Crisis Communication to protect corporate reputation

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Literature review

This chapter provides an overview of existing literature and research material relevant to this research paper. This includes crisis communication, consumer-role in a crisis and the Situational Crisis Communication Theory.


Crisis Communication to protect corporate reputation

Crisis management and communication have been extensively studied for several decades. Researchers have found that companies need to communicate with stakeholders during and after a crisis and (Benoit 1995; Coombs, 2006, 2007a; Ray,1999) communicating in an appropriate way and in line with circumstances has proven to be effective in crisis management. Further, communication with stakeholders could minimize reputational damage caused by crisis or give companies reputational protection. It has also been proven that perceived reputation prior to a crisis mattered in terms of post reputation and attribution of responsibility (Coombs & Holladay, 2001). A study claimed that if a consumers have a positive corporate image before a crisis, a halo effect is likely to set in. This means that consumers are more likely to overlook events leading to a crisis and diminish companies’ responsibility for a crisis (Coombs & Holladay, 2006). Previous research has also shown that communication can alter consumers´ perception of a crisis and of the company involved in the crisis (Coombs 1995). Coombs (2007b) argue that consumers need to hold someone responsible when it comes to corporate crises that is, someone must be blamed for a crisis consumers have identified. More specifically, if consumers perceive a company as unethical, irresponsible, and dishonest or thought a company was breaking a law it could result in consumers doubting the company. This could affect profitability and consumer behaviour in the future (Dean, 2004; Huang & Su, 2009). A company’s behaviour, actions and communication towards its customers during a crisis could influence the level of potential reputational damage post crisis (Dean, 2004). Subsequently, this can for example affect a company’s market shares, sales and purchases negatively. These negative post crisis consequences can however be minimised or eliminated by applying a crisis communication strategy that fit the situation (Coombs, 2007b).

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The rise of interactive media

Today, information is more accessible for consumers due to social and technological developments, in particular, the rise of interactive media. A many-to-many communication, which means that multiple users contribute and receive information,results in more accurate information and possibility for consumers to interact with companies (Maresh-Fuehrer & Smith, 2016; Raaij, 1998). Consumer interaction through interactive media increases during a crisis and has proven to have noticeable influence on crisis communication. As a result, the power has shifted from sender (company) to receiver (consumer), making crisis communication more challenging (Freberg, 2012; Jin, Liu & Austin, 2014; Raaij, 1998). Thus, consumers play a central role in determining the effectiveness of crisis response. However, consumers are more likely to support organisations involved in crisis communication, (Racer & Johnson,2001) interactive media can therefore, be used as an effective tool for companies in their
communication after a crisis. Since interactive media naturally create social platforms where many-to-many communication takes place, a short feedback interval can help companies to establish an improved relationship with their consumers (Freberg, 2012; Maresh-Fuehrer & Smith, 2016; Raaij, 1998; Racer & Johnson, 2001).

Negative information and reputation

Researchers have shown that corporate reputation can differentiate companies from their competitors and could affect a company’s operating performance (Fombrun &Riel, 2003; Griffin, 2008; Shim & Yang, 2016). Further, researchers have expressed that a positive reputation could attract more consumers and create a business-friendly environment along with a positive public opinion (Dutton & Dukerich, 1991; Fombrun & Riel, 2003; Shim & Yang, 2016). However, it has shown that media has a tendency of reporting bad news which consequently, often results in companies receiving bad press rather than positive press (Dean, 2004). Publicity from interactive media is  considered to have high credibility and a negative effect, which could alter how consumers perceive a company and affect corporate reputation (Coombs, 2007a; Dutton& Dukerich, 1991). Additionally, research has shown that negative information has a greater impact on consumers when making decisions than positive information has.
Negative information about a company could cause negative associations, which could affect consumers’ attitude and behaviour (Jeon & Baeck, 2016). Studies has therefore,expressed that how consumers react to negative information and how they want to be communicated to is vital information for companies (Ahluwalia, Burnkrant & Unnava,2000; Dean, 2004).

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1.1 Background 
1.2 Problem discussion 
1.3 Purpose and research question
1.4 Delimitation
1.4.1 Choice of theory
1.4.2 Focus groups
1.4.3 Stimuli
1.4.4 Translation
1.5 Definitions
1.5.1 Crisis
1.5.2 Stakeholders
1.5.3 Crisis communication
1.5.4 Reputation
1.5.5 Strategy
1.5.6 Attribution of responsibility
2. Literature review
2.1 Crisis
2.1.1 Crisis Communication to protect corporate reputation
2.1.2 The rise of interactive media
2.1.3 Negative information and reputation
2.1.4 Consumer attribution of blame
2.1.5 Theory on crisis communication Crisis communication strategies
3. Method and Methodology
3.1 Method
3.1.1 Search for literature
3.1.2 Primary data Focus groups
3.1.3 Selection of respondents
3.1.4 Scenarios Creation of scenarios
3.1.5 Creation of strategies
3.1.6 Data analysis method
3.2 Methodology
3.2.1 Research philosophy
3.2.2 Qualitative research approach
3.2.3 Abductive research approach
3.2.4 Cross-sectional research approach
3.3 Trustworthiness
3.3.1 Credibility
3.3.2 Transferability
3.3.3 Dependability
3.3.4 Confirmability
3.3.5 Ethical concerns
4. Empirical findings
4.1 Introduction
4.1.1 Scenario 1: Victim Scenario specific questions: strategies 1-10 Scenario specific questions: 11-16
4.1.2 Scenario 2: Accidental Scenario specific questions: strategies 1-10 Scenario specific questions: 11-16
4.1.3 Scenario 3: Preventable Scenario specific questions: strategies 1-10 Scenario specific questions: 11-16
4.1.4 General question including all scenarios
5. Analysis .
5.1 Elaborating the Situational Crisis Communication Theory
5.1.1 Situational Crisis Communication Cycle Responsibility Pre-crisis intensifiers During-crisis intensifiers Reputation Post-crisis intensifiers
6. Conclusion 
7. Discussion
7.1 Implications and contribution to science 
7.2 Limitations and further research
8. References
9. Appendices



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