Crisis history tellers matter: The effects of crisis history and crisis information source on publics’ cognitive and affective responses to organizational crisis

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore crisis history further. The paper also examines the possible impact of information source on publics’ perceptions. The study seeks to expound on the tenets of the situational crisis communication theory (SCCT), particularly the underutilized crisis history component. Design/methodology/approach: The study used a 3 × 3 between-subjects experiment design to examine the effects of crisis history and information source on publics’ crisis emotions, perception of crisis responsibility, control, and organizational reputation. Participants were 174 undergraduate students from a large Southeastern university. Findings: The study’s findings suggest that an organization’s crisis history by the media can increase publics’ perceived organizational control (referred to as personal control) in a crisis situation. However, negative crisis history told by the media can evoke more severe public anger in a crisis. A positive crisis history still could lead to negative perceptions. Research limitations/implications: The study uses a fictional crisis scenario that may not evoke the same emotions or perceptions as an actual crisis. Practical implications: Crisis communicators concerned with angry publics should focus less on traditional media relations and more on new media to reach other gatekeepers; or focus more heavily on media strategy since the media is more likely to elicit more anger among publics. Furthermore, a positive crisis history does not give organizations a pass in current crises. Originality/value: Although the SCCT identifies crisis history as an intensifier of attribution of responsibility, few studies have examined crisis history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-241
Number of pages16
JournalCorporate Communications
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Industrial relations
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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