigating positive psychological capacities and team level outcomes. Journal of Organizational Behavior 30, 249–267.

Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Organiz. Behav. 32, 144–149 (2011)

DOI: 10.1002/job

n statsn stats

Attachment 9

Encyclopedia of Communication Theory Attribution Theory

Contributors: Author:Virginia M. McDermott Edited by: Stephen W. Littlejohn & Karen A. Foss Book Title: Encyclopedia of Communication Theory Chapter Title: "Attribution Theory" Pub. Date: 2009 Access Date: August 21, 2020 Publishing Company: SAGE Publications, Inc. City: Thousand Oaks Print ISBN: 9781412959377 Online ISBN: 9781412959384 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412959384.n23 Print pages: 61-63

© 2009 SAGE Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This PDF has been generated from SAGE Knowledge. Please note that the pagination of the online version will vary from the pagination of the print book.

To make sense of the world, people develop explanations about what is happening and why people are acting certain ways. When people are interacting with others, communication decisions are influenced by the implicit theories, or attributions, of the participants. Ineffective communication may be partly a consequence of the parties' idiosyncratic inferences and incompatible interpretations. Attribution theory provides a framework for understanding how people explain their own and others' behavior. This entry reviews the attribution process and examines the importance of attributions for determining success or failure, for managing conflict in interpersonal relationships, and for determining people's stigmatizing attitudes and discriminatory behaviors. It ends with information about the fundamental attribution error and the self-perception theory.

An important basis of attribution theory is that people behave the way they do for a reason. In other words, people have reasons for developing their impressions of others. Fritz Heider, one of the first researchers to write about the attribution process, was interested in how one person develops an impression of another. These impressions, he argued, are developed through a three-step process: (1) observation of behavior, (2) determination of whether the behavior is deliberate, and (3) categorization of the behavior as internally or externally motivated.

Attribution Process

When a person encounters someone, how he or she interacts with that person is, in part, determined by his or her interpretation of the other person's behavior. Internal attributions, which are also called dispositional attributions, occur when an observer infers that another's behavior was caused by something about the person, such as personality, attitude, or upbringing. External attributions, or situational attributions, occur when the observer ascribes the cause of the behavior to the situation or outside circumstances. For example, Daniel's roommate Tom rushes into the house, slams the door, throws his books on the table, and runs upstairs. Tom does not say a word to Daniel, and Daniel wonders about what is happening. Daniel can develop different explanations for Tom's behavior. If he attributes Tom's behavior to an internal factor, he might think that Tom is rude and inconsiderate. If he attributes Tom's behavior to external factors, he might conclude that Tom is late for an appointment and rushing to get things done. Daniel's attributions will affect how he interacts with Tom when they next encounter each other. Based on Daniel's internal attribution, he may ignore Tom when Tom comes down the stairs. However, if Daniel selects an external attribution, then when Tom walks down the stairs, Daniel may ask whether Tom needs anything. Daniel's attribution affects his actions, and his actions can affect how the roommates manage their interaction and relationship.

Before Daniel decides whether to attribute Tom's behavior to dispositional or to situational factors, he needs to examine a few other factors. Harold Kelley, a social psychologist specializing in personal relationships, proposed that there are three general guidelines that influence people's attributions: consensus, consistency, and distinctiveness.

Consensus describes how other people, in the same circumstances, would behave. If all Daniel's roommates tend to rush into the house and run upstairs, then Tom's behavior is likely determined by the situation, leading Daniel to make an external attribution. If Tom is the only one who behaves this way, Daniel is more likely to make an internal attribution.

Consistency refers to whether the person being observed behaves the same way, in the same situation, over time. If every time Tom entered the house he behaved this way, Daniel would likely make an internal attribution. However, if this was an unusual way for Tom to behave, Daniel would likely look for an external explanation.

Distinctiveness refers to the variations in the observed person's behavior across situations. If, for example, Tom rushed through the door at work and ran through the hallways at school, his behavior on entering his house would not be distinct from his normal behavior. In that case, Daniel would likely attribute it to internal, dispositional causes. Conversely, if in most situations, Tom was mellow and slow moving, Daniel

SAGE © 2009 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

SAGE Reference

Page 2 of 5 Encyclopedia of Communication Theory

might attribute his rushing behavior to external, situational causes.

Although each of these three factors is important for attributing cause to either internal or external factors, when an observer can combine these factors, patterns can emerge. For example, when a person behaves a certain way over time and across situations, but others do not behave the same way, people tend to make dispositional attributions (That's just the way she is). However, when someone's behavior is not typical of that person or expected in the situation, observers have a difficult time attributing cause to the person or the situation. In these cases, the observer tends to assume that something peculiar is happening (I don't know what's going on; something must be wrong).

In addition to the three factors Kelley originally identified, two more guidelines influence whether an observer makes an internal or external attribution. If a person violates a social norm, behavior that is typical or expected for a situation, others tend to make internal attributions. Additionally, in the absence of situational cues, observers tend to make dispositional attributions.

Attribution theory provides a framework for understanding both our own and others' behaviors. It provides guidelines for interpreting actions, so it is useful for examining motivations for achievement and conflict in interpersonal relationships. This theory has also been used to examine stigmatizing behavior and discrimination.

Attribution and Achievement

Bernard Weiner extended attribution theory to how people explain their own and others' success and failure. He contends that interpretations of achievement can be explained with three dimensions of behavior: locus of control (Whose fault is it?), stability (Is it ongoing?), and controllability (Can I change it?). First, a person's success or failure is attributable to either internal factors (I am a smart person) or to external factors (My computer crashed). Second, the cause of the success or failure can be either stable (It's always going to be like this) or unstable (This is a one-time event). Finally, the event may be perceived as controllable (I can change this if I want to) or uncontrollable (Nothing I do can change this situation).

These three dimensions, together, create eight scenarios that people use to explain their own achievements and disappointments:

• 1. Internal-stable-uncontrollable (I'm not very smart)

• 2. Internal-stable-controllable (I always wait until the last minute)

• 3. Internal-unstable-uncontrollable (I felt ill)

• 4. Internal-unstable-controllable (I forgot about the assignment)

• 5. External-stable-uncontrollable (The teacher's expectations are unrealistic)

• 6. External-stable-controllable (The teacher hates me)

• 7. External-unstable-uncontrollable (I was in a car accident)

• 8. External-unstable-controllable (The dog ate my homework)

Understanding how to motivate students to achieve academically requires an understanding of their attributions. People's explanations for their own success or failure will help determine how hard they work in similar situations. Students who perceive that their successes and failures are controllable are more likely to continue to work hard academically. When people perceive that they have no control over a situation, believe

SAGE © 2009 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

SAGE Reference

Page 3 of 5 Encyclopedia of Communication Theory

that the situation is permanent, and think that the outcomes are due to their own characteristics, they are likely to stop working and may exhibit signs of learned helplessness.

Attributions and Interpersonal Conflict

People tend to choose conflict styles based on their attributions about their partner's intent to cooperate, the locus of responsibility for the conflict, and the stability of the conflict. Their attributions about these issues influence the strategies they adopt; specifically, they tend to adopt conflict management strategies they believe are congruent with their partner's projected responses. The attribution process causes people to see others as more competitive, more responsible for the conflict, and more stable and traitlike than they perceive themselves to be. They underestimate the role of unstable situation factors and overestimate the extent to which behavior is caused by stable personality traits. The bias in this process often discourages integrative modes of conflict resolution. The choice of conflict strategies affects the likelihood of conflict resolution and the degree of satisfaction in the relationship.

Attributions and Stigmatizing Behavior

Attribution theory is an important framework for understanding why people endorse stigmatizing attitudes and engage in discriminatory behaviors. A person's attributions about the cause and controllability of another's illness or situation can lead to emotional reactions that affect their willingness to help and their likelihood of punishing the other. If you assume that another person's difficult situation is that person's fault and could have been prevented, you may be less likely to offer assistance and more likely to react with anger. For example, Sue is an office manager and Terry is a new employee. If Sue thinks that Terry's unorthodox and unpredictable behavior is caused by injuries he suffered when he was a child, she may be tolerant and understanding. If, however, Sue thinks Terry's unorthodox behavior is the result of years of illegal drug use, she may be more likely to get angry with him and take punitive actions. People's attributions about the causes of another's illness can lead to prejudice and discrimination.

Fundamental Attribution Error

The fundamental attribution error is a common attribution error in which people overemphasize personality or dispositional (internal) causes of others' negative behavior or bad outcomes and underestimate the situational (external) factors. When interpreting another's positive actions or outcomes, however, people overemphasize the situational causes and underestimate the dispositional causes. For example, Alicia is a server in a restaurant, and one of her coworkers, Julia, just got a really big tip. Alicia thinks to herself, “Wow, Julia keeps getting lucky because the hostess keeps giving her the good customers.” An hour later, another coworker complains that he got a bad tip, and Alicia thinks, “Well, if you weren't such a crappy server, you would get good tips.” Alicia just committed the fundamental attribution error. She assumed that when something bad happened to one coworker, it was the coworker's fault and that when something good happened to another coworker, it was the situation that brought about the positive result.

Conversely, the self-serving bias (or actor-observer bias) is an error in which individuals attribute their own success and failure to different factors. One's own success and positive outcomes are attributed to internal, dispositional characteristics whereas one's failures or negative outcomes are ascribed to external, situational causes. To continue the restaurant example, Alicia gets a really big tip and thinks, “I worked really hard for that group and gave great service,” but when another group leaves a bad tip, she thinks, “They are cheapskates.”

In sum, attribution errors work in the following ways:

• When good things happen to me, I deserve it (I worked hard or I am a special person). • When good things happen to you, you don't deserve it (the teacher likes you or you just got lucky). • When bad things happen to me, it's not my fault (the teacher doesn't like me or he started it).

SAGE © 2009 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

SAGE Reference

Page 4 of 5 Encyclopedia of Communication Theory

• When bad things happen to you, it's your fault (you should work harder or you should be more careful).

Self-Perception Theory

Daryl Bem's self-perception theory, like attribution theory, relies on internal and external attributions to explain behavior. However, instead of observing others, we use the same process to interpret our own behavior. Bem argues that we come to know our own thoughts and beliefs by observing our actions and interpreting what caused our behaviors. Our explanation for our behavior is determined by the presence or absence of situational cues. For example, if Debbie earns $100 campaigning for 3 hours for a politician, she can attribute her behavior to external causes (“I did it for the money”). If, however, Debbie earns only $5 for her 3 hours of campaigning, she will likely attribute her behavior to internal causes (“I did it because I like the candidate”). Self-perception theory is important in persuasion research because people who are internally motivated are more likely to maintain behaviors.

• attribution • fundamental attribution error • attribution theory • attribution processes • self-perception theory • observer • tipping

Virginia M. McDermott http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412959384.n23 See also

• Cognitive Theories • Conflict Communication Theories • Interpersonal Communication Theories • Learning and Communication • Persuasion and Social Influence Theories

Further Readings

Bem, D. J.(1972).Self-perception theory. In L.Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 6, pp. 1–6). New York: Academic Press.http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0065-2601%2808%2960024-6 Corrigan, P., Markowitz, F., Watson, A., Rowan, D., and Kubiak, M. A.An attribution model of public discrimination towards person with mental illness.Journal of Health and Social Behavior44(2003).162–179.http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1519806 Graham, S., & Folkes, V. S.(1990).Attribution theory: Applications to achievement, mental health, and interpersonal conflict.Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Heider, F.(1958).The psychology of interpersonal relations.New York: Wiley.http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ 10628-000 Jones, E. E., Kanouse, D. E., Kelley, H. H., Nisbett, R. E., Valins, S., & Weiner, B.(1972).Attribution: Perceiving the causes of behavior.Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press. Kelley, H. H.(1971).Attributions in social interaction.Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press. Manusov, V., & Harvey, J. H.(2001).Attribution, communication behavior, and close relationships.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Sillars, A. L.(1981)Attributions and interpersonal conflict resolution. In J. H.Harvey, W.Ickes, & R.Kidd (Eds.), New directions in attribution research (Vol. 3, pp. 281–306). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Weiner, B.(1974).Achievement motivation and attribution theory.Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press.

SAGE © 2009 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

SAGE Reference

Page 5 of 5 Encyclopedia of Communication Theory

  • Encyclopedia of Communication Theory
    • Attribution Theory
      • Attribution Process
      • Attribution and Achievement
      • Attributions and Interpersonal Conflict
      • Attributions and Stigmatizing Behavior
      • Fundamental Attribution Error
      • Self-Perception Theory
      • Further Readings

Attachment 10

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 1

The Application of Crisis Communications: Theory, Management, and Response

Leon Lewis Jr.

Ball State University

August 15, 2016

Related Topics: Public Relations, Crisis Management, Emergency Management, Crisis Communication, Homeland Security

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 2

Contents

Abstract…………………………………………………………………………………………………….3

1.0 Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………………...4

2.0 “Crisis” Defined: An Overview……………………………………………………………………...5

2.1 Crisis Management vs Crisis Communication……………………………………………..6

2.1.1 Crisis Management……………………………………………………………...6

2.1.2 Crisis Communication…………………………………………………………..7

3.0 Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT)………………………………………………..8

3.1 The Crisis Situation (Clusters)……………………………………………………………...9

3.2 Crisis Response Strategies (Postures)……………………………………………………..10

3.3 Matching Crisis Situations to Crisis Response Strategies……………………………….11

4.0 Crisis/Emergency Response Command Structure………………………………………………..12

4.1 The National Incident Management System (NIMS)………………………………….…12

4.2 The Incident Command System (ICS)…………………………………………………….13

4.3 Crisis Communication and The Public Information Officer (PIO)……………………..16

5.0 Best Practices for Handling the Media and Public………………………………………………..16

6.0 Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………………...18

Bibliography……………………………………………………………………………………………...20

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 3

Abstract

Crisis communications play a critical role in crisis management and emergency response. Due to current

events involving such incidents as terrorist attacks, mass shootings, chemical facility accidents, etc., the

application of effective crisis communication is of dire importance in protecting an organization from

reputational damage while simultaneously addressing the concerns of the public. Serving as an effective

crisis communication strategy, Coombs’ Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) attempts to

resolve the issues which emerge as a result of a given crisis. In this analysis of crisis communication and

management, the role of SCCT as a communications strategy for Public Information Officers (PIOs)

within the emergency response team will be examined. In understanding how to implement SCCT into

this component of the crisis management continuum, PIOs will gain an invaluable public relations tool by

which to address the media and public in crisis situations.

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 4

1.0 Introduction

In wake of the events surrounding September 11, 2001 attacks, the relevancy of crisis

communications among emergency response personnel in addressing public concern and outrage has risen

to vital importance (in the 21st century) regarding situations of high unpredictability, threat and

uncertainty. As it is the duty for emergency responders and political leaders alike to address and inform

the public, the issue of crisis communication poses a challenging and daunting task in an attempt to return

the day-to-day affairs of the masses to a state of normalcy (Boin, 2003). Derived from a multidisciplinary

approach, crisis communication utilizes the principles of management, psychology, and rhetorical theory

for the purpose of establishing crisis response stratagem and post crisis communication. Functioning

within the larger scope of crisis management, the activities involved in the crisis communication process

attempts to establish “protective factors” for its intended audiences by providing clarification of “the

specific event, the identification of consequences and outcomes, and the provision of specific harm-

reducing information to affected communities in an honest, candid, prompt, accurate, and complete

manner” (Reynolds, 2005). In doing this, the power obtained by the general public from wielding

information is now utilized as a community resource, in contrast to it being accessed by only a narrow

and privileged segment. This, in turn engenders a sense of trust and cooperation among the larger

population by allowing them to make informed decisions surrounding actions which must be taken on

their part as countermeasures to ensure their safety on both an individual and communal level. Likewise,

for organizations that fear reputational damage, they will be able to present their account of the crisis,

their degree of accountability, and an opportunity to apply the required corrective actions (if needed) to

the public. In this analysis of crisis communication, the application of Situational Crisis Communication

Theory (SCCT), as it relates to Public Information Officers (PIOs) in times of crisis will be examined.

Allowing for the proper preparation and planning of crisis communication, SCCT enables the Public

Information Officer to create an accurate assessment of a situation by matching the extent of crisis

severity with its respective response. Moreover, the assessment obtained (generated through SCCT)

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 5

allows one to obtain an accurate estimation of the type of damage (i.e. public safety, financial, and

reputational) created by the given crisis.

2.0 "Crisis" Defined: An Overview

Originating from the Greek word ‘krisis’, translated to mean ‘decisive moment’, the word “crisis”

has assumed a multitude of definitions in an effort to describe the phenomena. Orgizek (1999) defines a

crisis as confusion, a trial, a break, or an opportunity (Ogrizek, 1999) whereas Cloudman (2006) asserts

that crisis is “the state of uncertainty resulting from a triggering event that disrupts an organization’s

routine activities” (Cloudman, 2006). Providing the most functional definition to date, Lagadec (1984)

denotes the most critical and relevant characteristics of the given construct within this statement,

“Crisis: a situation in which numerous organizations are faced with critical problems, experience both sharp external pressure and bitter internal tensions, and are the brutally and for an extended period thrust to the center stage and hurled against one another….all in a society of mass communication, in other words, in direct contact with the uncertainty of being at the top of the news on radio and television and in the press for a long time.” (Ogrizek, 1999)

Although no universal definition on what constitutes a crisis can be agreed upon among scholars,

general characteristics defining the phenomena have been noted. Within the domain of Public Relations,

in particular a crisis communications context, Wekesa (2013) lists four defining characteristics,

1. A crisis is perceptual. Defined by the perceptions that are held by the stakeholders about the crisis, it is the organization’s responsibility to alter its crisis communication based on their beliefs.

2. A crisis is unpredictable. While the nature of a crisis can be anticipated, this is not the same as in the instance of something being unexpected.

3. A crisis disrupts stakeholder expectations. A crisis can disturb the operations of an

organization, causing a interruption in expectations.

4. A crisis disrupts organizations. Having severe impact on operations, a crisis should naturally be taken with the utmost seriousness (Wekesa, 2013).

Moreover Kent (2010), in reference to the works of Coombs, provides an alternate definition for

the meaning of a "crisis" which expounds on its unpredictability and threatening nature to organizations.

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 6

Expanding on this definition and its relationship in the area of crisis communications, Kent Cites

Coombs’ 1999 book, Ongoing Crisis Communication: Planning, managing, and responding, he notes two

distinct definitions,

• "A major occurrence with a potentially with a potentially negative outcome affecting an organization, company, or industry as well as its publics, products, services, or good name";

• "A major unpredictable event that has potentially negative results. The event may significantly damage an organization, its employees, products, services, financial condition, and reputation." (Kent, 2010)

It is through the summation of these definitions that commonalities indicative of the construct

known as a ‘crisis’ can one form the basis for implementing crisis communication strategies within the

larger scope of crisis management. Generated from the unpredictability and uncertainty resulting from

crisis, the possible formation of three related threats, (public safety, financial loss, and reputational loss)

can take place and must be addressed. The application of effective crisis communication seeks to address

these threats and lessens the impact it will have upon the affected organizations, stakeholders, and the

general public.

2.1 Crisis Management vs Crisis Communication

In the event of a crisis, the terms “crisis management” and “crisis communication” are

occasionally mistakenly used interchangeably. However upon further examination of both terms, it

becomes obvious that crisis communication is a component of the larger crisis management process. This

section provides clarification on the meaning of the two definitions, and the capacity in which they

perform within an emergency response scenario.

2.1.1 Crisis Management

As a critical component to organizational functioning in times of emergency and crisis, Crisis

Management is a corrective procedure devised to mitigate or lessen the damage a crisis (by proposing

strategies for and the preparation for and handling crisis events) can impose on an organization and its

stakeholders. Centering around several components: crisis prevention and preparation, formal crisis

management plans and teams, actions during a crisis, media relations, internal/external communication

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 7

with key publics, and post crisis activities (Gainey, 2006), these activities, which are condensed into

three distinct phases, are intended to manage the elements of the involved threat utilizing a sequential

series of steps,

1. Precrisis. Comprising of actions designed for the preparation or prevention of a crisis, the precrisis phase designs then implements a crisis management plan, in addition to conducting tests to determine the effectiveness of the crisis management plan/team.

2. Crisis Response. In the steps taken by the management team after the crisis occurs, this phase of Crisis Management deals with public relations and the dissemination of information to various publics/audiences. This phase involves two parts, an initial crisis response and reputational repair and behavioral intentions.

3. Post Crisis. During this phase of the continuum, the organization stakeholders, are returning to a

state of normalcy where follow-up communications and reputation repair may be initiated (Coombs, Crisis Management and Communications, 2007). Although there is no longer a feeling of immediate threat, ongoing communication as it relates to the discoveries learned as a result of the crisis along with procedures and policies for the future prevention of a crisis may be addressed.

Serving as a means of evaluation in the activities involved in crisis management (in order to

observe what is effective and what items needs improvement), serve as a learning experience for crisis

management teams. It is through these activities that teams will discover ways in which organizations

can make improvements on the prevention, preparation, and response resulting from a crisis which are

critical to the effective operations within an organization. As a subset of crisis management, crisis

communication facilitates the actual correspondence between the organization and its public, thus making

the Public Relations practitioner an essential part of a crisis management team. Those involved in the

crisis communication process must not only be able to disseminate facts over a public platform, but also

handle and answer questions from the news media, as well as inform the public about on given incident in

a way that is timely, concise and factual towards its audience.

2.1.2 Crisis Communication

Crisis communication is defined as the correspondences that take place between the organization

and its audience before, during, and after the crisis (Gainey, 2006). As a primary function of crisis

management, crisis communication conveys the information relevant to its audience, defines the crisis at

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 8

hand, and places it in a context then conveys the organization’s stance to its various publics (Cooley,

2011). Moreover, being essential to an organization’s survival, the ability to effectively communicate in

the event of a crisis not only enables organizations to recover from its aftereffects, the advantage of

effective crisis communications also allows for the analysis of various dangers and consequences that can

be used to plan and enact future corrective actions (Wekesa, 2013).

As a primary theme of Public Relations, crisis communication is devised with both the avoidance

and/or recovery of a crisis as the ultimate objective. It is also the primary means in which organizations

are able to manage stakeholder perceptions, thus enabling the defense and preservation its reputation

(David, 2013). Utilizing community leaders’ efforts as a potential resource to inform and alert the public

during specific incidents (Centers For Disease Control, 2012), crisis communication accounts for the

majority of communication activities of any organization or agency facing a crisis. Overall, the

management of crisis within organizations and society in general would not be complete without a

communications component that not only takes action in correcting the issue at hand, but one that

contains an effective crisis communications which articulates, “warnings, risk messages, evacuation

notifications, messages regarding self-efficacy, information regarding symptoms and medical treatment,

towards it intended audience” (Reynolds, 2005). While the nature of a crisis may assume variant forms, it

is important to note that these disparate events also demand their own unique forms of management along

with communications to regulate the flow of information.

3.0 Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT)

Developed and refined by Coombs, Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT), is

comprised of three elements: the crisis situation, crisis response strategies, and a system for matching the

crisis situation with the crisis response strategies (Coombs, The Development of the Situational Crisis

Communication Theory, 2008). As a result, crisis planners are able to identify the factors which pose

threats to the reputation of an organization then utilize them to determine the most appropriate

communication strategies to be implemented during a crisis response endeavor. In addition to

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 9

determining crisis response, SCCT (Figure 1) strives to outline post-crisis communications in an attempt

to apply crisis response strategies to alleviate any reputational damages. Being an important tool which

addresses the needs of planners who are responsible for the creation and implementation crisis

management plans, SCCT permits the crisis management team to accurately analyze a given crisis

situation then, based on its findings, enables one to appraise the extent of the reputational threat imposed

by the crisis. In doing so, crisis planners are able to pinpoint the elements responsible for the threats to

reputation (initial responsibility for the crisis, crisis history, and the relation between history and previous

reputation) and use them to establish the appropriate communication strategies to be utilized in a crisis

response effort.

3.1 The Crisis Situation (Clusters)

In a crisis situation, it is the place of the crisis management team or organization to determine the

extent of accountability that will be incurred during the assessment of threat process (Table 1).

Consequently, this degree of responsibility will ultimately serve as an indicator as to what degree of threat

Crisis Response Strategy

Perceived Control Crisis Responsibility Organizational Reputation Potential Supportive Behavior

Severity Performance History

• Crisis History • Relationship History

Situational Crisis Communications Theory Model

Figure 1: The Situational Crisis Communications Theory Model (SCCT) was developed as a means of matching crisis types with the appropriate crisis response strategies (Coombs, 2008)

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 10

does the crisis impact the reputation of the organization along with the appropriate crisis response

strategies required for its resolution. It is within the crisis situation component, that several “clusters” are

noted (Cooley, 2011),

The victim cluster. This includes instances of natural disaster, rumors, workplace violence, product tampering. In addition to people, a company can be perceived as a victim of the crisis.

The accidental cluster. In this cluster, challenges, mega-damage, technical breakdown accidents and recalls are included. Also noted in this cluster is the organization does not have crisis intentions in its actions.

The preventable cluster. Incidents within this category include human breakdown accidents and recalls, misdeeds within the organization with or without injuries, organizational misdeed and misdeed among management. The company deliberately places people at risk, takes inappropriate actions, or participates in the violation of laws and regulations.

3.2 Crisis Response Strategies (Postures)

The second component of SCCT deals with crisis response strategies. Used in instances of the

repairing of reputation, diminishing negative affect, and the prevention of negative behavioral intentions,

the response strategies shown in this component places emphasis on the victims’ perception of an

organization in assuming their rightful responsibility in their part of the crisis (Coombs, The Development

of the Situational Crisis Communication Theory, 2008). In a series of response types, this component is

further categorized by the following response strategies,

Deny posture. Options in this strategy involves attack the accuser; the crisis manager or organization confronts the individual or group claiming an error in the organization, denial; the crisis manager or organization denies the existence of a crisis, and scapegoat; the crisis manager or organization places the onus of blame on another group outside of the crisis.

Diminish posture. The following strategies in this includes, excuse; the crisis manager or organization denies the intent of any wrongdoing and claims a lack of control of the events causing the crisis, and justification; the crisis manager or organization attempts to minimize perceived damages incurred by the victims.

Deal posture. A tactic the places emphasis on the expression of compassion, options in this posture are comprised of these strategies: ingratiation the organization or crisis manager laud their stakeholders and/or reminds them of their past good work of the organization, concern crisis manager express concern for their victims, compassion; crisis manager or organizations attempt offer monetary and other gifts to their victims, regret; the organization or crisis manager expresses guilt about the crisis, and apology; The organization or crisis manager assumes full responsibility for the crisis (Coombs, 2008).+

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 11

3.3 Matching Crisis Situations to Crisis Response Strategies

The final component of SCCT involves a system for pairing the crisis situation with one of its

corresponding crisis response strategies. Matching the organization’s response strategy to the magnitude

of the crisis situation (Table 1), SCCT theory maintains that as the chances for reputational damage

increases, the organization or crisis managers must assume a heightened responsibility for the crisis and

Rumor: Use any of the denial strategies

Natural disaster: Use instructing information

Workplace violence: Use instructing information

Product tampering: Use instructing information

Product recall, technical error, megadamage, and accidents: Use excuse and or justification

Product recall, technical error, megadamage, and accidents: If there is a negative crisis history,

relationship history and/or severe damage: Use any of the deal strategies

Organizational misdeeds: Use any of the deal strategies

When victims occur: Use the concern crisis response strategy in combination with other recommended

strategies

greater concern for its victims (Cooley, 2011). As determined by the reputational damage, crisis

responsibility, and crisis situation, the chosen response strategies are based according to the perception of

acceptance of responsibility for a crisis by an organization or crisis manager (Coombs, 2008).

Predicting that organizations confronted by crisis have an increased risk of reputational damage

due to the possibility that the burden of blame is attributable to the company itself, the SCCT model

attempts to extend the foundation of crisis communication theory by identifying the nature of a crisis,

then by determining the proper response strategy based on crisis severity. Drawing from theories such as

attribution and neoinstitutional theories, SCCT relies on relevant matching points when a link between

Table 1: List of Crisis Response Recommendations

Table 1: List of Crisis Response Recommendations. Source: The Development of Situational Crisis Communication Theory by T. Coombs (2008)

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 12

crisis type and crisis response can be noted. As a model that seeks to correspond the two (crisis and

response), SCCT presents itself as an attractive solution to crisis management in the protection of the

public, financial, and reputational status which can incur due to the effects of a crisis.

4.0 Crisis/Emergency Response Command Structure

In the event of the occurrence of a crisis such as a chemical facility accident, terrorist attack, or

natural disaster, the successful deployment of management in such instances rely on the participation of

multiple jurisdictions, sections of government, and varying emergency response agencies. Due to the

events over recent, increased attention to crisis/incident response extending across jurisdictional levels

and coordinated on a national level has been established with the objective of improving cooperation and

coordination among public and private agencies. Resulting from this need arose entities such as the

National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS).

4.1 The National Incident Management System (NIMS)

Through an inclusive approach to crisis/incident management by federal, state, and local

responders, the National Incident Management System (NIMS) was created by the United States Federal

Government under Homeland Security Presidential Directive #5. Establishing a series of protocols and

procedures uniform across emergency responders at every level of government, NIMS is composed of six

components: command and management, preparedness, resource management, communications and

information management, supporting technologies, and ongoing management and maintenance (Pichtel,

2011). Adaptable to any incident, NIMS is a flexible emergency response system designed to coordinate

multiagency and multidisciplinary responders across jurisdictions. In addition to the feature of flexibility,

the NIMS structure allows for scalability, thereby meeting the needs of the crisis management team in

handing the incident. Providing an organized and practical approach in guiding departments and agencies

across various levels of government, the National Incident Management System (NIMS) manages and

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 13

Includes a combination of assessment, planning, procedures and protocols, training and exericises.

The presence of a standardized communciation system emphasizing a common use of terminolgy across jusidictions.

Includes personnel, equipment and supplies used in the support of incident management objectives.

Designed to allow for efficeint and effective incident management, coordination through a standardized incident management platform.

This includes 2 componenents: the National Integration Center (NIC) and Supporting Technologies.

coordinates non-government agencies in the collaboration of the management of incidents involving

threats and hazards of disparate sources, magnitudes, localities, or varying levels of difficulty with the

goal of protecting public safety, property, and the environment.

4.2 The Incident Command System (ICS)

Designed to manage issues in response to a crisis, the Incident Command System (ICS) is a crisis

management strategy which integrates and facilitates equipment, personnel, procedures and

communications within a unified organizational structure (Centers For Disease Control, 2012). Intended

to enable the process of domestic incident management to operate efficently, ICS (Figure 2) is organized

to assist in crisis management activities in five primary areas: command, operations, planning, logistics,

intelligence and investigations, finance and administration. Considered an essential structure for crisis

management, the Incident Command System facilitates the recognition and classification of the principle

concerns connected with the crisis/incident without compromising any component of the command

system. The Command Staff and leadership structure of the ICS is listed as the following positions,

National Incident Management System Components

Preparedness

Communication

Resource Management

Command and Management

Ongoing Management and Maintenance

Table 2: Displays the six major components of the National Incident Management System which work together to create a comprehensive structure for crisis management.

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 14

Incident Commander. The Incident Commander is the person who assumes command of all operations

at the scene of the incident. Responsible of the management for all activities which take place during a

crisis, they oversee the activities of Safety, Liaison, and Public Information Officers.

Public Information Officer. The Public Information Officer disseminates communications among the

media, public, and other agencies. Releasing information about an occurrence to the news media,

incident personnel, and other agencies and organizations, the Public Information Officer may have

additional supporting Public Information Officers representative of other emergency response agencies or

jurisdictions.

Safety Officer. The Safety Officer supervises incident operations and guides the Incident Commander on

all the concerns related to the safety of an operation. This also includes the health and safety of

crisis/emergency responder personnel.

Incident Commander

Public Information Officer

Safety Officer

Liaison Officer

Operations Planning Logistics Finance/Admin

Figure 2: The Incident Command System organizational structure. Command Staff underneath the Incident Commander are separated into Public Information, Safety, and Liaison Officers (Pichtel, 2011).

Command Staff

Sections

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 15

Liaison Officer. The Liaison Officer connects other agencies from governmental and non-governmental

organizations, along with those of the private sector. Their responsibility includes offering input on their

agency’s policies, the availability of resources, and other concerns related to the incident.

In managing the ICS functional areas, the Incident Commander typically assigns one or more

section leaders to operate within the four areas of the organizational structure,

Operations. The Operations Section of the Incident Command System controls the “on-scene” tactical

operations in order to meet the incident objectives as established by the Incident Commander.

Planning. The Planning Section collects, evaluates, and circulates incident information to the Incident

Commander along with other incident management personnel.

Logistics. The Logistics Section completes all the service and support needs regarding the incident. This

includes the provision of services, personnel, and materials in order to effectively respond to the incident.

Finance/Administration. The Finance/Administration Section includes the tracking of financial matters

regarding the incident. Dealing with the financial reimbursement to individuals, agencies, and

departments, this section becomes extremely relevant when confronting issues that result in a Presidential

Declaration (Pichtel, 2011).

The National Incident Management System (NIMS), along with the Incident Command System

(ICS) allows for the management of agencies spanning multiple jurisdictions, levels of government, and

emergency responder types. Coordinated on a national level with the objective of improving

communications and crisis across both public and private agencies, the installation of such a crisis

management system within our infrastructure enables the crisis response/management process to

successfully be set into motion without any complications which may further compound a crisis.

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 16

4.3 Crisis Communication and The Public Information Officer (PIO)

Requiring the need for trained communicators to tactfully defend and clarify an organization’s

position in the face of criticism, threat, and uncertainty provoked by a crisis, the crisis communication

aspect of Public Relations may encounter a hostile and enquiring press in an attempt to provide accounts

for the nature of the mishap, its origins, and the corrective actions being taken in response to the incident.

In addition to representing the organization in times of crisis, duties of the public information officer

includes the development of guidelines for the distribution of communications and defining a set of

procedures to follow in times of crisis. As the face an agency or organization, one of the public

information officer’s unending tasks is to institute a functioning relationship between the organization,

media, and the public by keeping the lines of communication open and promptly answering questions in

addition to and conducting press conferences to announce major news releases or to deliver critical

information in relation to a crisis. Often serving as the buffer, and the designated spokesperson of

information, the role of Public Relations, as it relates to crisis communications has expanded as the

prevalence of crises have become more common in our society.

5.0 Best Practices for Handling the Media and Public

In the event of a crisis, the Public Information Officer is obligated to the organization and public

to disclose information in a complete, timely, and accurate approach. Sharing any information to the

media regarding the cause, magnitude, and resources committed to managing the crisis, it is the duty of

the PIO to galvanize awareness and inform the stakeholders and public on new developments. In this

section, the seven best practices for PIOs are listed as follows,

Understand the value of a crisis management plan. Effective crisis management plans offers the

response team an essential outline for the preparation, predetermination of best practices, and efficiency

in the event of a crisis (Cloudman, 2006). The establishment of a crisis plan should contain an action

plan, a summary of policy and procedures, and a list of key people containing the names of employees,

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 17

media, and other stakeholders with accurate contact information that is periodically updated in advance.

Furthermore, organizations with crisis management plans are two to three times faster to recover with less

human and financial costs than organizations without one set in place (Cohn, 2000).

Become the sole authority for all communications. Positioned to conduct all crisis communication

activities, the PIO has the advantage of ultimately controlling and coordinating the flow of information

that is presented to the public though media outlets, government officials, etc. thus making it the

“official” source of information for the crisis (Amber Alert, 2006). As the sole resource for information

regarding a crisis, those operating from within this position must first deliver all communication

directives to its subordinate agencies and secondly explain those directives to officials and other decision

makers for their approval (Doob, 1995).

Address the problem immediately. Quoted by Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda Joseph Gobbels,

“Whoever speaks the first word to the world is always right”, meaning that communication must reach the

masses ahead of its competing communication sources (Doob, 1995). With the advent of social media

platforms, citizen-journalists are capable of generating parallel (often conflicting) narratives of an

incident before the “official” crisis communications are established. The timeliness of an organization’s

response denotes credibility, as the transmission of timely and accurate information to the public is the

best countermeasure for dealing with competing sources (Amber Alert, 2006).

Acknowledging accountability. An organization accepting accountability on their part in a crisis can

impact public perception based on the organization’s response. Contrary to the belief of “good vs bad”,

public perceptions are not formed by the errors made, but in their visible efforts to correct the crisis

(Cohn, 2000). Conversely, this perception can shift unfavorably if the crisis is either denied, not admitted

to, or not corrected.

Controlling rumors and misinformation. Rumors and misinformation can (and will) emerge during a

crisis. In the attempt to gather information for a newsworthy story, news media, and other journalists will

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 18

collect their data from a variety of sources thereby causing the proliferation of rumors and other

misinformation to spread quickly. It is the duty of the PIO to monitor such information released to the

public in order to counter potential problems that may arise during the crisis communication process.

Avoid the “no comment” response. By saying this, it leaves the organization (or individual) susceptible

to two things, 1) it presumes the admission of guilt in the public’s perception, and 2) it relinquishes

control of the narrative to other entities (Fink, 1986). In the event of a crisis and the organization is

viewed as culpable to the public, it is best practice to present the facts concerning the incident, followed

by immediate corrective actions.

Utilizing social media platforms to supplement traditional crisis communications. As an emerging

tool for organizations to communicate with journalists and the public alike, a 2004 study estimated that

half of all organizations have integrated the use of the internet during times of national crisis (Taylor,

2005). Recently, in the era of social media, this has changed the landscape of crisis communications, as

anyone with internet access (through PC, tablets, or smartphones) can communicate to an audience of

millions. Allowing crisis managers to communicate with tremendous speed, social media as a medium

for crisis communications cannot be overlooked as a viable resource for crisis communications due to its

features of immediacy through instant sharing, global reach (hundreds of millions of people use social

media worldwide), and its ease of availability (Husain, 2014).

6.0 Conclusion

As a vital component to crisis management and emergency response, crisis communications

delivers pertinent information to the public occurring before, during, and after a crisis. With the goal of

either recovering from a crisis to avoiding it altogether, the effective use of crisis communications strives

to convey, notifications, warnings, and other information associated with the crisis. This is best

exemplified through the implementation of a crisis management plan in which crisis management teams

should have established within in every organization. While a crisis management plan provides a series

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 19

of generalized protocols by which to handle a crisis, crisis communications (and crisis communications

theory) forms the heart of any communications (and responses) which can transpire either internally

within the crisis management team or externally with the media and general public. Coombs Situational

Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) refines the flow of crisis communications by creating a structured

response strategy (postures) based on crisis severity (clusters). Used as an analysis tool for crisis

management teams, SCCT specifically targets the precipitating elements posing a reputational threat on

an organization or individual then generates a suitable response strategy to ameliorate the given issue.

While crisis communication is applicable to a diverse range of settings and scenarios, due to

events affecting national security and public safety as highlighted by the media, its applications for

emergency responders on a local, state, and national level (through NIMS) demonstrates a desperate need

for crisis communications in the form of the Public Information Officer (PIO) to keep its public aware of

any current or future issues which can arise. In doing this, the achievement of public awareness along

with any corrective actions undertaken by emergency personnel will assist in facilitating the confidence

and cooperation between the government, its officials, and the public.

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 20

Bibliography

Amber Alert. (2006). Amber Alert Best Practices Guide For Public Information Officers. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Justice.

An, S.-K. (2009, January 12). How do the news media frame crises? A content analysis of crisis news coverage. Public Relations Review(35), 107-112.

Birch, J. (1994). New Factors Response in Crisis Planning and Response. Public Relations Quarterly, 39(1).

Boin, A. (2003, September/October). Public Leadership in Times of Crisis: Mission Impossible? Public Administration Review , 63(5), 544-553.

Brown, J. (2013). PR and Communication in Local Government and Public Services. London: Kogan Page Limited.

Centers For Disease Control. (2012). Crisis Emergency & Risk Communication: 2012 Edition. Atlanta , Georgia, USA: Centers For Disease Control.

Cloudman, R. (2006, September 1). Crisis communications preparedness among U.S. organizations: Activities and assessments by public relations practitioners. Public Relations Review(32), 367- 376.

Cohn, R. (2000). The PR Crisis Bible. New York, New York, USA: St. Martin's Press.

Condon, S. L. (2014, May). Communication Media Use in Emergency Response Management. (M. P. S.R. Hiltz, Ed.) Proceedings of the 11th International ISCRAM Conference , 687-696.

Cooley, S. C. (2011, June). An examination of the situational crisis communication theory through the general motors bankruptcy . Journal of Media and Communication Studies , 3(6), 203-211.

Coombs, T. (2002, October). Deep and Surface Threats: Conceptual and Practical Impications for "Crisis" vs "Problem". Public Relations Review, 28(4), 339-345.

Coombs, T. (2006). The Protective Powers of Crisis Response Strategies: Managing Reputational Assets During a Crisis . Journal of Promotion Management, 12(3/4), 241-260.

Coombs, T. (2007, October 30). Crisis Management and Communications. Retrieved July 1, 2016, from www.facoltaspes.unimi.it: http://www.facoltaspes.unimi.it/files/_ITA_/COM/Crisis_Management_and_Communications.pd f

Coombs, T. (2008). The Development of the Situational Crisis Communication Theory. In T. L. Hansen- Horn, Public Relations From Theory To Practice (pp. 262-277). Boston, MA, USA: Pearson Education, Inc.

David, G. (2013). Considerations on Using the Situational Crisis Communication Theory in the Crisis Communication Planning Activities of the Romainan Armed Forces' Information and Public Relations Structures. Journal of Defense Resources Managment, 4(1), 159-166.

Crisis Communication & Emergency Response 21

Doob, L. W. (1995). Goebbel's Principles of Propoganda. In R. Jackall, Propoganda (pp. 190-216). New

York, New York, USA: New York University Press.

Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2007). Basic Guidance for Public Information Officers (PIOs). Washington, D.C.: Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Fink, S. (1986). Crisis Management: Planning for the Invitable. New York, New York, USA: American Management Association.

Gainey, B. S. (2006). Crisis Management Best Practices: A Content Analysis of Written Crisis Management Plans . Coral Gables: International Public Relations Research.

Gilpin, D. (2006). Reframing Crisis Managment Through Complexity. In C. H. Botan, Public Relations Theory 2 (pp. 375-392). Mahwah, New Jersey, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Heidarinejad, R. (2013, September). Investigation efficacy of organizational communications on crisis management in Guilan Gas Company. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 5(5), 265-274.

Husain, K. (2014, October). A Preliminary Study on the Effects of Social Media in Crisis Communication from Public Relations Practitioners' Views. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences(155), 223- 227.

Jackall, R. (1995). The Magic Lantern: The World of Public Relations. In R. Jackall, Propoganda (pp. 351-399). New York, New York, USA: New York University Press.

Kent, M. L. (2010). What is a Public Relations "Crisis?" Refocusing Crisis Research. In W. T. Coombs, The Handbook of Crisis Communication (pp. 705-712). Oxford, England: Wiley-Blackwell.

Lin, Z. (2013, Decemeber). Macro-Public Relations: Crisis Communication In The Age Of Internet. International Journal of Cyber Society and Education , 6(2), 123-138.

Ogrizek, M. (1999). Communicating In Crisis: A Theoretical and Practical Guide to Crisis Managment. Hawthorne, New York, USA: Aldine De Gruyter.

Pichtel, J. (2011). NIMS and the Incident Command System. In J. Pichtel, Terrorism and WMDs Awareness and Response (pp. 315-341). Boca Raton, Florida, USA: CRC Press.

Reynolds, B. (2005). Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication as an Integrative Model. Journal of Health Communication(10), 43-55.

Schultz, F. (2011). Is the Medium the Message? Perceptions of and Reactions to Crisis Communication via Twitter, Blogs, and Traditional Media. Public Relations Review(37), 20-27.

Taylor, M. (2005, February 23). Diffusion of Traditional and New Media Tactics in Crisis Communication. Public Relations Review(31), 209-271.

Wekesa, A. S. (2013, April). An Analysis of Team Effectiveness in Crisis Communication. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science , 3(7), 320-326.

  • Bibliography

Attachment 11

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods Crisis Communication

Contributors: Author:Timothy Coombs Edited by: Mike Allen Book Title: The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods Chapter Title: "Crisis Communication" Pub. Date: 2017 Access Date: August 21, 2020 Publishing Company: SAGE Publications, Inc City: Thousand Oaks Print ISBN: 9781483381435 Online ISBN: 9781483381411 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781483381411.n108 Print pages: 291-293

© 2017 SAGE Publications, Inc All Rights Reserved. This PDF has been generated from SAGE Knowledge. Please note that the pagination of the online version will vary from the pagination of the print book.

Crisis communication typically focuses on how organizations respond to a crisis and includes the external organizational messages and actions as well as the internal processing of information and decision making. Crisis communication is a mix of managing information and managing meaning during a crisis. A crisis can be viewed as a violation of stakeholder expectation that has the potential to create negative outcomes for an organization and/or the organization’s stakeholders. Moreover, crises are often sudden events that require a quick response. Crisis communication is among the fastest growing areas of research within public relations and corporate communication. A unique feature of crisis communication is its applied nature. The research concentrates on trying to improve the practice of crisis communication in order to better protect stakeholders and organizations from the harm a crisis can inflict. The crisis communication research is dominated by studies that seek to lessen the reputational damage a crisis can create for an organization. A variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods have been employed in the study of crisis communication. The various methods reflect the biases of the different theories being used to examine crisis communication. This entry covers the dominant qualitative and quantitative approaches to crisis communication. The qualitative approaches include case studies using rhetorical and discourse analysis. The quantitative approaches include experimental designs that identify the effects of crisis communication on key outcomes such as organizational reputation.

Qualitative Crisis Communication Studies

In terms of the number of studies, the case study method is by far the most common research method utilized in crisis communication. The case study method reflects how the early crisis communication theories emerged from rhetorical studies and political communication. Two of the earliest rhetorically based crisis communication theories are corporate apologia and image restoration theory.

Corporate Apologia

Corporate apologia adapted the idea of apologia from rhetorical theory for application in crises. Apologia is self-defense and the rhetorical genre examines how individuals would defend their character when that character was under attack. Corporate apologia extended self-defense to organizations in crisis. Corporate apologia occurs when some negative event happens and the organization is held responsible for that event. The negative event threatens the character of the organization (its reputation) and the organization must respond to the situation. Corporate apologia examines the case to determine how the organization responded and provides a qualitative assessment of the effectiveness of the crisis response. Corporate apologia uses the four response strategies from apologia: denial (people claim they are not involved in any wrongdoing), bolstering (the audience is reminded of the good things the people had done), differentiation (remove the action from its negative context), and transcendence (place the action in a new, broader context that is more favorable). Three additional strategies based on the concept of dissociation (dividing a concept into two parts) were later added. The dissociation strategies are opinion/knowledge (once people examine the facts they realize the organization is not responsible for the crisis), individual/group (just a few people inside the organization are responsible for the crisis), and act/essence (the crisis is an isolated event that does not accurately represent the organization). Dissociation benefits an organization by redefining the crisis situation so that the organization is viewed as less responsible for the crisis.

Image Restoration Theory

Image restoration theory (IRT) was developed by William Benoit and builds on apologia. IRT sought to go beyond the limited number of response options provided by corporate apologia. There are five primary strategies and 12 sub-strategies in IRT. The five primary strategies are (1) denial (two sub-strategies), (2) evading responsibility (four sub-strategies), (3) reducing offensiveness (six sub-strategies), (4) corrective action (repair damage and seek to prevent a recurrence of the event), and (5) mortification (admit guilt and ask for forgiveness). IRT holds that communication is goal-oriented and that protecting one’s image

SAGE © 2017 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

SAGE Reference

Page 2 of 5 The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods

is a common goal. Similar to corporate apologia, IRT occurs when there is a threat to an individual’s or organization’s image (reputation). There must be some offensive act that is committed and the organization is linked to that act. The rhetorical case studies examine the crisis response, identify the response strategies that were used, and make qualitative judgments about the success or failure of the crisis management effort. IRT accounts for a large segment of the published crisis communication research.

Discourse of Renewal

The discourse of renewal is one additional rhetorical-based theory that uses case studies to examine crisis events. The discourse of renewal is prospective and focuses on helping the crisis victims and creating an optimistic view of the future. The belief is that an optimistic discourse helps to create a positive future for the organization and its stakeholders. There are a limited set of parameters for when the discourse of renewal can be used effectively. Those parameters are: the organization has a strong precrisis ethical standard; the constituency-organization precrisis relationships are strong and favorable; the organization can focus on life beyond the crisis rather than seeking to escape blame, including fixing the problem; and the organization desires to engage in effective crisis communication. The case studies typically include interviews with organizational leaders because the leaders are instrumental in the creation of the optimistic discourse. In addition to the interviews, background information about the organization and the organization’s actual response are examined to formulate a qualitative evaluation of the success or failure of the crisis communication effort.

Rhetorical Arena Theory

The rhetorical arena theory was developed by Danish researchers Finn Frandsen and Winni Johansen. The theory argues that extant theories have a uni-vocal approach by focusing solely on the crisis response of the organization in crisis. The rhetorical arena theory posits that there are multiple crisis communicators during a crisis event that influence the outcome of the crisis. This is called a multi-vocal approach to crisis communication. When a crisis occurs, a rhetorical arena forms as people begin to discuss the crisis situation. The rhetorical arena theory operates on a macro and a micro level. On the macro level, the theory can be used to map the various crisis communicators in the arena. On the macro level, the researcher examines the four parameters of context, media, genre, and text. Once again a case study approach is used, but discourse analysis is the preferred method of analysis for the rhetorical arena theory.

Summary

The rhetorical and discourse analysis case studies seek to provide subjective insights into crisis communication efforts. Researchers utilize qualitative methods to locate patterns of communication or particular actions that seem to be effective or ineffective in a particular crisis case. Keep in mind these are qualitative judgments that cannot prove causal relationships between crisis communication actions and crisis outcomes.

Quantitative Crisis Communication Research

There is a substantial line of quantitative research in crisis communication as well. The quantitative research relies on experimental designs in order to establish relationships between core variables and to demonstrate causal relationships between certain crisis communication strategies and outcomes. The two major lines of quantitative crisis communication research are situational crisis communication theory (SCCT) and stealing thunder.

SAGE © 2017 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

SAGE Reference

Page 3 of 5 The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods

Situational Crisis Communication Theory

SCCT was developed by American researchers Timothy Coombs and Sherry Holladay. It is rooted in attribution theory and posits that the effectiveness of a crisis response (the ability of a crisis response to protect the organization’s reputation) is heavily influenced by specific situational factors. Crisis responsibility is the central variable. Crisis responsibility is how strongly or weakly stakeholders perceive the organization as responsible for the crisis. The amount of reputational damage increases as attributions of crisis responsibility increase. As crisis responsibility intensifies, crisis managers need to use crisis response strategies that are more accommodative. Accommodative crisis response strategies focus more on the concerns of crisis victims and less on the organization itself. For instance, saying the crisis was accidental is low in accommodation while offering compensation to victims is high in accommodation.

Through experimental studies, SCCT has documented the influence of crisis type, crisis history, and prior reputation on attributions of crisis responsibility. Crisis types are the way a crisis is being framed. Organizational crises generally fall into one of three frames: victim (a crisis caused by some external force, creating very weak crisis responsibility attributions), accidental (minimal crisis responsibility), and preventable (strong crisis responsibility due to a crisis being caused by the managerial actions that placed stakeholders at risk or violated the law). Crisis history reveals whether or not the organization has had a similar crisis in the past. Prior reputation is how well or poorly the organization was perceived to have treated its stakeholders before the crisis occurred. Studies have shown that attributions of crisis responsibility increase if the organization had a previous crisis or the organization is known to have an unfavorable reputation prior to the crisis.

These three variables are used in a two-step process to assess the potential crisis responsibility a crisis is likely to generate. The initial assessment is to determine how the crisis is being framed—the crisis type that is being presented to stakeholders. The second step in the assessment is to determine if there were any past crises or an unfavorable prior reputation. If any of these two intensifiers are present, there will be stronger attributions of crisis responsibility than is indicated by the crisis type. For instance, an accident crisis type should be treated as a preventable crisis if one of the intensifiers is present. Once the assessment is completed, crisis managers can estimate if they are facing a crisis with a low or high amount of crisis responsibility. If the crisis responsibility is low, crisis managers can use the ethical base response. The ethical base response tells stakeholders what they can do to protect themselves physically from a crisis (if there is a physical threat) and helps the stakeholders to cope psychologically with the crisis through expressions of concern and other efforts. If the crisis responsibility is high, crisis managers should use the ethical base response and couple that with either compensation and/or an apology. Studies have shown the value of matching the crisis response to the level of crisis responsibility for protecting the organization’s reputation during a crisis.

Stealing Thunder

“Stealing thunder” focuses on the timing and source of the crisis announcement. The stealing thunder experiments find that in the exact same crisis situation, the crisis does less reputational damage to an organization when the organization is the first source of information about the crisis. If another source is first, such as the news media, the crisis will inflict greater reputational damage than if the organization is the source. The stealing thunder studies show a causal relationship between the timing and source of information about the crisis and the effect of the crisis on the organization’s reputation.

Timothy Coombs

See also Communication and Culture; Communication Theory; Emergency Communication; Environmental Communication; Field Experiments; Health Communication; Media Effects Research; Organizational Communication; Public Relations

SAGE © 2017 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

SAGE Reference

Page 4 of 5 The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods

Further Readings

Benoit, W. L. (1995). Accounts, excuses, and apologies: A theory of image restoration. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Claeys, A. S., & Cauberghe, V. (2010). Crisis response and crisis timing strategies: Two sides of the same coin. Public Relations Review, 38(1), 83–88.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2002). Helping crisis managers protect reputational assets: Initial tests of the situational crisis communication theory. Management Communication Quarterly, 16, 165–186.

Frandsen, F., & Johansen, W. (2010b). Crisis communication, complexity, and the cartoon affair: A case study. In W. T. Coombs & S. J. Holladay (Eds.), Handbook of crisis communication (pp. 425–448). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Hearit, K. M. (1995). “Mistakes were made”: Organizations, apologia, and crises of social legitimacy. Communication Studies, 46, 1–17

Ulmer, R. R., Seeger, M. W., & Sellnow, T. L. (2010). Considering the future of crisis communication research: Understanding the opportunities inherent to crisis events through the discourse of renewal. In W. T. Coombs & S. J. Holladay (Eds.), Handbook of crisis communication (pp. 691–697). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Timothy Coombs

• crisis communication • organizations • apologia • the crisis • crisis

http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781483381411.n108 10.4135/9781483381411.n108

SAGE © 2017 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

SAGE Reference

Page 5 of 5 The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods

  • The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods
    • Crisis Communication
      • Qualitative Crisis Communication Studies
      • Corporate Apologia
      • Image Restoration Theory
      • Discourse of Renewal
      • Rhetorical Arena Theory
      • Summary
      • Quantitative Crisis Communication Research
      • Situational Crisis Communication Theory
      • Stealing Thunder
      • Further Readings

Attachment 12

When the COVID-19 crisis first erupted, organiza�ons across the world were plunged into such

uncertainty it was hard for many to know whether they would emerge intact. Now, though the road

ahead remains difficult, leaders are shi�ing from whether they can return to how to do so .

Leaders are also having to manage waves of unfore seen crises, including the recent protests in the

United States and elsewhere. These events can take as much of a toll on workers’ produc�vity and

mental health as radical, rapid changes in the workplace. Employees will have to confront cycles of

disrup�on and adapta�on, driven both by pandemic-related health reasons and new business

impera�ves, ranging from reorganiza�ons to further reduc�ons in workforces or furloughs.

This reentry and recovery phase of the pandemic crisis provides leaders with a compelling reason to

engage and strengthen overall connec�ons with employees. Recognizing and addressing the core

human emo�ons of grief, loss, and anxiety in the workplace is a chance to rebuild organiza�onal

health, produc�vity, and talent reten�on. It provides a historic opportunity to overcome the s�gma of

mental and emo�onal health as taboo topics for workplace discussion, especially the feelings of

isola�on and shame that are a�ached to job losses and other employment casual�es.

Companies that have pledged to support their workforces and have delivered on that promise have

demonstrated their reliability and bolstered their reputa�ons. Now is the �me to con�nue to maintain

and build on that trust, as the focus shi�s from public health in general to the specifics of each

organiza�on’s individual recoveries.

Clear and inspiring communica�on is central to making this next unsteady phase a success. In addi�on

to moving decisively on strategic changes, leaders need to help ra�led workforces believe in the

future. For many people, their employer has been a zone of rela�ve stability during a �me of chronic

uncertainty. Employees have viewed corporate leaders as the most trusted source of informa�on

since the fran�c early days of the pandemic, especially where state ins�tu�ons have been less reliable

in their responses.

DOWNLOADS

Ar�cle (PDF-767KB)

1

By David Honigmann, Ana Mendy , and Joe Spra�

Communica�on messaging and ac�vity in four overlapping phases will help employees move from loss

to renewal. These steps—laying the groundwork, honoring the past, marking the transi �on, and

looking to the future—can help leaders design the right approach to communica�ng that works for

their organiza�on’s circumstances, culture, and history.

Because actual experiences of the pandemic will have varied, we segment organiza�ons into

“survivors” (struggling to stay in business), “adapters” (having to change their business models

radically), and “thrivers” (well-posi�oned because of extra demand or because they were already

working remotely). Some of the ideas below will need to be nuanced differently for each segment.

Lay the groundwork: Be sensitive to employees’ needs Before thinking about reentry at scale, leaders should understand where people are mentally and

prepare accordingly. Some will be enthusias�c about returning to the office, while others will not want

to venture back yet. S�ll others may want to reenter in theory, but worry about risks to their health

and the safety of their loved ones.

Teachers from Lombardy to the United Kingdom to New York are a good example of how leaders have

to weigh these concerns. Many want to return out of a sense of professionalism and because they

miss their students; on the other hand they must think about their own health and that of their

families if reopened schools become new vectors of transmission.

In addi�on to immediate risks to their own health and safety and that of their loved ones, people are

facing long-term uncertainty around lockdowns and job insecurity: Will their employer go under? Will

their re�rement savings be wiped out by a new depression? Based on stress syndromes from previous

pandemics and early surveys from Asia during COVID-19, there may be a 25 percent stress syndrome

incidence rate.

Prac�cal steps include:

Survey employees regularly so you know which camp they fall into. Focus on psychological readiness,

and seek to iden�fy prac�cal concerns. Know who wants to come back as soon as possible, and who

will need more �me to be comfortable—whether because they are in high-risk groups or because they

no longer have reliable childcare, or for some other reason. This will depend to some extent on job

categories, with some people having less choice about when to return. Here too inequali�es will need

to be addressed with sensi�vity.

2

For survivors, show how returning to work will increase the chances of a quick return to

viability.

For adapters, show how the new ways of work ing will con�nue to help the organiza�on.

For thrivers, show how the return is a consolida�on of and a reward for everyone’s efforts.

Make your return planning processes transparent. Indicate who is working on the plan, how they are

thinking about it, and when announcements will be made. Make it clear how you will be thinking

about phasing and who will fall into which phase. Where possible, put bounds on the uncertainty:

What do you know is definitely happening, what is definitely not happening, and when do you expect

to have firmer answers?

Offer informa�on about the prac�cali�es. How hard is it to travel to your site(s)? What has changed in

terms of public transport? What will being back at the site look and feel like? This might be a

combina�on of wri�en materials and videos.

Solicit feedback from all stakeholders on a recurring basis. Some have put together task forces to

simply process feedback; others have set up recurring dialogues with employees.

Clarify how people can get their ques�ons addressed.

Honor the past: Address emotions directly Research into post-trauma�c growth suggests that companies that move effec�vely to address trauma,

grief, loss, uncertainty, and anxiety can rebound more quickly and experience stronger success.

Throughout the pandemic, employees have experienced varying degrees of trauma and loss, both in

their workplaces and in their personal lives. As grief experts have wri�en, acknowledging and

addressing loss helps people build resilience.

3

Leaders need to invest �me in cul�va�ng open, compassionate conversa�ons about what has been

lost in the pandemic. They should validate that there is an emo�onal impact and that it can be a topic

of discussion in the workplace. While conversa�ons about the emo�onal toll of the pan demic may

seem uncomfortable or unnecessary, they help strengthen �es with employees, who appreciate

leaders’ openness.

Top teams that skip this step risk the appearance of being tone deaf or callous, thereby undermining

their authen�c concerns about moving the organiza�on forward. Leaders should be sure their efforts

are authen�c; ac�ng empathe�c without showing true compassion can, in some cases, make things

worse. Precise messaging will of course depend on the circumstances and the context.

In addi�on to individual or team conversa�ons, look for ways that companies can honor the past. For

instance, companies that have dealt with workplace violence have found ways to mourn the loss of

employees through memorials, establishing scholarships, holding fundraisers, or volunteering together

for a cause that resonates with the team.

Prac�cal steps include:

Lead conversa�ons with individuals and teams about emo�onal impact.

The CEO needs to be prominent here; this is not work to be delegated. Our experience is that

employees are more eager than ever to hear from their organiza�on’s top leader. This may

well involve a�ending mul�ple smaller groups.

Normalize emo�onal concerns of employees at all levels. Hold top team conversa�ons about

real and perceived losses from the pandemic, how it has affected us and recognize the

contribu�ons that the team and all employees have made. Define this as an important and

open conversa�on to have. Ensure that other leaders work with their teams similarly, and

cascade the conversa�on throughout the organiza�on.

Take �me to celebrate and reinforce the values the company stands for, and how they were

demonstrated in the company’s pandemic response.

For example, a century ago Lysol marketed itself as a weapon against the Spanish Flu. Today,

employees are being encouraged to see them selves as frontline workers helping to keep people safe.

Several hotel chains in the United States and some universi�es and hotels in the United Kingdom have

offered their prop er�es to medical personnel who needed a place to rest while caring for COVID-19

pa�ents in nearby hospitals.

For survivors, stress the long history of the organiza�on and how it has weathered storms before.

For adapters, stress the ways in which the organiza�on has reinvented itself in the past.

For thrivers, stress the ways in which current success is built on long-standing values.

Create company-wide recogni�on efforts to honor employees who:

died in the pandemic (recognizing those who have passed away is crucial to normalizing loss and grief)

served on the frontlines during the crisis (medical personnel, volunteers)

kept the organiza�on moving (the “quiet heroes”)

In some cases it will also be appropriate to honor clients, partners, suppliers, and customers who may

have died or served on the crisis frontlines. Being explicit about these recogni�on efforts will stop the

losses from becoming a great unmen�onable. As grief expert David Kessler says, “What everyone has

in common is that no ma�er how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed.”

Leaders are important sources of resilience for their people—and also important factors in post-

trauma�c growth following crisis.

Showing gra�tude (as well as receiving it) is also important for mental health. For example, during

Hurricane Katrina in 2005, first responders who reported stronger feelings of gra�tude subsequently

reported higher levels of resilience and life sa�sfac�on. During COVID-19, people across the globe

have honored hospital workers and first responders by cheering together at an appointed hour.

Hospital workers have also gathered to support pa�ents being sent home a�er recovering from the

virus. These examples provide an indelible sense of everyone being in the crisis together.

Create an ecosystem so employees can maintain rela�onships with those who have been furloughed

or lost their jobs, presumably for economic reasons and not for lack of perfor mance. Isola�on from

others in the pandemic, coupled with the s�gma of job loss, can have a devasta�ng impact on

depar�ng employees.

Let retained employees know that it’s OK to have a rela�onship with former colleagues and

reach out to provide support in their job searches.

Launch or expand an alumni network to main tain good rela�onships and foster a future talent

network. These networks are a natural connec�on point to con�nue rela�onships.

Link these stay-in-touch efforts to company values such as respect and collabora�on.

Survey employees a�er these ac�vi�es to assess how well honoring the past has worked. Con sider

measuring employee health factors such as burnout, job sa�sfac�on, and psychological safety. Some

elements may need to be repeated, or integrated as part of the new ways of working.

4

5

Mark the transition: Recognize the power of ritual Rituals create a sense of familiarity and reassurance. They help us navigate loss and celebrate joyful

events in our lives: births, gradua�ons, weddings, funerals, and more. People o�en turn to rituals

because the psychological processes underlying them have been shown to have a stress-reducing

component.

Likewise, COVID-19 has created unprecedented upheaval in the lives of our organiza�ons. New rituals,

along with company values and a renewed sense of purpose, can serve as pillars of psychological

safety and normality. They can help employees process what has happened and rebuild social capital

—and hopefully replace some of what people have lost. And rebuilding old rituals will be just as

important. All rituals are a way of communica�ng to employees that the losses they have experienced

are collec�vely acknowledged and are manageable.

The workplace provides a relevant and powerful source to help people put trauma�c situa�ons into a

more mo�va�onal perspec�ve. As furloughed employees return to employment and people return

from remote working to office- or site-based working, rituals will help mark the start of a new phase in

the organiza�on’s life. In terms of Kübler-Ross’s model of the five stages of grief, this is where

employees will start to move from depression to acceptance.

We recommend nomina�ng a specific date, or �meframe, that the organiza�on will collec�vely treat

as the start of the “ next normal ” and around which rituals can be enacted. Of course, not everyone

will reenter physically or psychologically at the same �me or pace. Things could go awry because of

public-health concerns and consequen�al disrup�on. Starts are likely to be staggered and involve shi�s

and cohorts.

For that reason, any date will be in many respects arbitrary—as it is for a wedding—but it is s�ll

important to set one. This is the point at which the social �es that bind the organiza�on together are

refreshed and reinforced and renewed.

Throughout this phase, focus messaging on discovery as a way simultaneously to look back and ahead.

Essen�ally answer this ques�on: Through the crisis and our response, what have we learned about

ourselves, each other, and our organiza�on that can help us in the future?

Prac�cal steps include:

Make the focus of communica�on the well-being of employees, not work.

Set a specific �meframe of events (exhibit) for the organiza�on to pivot from past to future.

6

7

Provide a “welcome back” kit, consis�ng of what employees need to navigate the new normal. This

might include equipment as well as rules of the road for mee�ngs, elevator use, and so on; medical

experts can offer specific guidance on the most appropriate products to include. The University of

Virginia, for example, will offer returning students a welcome-back kit that includes masks, hand

sani�zer, and a tool to help open doors and press bu�ons.

Be sure people con�nue to know where to turn for help and con�nue to communicate the availability

of resources, including employee assistance programs (EAPs).

Look to the future: Embrace a new sense of purpose Leaders may be tempted to withdraw into small, �ght decision-making task forces to make key

decisions as quickly as possible. Instead, they can use this moment to define and demonstrate a

common sense of purpose with employees, who will be looking for leadership and ways to engage

themselves. Purposeful leaders will want to share execu�on plans broadly with staff to solicit input and

engage them on the challenges the organiza�on faces.

Taking the �me to reflect on purpose can have an array of benefits. At the organiza�onal level,

purpose ful companies have been shown to out perform compe�tors on equity returns and have more

engaged employees. At the personal level, reconnec�ng to purpose has been shown to be a cri�cal

factor in coping with crises and trauma. When decision makers align their decision making and

communica�on messaging with a sense of purpose they may help support their employees’ poten�al

at a �me when leadership needs it most.

Use this period to create a cultural conversa�on across the company and a posi�ve outlook about its

future. Many of the recommended ac�vi�es above will be appropriate for small groups, perhaps

spread over a few weeks or, where possible, held simul taneously on a single day, with op�ons for

people to par�cipate remotely.

Prac�cal steps include:

Start or renew discussions on corporate purpose, based on discoveries from the crisis.

Exhibit

8

9

For survivors, how do we retain our purpose in a changed world?

For adapters, how do we move quickly to new ways of working?

For thrivers, how do we maintain our current success as the world slowly returns to normal?

Show how this purpose feeds into strategic direc�on—the “Where are we going?” Ar�culate how to

strengthen the connec�on between purpose and business ac�ons, for instance, how we display the

value of “customer first” in specific ac�ons, such as offering a comprehen sive customer experience,

that we have never taken before.

Managers and team leaders should speak with their teams about how the work they’re doing

contributes to recovery; they can ask people what mo�vates them and gives their work

meaning.

Set the strategic direc�on in context by develop ing, ar�cula�ng, and sharing the organiza�on’s

new/refreshed change story—the “How do we get there, and why will it be worth it?” This will help

people understand what the future looks like:

What has changed over the last few months?

What has stayed the same? (This includes the enduring values story.)

How do we priori�ze?

What are new expecta�ons of leaders? Of employees?

Commit/recommit to organiza�onal health. This could include new or updated diagnos�cs and

surveys.

Showcase stories about “living your purpose,” both personal and organiza�onal, in internal

communica�ons: through the company intranet, news stories, and town halls.

Con�nue to monitor the effec�veness of communica�on over the course of a few months; evaluate

and adjust as needed.

All of the prac�cal steps we recommend above stem from the need for clear, empathe�c communi -

ca�on that keeps people op�mis�c and hopeful, but also resilient and prepared for further disrup�on.

This stage of recovery will challenge organiza�ons’ communica�ons func�ons to become even more

agile, as they shi� between crisis response mode and normal, more future-oriented strategies. Leaders

will not know all the answers, but as long as they communicate openly and candidly, employees will

respect being brought into the conversa�on.

Attachment 13

Running head: ATTRIBUTION THEORY: CRISIS MANAGEMENT LITERATURE REVIEW 1

Attribution Theory: Crisis Management Literature Review

Kyami Clarke

University of Maryland Global Campus

Dr. Ellen Klein

COMM 300 6380 Communication Theory (2208)

Fall 2020

ATTRIBUTION THEORY: CRISIS MANAGEMENT LITERATURE REVIEW 2

Attribution Theory: Crisis Management Literature Review

Introduction

Communication theory is a broad concept that explains the production of information on

how it is transmitted and how the message is conveyed. The theory views communication as an

integral part of the modern age activities and businesses (McDermott, 2009). In an organization's

decision-making process, the formulation of laws and regulations require effective

communication (Sherry, 2019). Attribution theory is a concept concerned with how to explain

courses of events and behavior. It also examines gathered information and how it is combined to

form a casual judgment and explanation events. Attribution theory is a significant factor in

workplaces concerned with perceived causes of failure and success. This theory intends to help

people know the reasons for their actions and attribute causes of behavior (McDermott, 2020).

This literature review aims to analyze how communication and attribution theory help in dealing

with workplace crisis management.

Discussion

When an emergency occurs in the workplace, effective planning and a quick reaction are

required. A crisis leads to a non-conducive environment to perform effectively. Crisis

management is a complicated factor requiring intervention from the employees and the

leadership structure (Honigmann, Mendy, & Spratt, 2020). There are various types of crises that

can occur in an organization. They include terror attacks, technological emergencies, natural

disasters, violence, confrontation, organization misdeeds, and disease outbreaks (Coombs, 2007).

These crises are a threat to the organization's operations and management, and therefore, prompt

measures should be introduced. This paper reviews the implementation of communication and

attribution theory in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

ATTRIBUTION THEORY: CRISIS MANAGEMENT LITERATURE REVIEW 3

The COVID-19 pandemic has set an unprecedented nature that has caused one of the

most abrupt disruptions of the decade. Workplaces are the most affected, reeling with fear and

uncertainty due to its tremendous effects (Honigmann et al., 2020). Furthermore, the disease

could represent the ultimate test of resiliency for companies. Dealing with a crisis requires

strategic planning coupled with effective policies to mitigate its impact. In tackling the COVID-

19 crisis, both internal and external communication is a vital factor. COVID-19 is an infection

that quickly spreads from one person to another, causing strained health conditions and death.

This is a threat to the work employees and brutal to the economy. Strategic planning should be

done before the crisis to facilitate ease of crisis mitigation. When a disaster occurs,

communication should be well established in the work environment (Coombs, 2017). An

organization can publicize the plight in websites to attract support from the external

environment. In the internal environment, intranet sites can be used to ensure a smooth flow of

information. COVID-19 is transmitted faster because of its capability to thrive on a surface for a

long time (Charoensukmongkol & Phungsoonthorn, 2020). If a COVID-19 case is reported in the

workplace, the sites will enable direct access of the information, and preventive measures are

taken to prevent further transmission.

Attribution theory is a concept that is very effective in dealing with COVID-19 in the

workplace. The approach provides the validity of the question "why," which helps develop a

course of action (McDermott, 2009). The facets of the crisis influence the attributions and

reputations held by stakeholders. Understanding the stakeholders in the workplace, therefore,

improves post-crisis communication. When COVID-19 is reported in a workplace, crisis

management is likely to perceive the event's cause is internal. Through the attribution theory, the

employees can explain the cause of the crisis relating to some factors that can be mitigated.

ATTRIBUTION THEORY: CRISIS MANAGEMENT LITERATURE REVIEW 4

Conclusion

In conclusion, human beings are prone to assigning causes of actions depending on the

situation. This is a significant factor in crisis management as it facilitates developing an effective

mitigation plan. Through communication theory, a crisis can be evaluated and appropriately

managed. Therefore, it is safe to say that communication and attribution theory intervention

effectively deal with a severe situation like COVID-19 in the workplace.

ATTRIBUTION THEORY: CRISIS MANAGEMENT LITERATURE REVIEW 5

References

Charoensukmongkol, P., & Phungsoonthorn, T. (2020, July 21). The effectiveness of supervisor

support in lessening perceived uncertainties and emotional exhaustion of university

employees during the COVID-19 crisis: the constraining role of organizational

intransigence. The Journal of General Psychology. DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1080/00221309.2020.1795613

Coombs, T. (2017). Crisis communication. In M. Allen (Ed.), The sage encyclopedia of

communication research methods (Vol. 1, pp. 291-293). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE

Publications, Inc DOI: 10.4135/9781483381411.n108

Coombs, W. T. (2007). Attribution Theory as a guide for post-crisis communication research.

Public Relations Review, 33(2), 135–139. https://doi-

org.ezproxy.umgc.edu/10.1016/j.pubrev.2006.11.016

McDermott, V. (2009). Attribution theory. In S. W. Littlejohn & K. A. Foss (Eds.), Encyclopedia

of communication theory (Vol. 1, pp. 61-63). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications,

Inc. DOI: 10.4135/9781412959384.n23

Honigmann, D., Mendy, A., & Spratt, J. (2020, June 26). Communications get personal: How

leaders can engage employees during a return to work. Retrieved August 21, 2020, from

McKinsey & Company: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-

insights/communications-get-personal-how-leaders-can-engage-employees-during-a-

return-to-work

Thompson, S. (2019). Attribution Theory. Salem Press Encyclopedia. Retrieved from:

https://search-ebscohost-

ATTRIBUTION THEORY: CRISIS MANAGEMENT LITERATURE REVIEW 6

com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=89164082&site=eds-

live&scope=site.

Running head: ATTRIBUTION THEORY: ANALYTICAL ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY 1

Attribution Theory: Analytical Annotated Bibliography

Kyami Clarke

University of Maryland Global Campus

Dr. Ellen Klein

COMM 300 6380 Communication Theory (2208)

Fall 2020

ATTRIBUTION THEORY: ANALYTICAL ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY 2

Attribution Theory: Analytical Annotated Bibliography

The research goal is to bridge the workplace communication gap as it relates to crisis

management. Through the implementation of situational crisis communication and applying

attribution theory, the organization can persuade employees to follow workplace safety protocols

and change their behavior towards workplace safety.

Coombs, W. T. (2004, July). Impact of past crises on current crisis communication: insights from

Situational Crisis Communication Theory. The Journal of Business Communication,

41(3), 265+. https://link-gale-

com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/apps/doc/A118890605/PPCM?u=umd_umuc&sid=PPCM&xid=0

45ce0c

Coombs was a professor at Texas A & M University in the department of

communication. This paper is based on Situational Crisis Communication Theory

(SCCT), and Coombs (2004) argues that the organization's workplace crisis history has

impacts on reputation threat that can be caused by the current crises if it originates from

deliberate of the employees of the organization. This research offers a broader test of five

roles played by crisis history in crisis communication. The contemporaneous study's

findings disclosed that past related crises deepened the organizational threat of a present

crisis as the event may be caused by mal-treatment of employees or accidentally aroused,

rather than from the business's deliberate actions. The study showed a slight variance in

the perceptions of companies recognized with a record of the history of comparable crises

and those identified with no data about the history of past situations.

To conclude, the perception of the company's responsibility was adversely

associated with the perceived effect on the organization's image. The research discusses

ATTRIBUTION THEORY: ANALYTICAL ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY 3

the consequences of situational communication during times of crisis to change people's

attitudes to observe workplace safety protocols.

Denner, N., Viererbl, B., & Koch, T. (2019). A Matter for the Boss? How Personalized

Communication Affects Recipients' Perceptions of an Organization During a Crisis.

International journal of communication [Online], 2026+. https://link-gale-

com.ezproxy.umgc.edu/apps/doc/A610250305/PPCM?u=umd_umuc&sid=PPCM&xid=4

c7c55da

Denner, Vierebl, and Koch (2019) suggests a two-step process for selecting an

appropriate crisis management strategy. The first step is to determine to what extent

employees believe the organization accountable for the crisis. The second is to study the

crisis history of the organization, and as a result the reputation. Due to these two factors,

what is the impact on how the responsibility is attributed. The attribution of responsibility

can play a crucial role in shaping perceptions of a business reputation and employees’

attitude and, indirectly, their behavior. An effective crisis management strategy will alter

the public and employee perceptions positively towards the organization and offset any

adverse effects.

The research explains how business entities strategically attempt to defend their

reputation in periods of crisis. Employees are expected to communicate positively to

crisis managers about their feelings and views to ensure workplace safety and avoid a

crisis in the work setting. However, some employee's statements may show serious

concern for workplace safety, especially during this time of COVID-19, and promote the

organization's reputation as they may be perceived by the public positively.

ATTRIBUTION THEORY: ANALYTICAL ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY 4

Martinko, M., Harvey, P., & Dasborough, M. (2011, January). Attribution Theory in the

Organizational Sciences: A Case of Unrealized Potential. Journal of Organizational

Behavior, 32(1), 144-149. Retrieved from:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230081321_Attribution_Theory_in_the_Organi

zational_Sciences_A_Case_of_Unrealized_Potential

According to Martinko, Harvey, and Dasborough, 2011 argued that after

individuals are exposed to repetitive punishment and failures, they usually become

unreceptive and unenthusiastic. Individuals tend to stay regardless of the changes to their

environment, as long as it provides a person professional achievement. Studies have

shown, as a result of feeling helpless there are two ways individuals react. The first way

is, when a person sees certain behavior, which result in positive results, they are driven

and mirror that behavior (Martinko, Harvey, & Dasborough, 2011). However, when

negative consequences result from particular behaviors, individuals become

unenthusiastic to display the same attitude. They argue that people in the workplace

believe putting effort will be helpless as the end result is failure; therefore, they remain

inactive, and changing their attitudes is the problem. These inert behaviors are revealed

by personnel whenever they are allocated responsibilities in workplace settings.

Martinko, Harvey, and Dasborough (2011) suggest that Situational communication theory

can assist an organization in dealing with this kind of employee being inactive to deal

with crises when it arises in the workplace.

The study shows that attribution theory plays a vital part in explaining the

manifestation of diverse behaviors in workplace settings. However, various behaviors

originate from different causes and help understand different attitudes of different

ATTRIBUTION THEORY: ANALYTICAL ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY 5

employees in the organization to come up with proper strategies to persuade them to

incline the attitudes to ensure workplace safety protocols are observed and adhered to.

Attributions may either elicit negative or positive retorts. Motivation and empowerment

are positive reactions that may result from attributions that may lead to positive changes

in employees' behavior to ensure workplace safety protocols.

  • Literature Review_Clarke
    • Attribution Theory: Crisis Management Literature Review
    • Introduction
      • Discussion
      • Conclusion
    • References
  • Analytical Annotated Bibliography_Clarke
    • Attribution Theory: Analytical Annotated Bibliography