Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Crisis management research has focused on how crisis stricken firms protect their reputation by communicating appropriate messages to evaluators and employing strategic actions that favorably shape public opinion about the stricken firm. Developing conversations have addressed how a firm’s crisis history may impact current crisis management efforts. However, little is known about how these factors jointly and directly influence what is said about a crisis stricken firm and subsequently impact evaluators’ perceptions.

Primarily guided by the tenets of attribution and situational crisis communication theories, I studied the interactive and main effects of crisis response strategies (accommodative, reframing and defensive), crisis history (first time offenders and repeat offenders) and strategic action (ceremonial and technical) on the tone of media coverage about a crisis stricken firm. I theorized that there would be significant differences in the tone of media coverage about the stricken firm given the 1) the diverse reactions by evaluators to each category of response strategy, 2) differences in perceptions of current crisis responsibility as a result of crisis history and 3) the relative impact of strategic actions on a stricken firm’s crisis management efforts. I examined these relationships in the context of 63 high impact crises by analyzing 11,715 relevant articles and press releases to capture the tone of media coverage and code the crisis response strategies and strategic actions employed.

A series of two way ANOVAs and ANCOVAs controlling for initial crisis attribution and organizational ranking indicated that relative to crisis history and strategic actions, crisis response strategies had the strongest effect on the tone of media coverage about a stricken firm. Further, the relationship between strategic actions and crisis response strategies revealed stronger effects on the tone of media coverage in conditions where stricken firms used reframing and defensive strategies, while employing technical actions and a combination of both technical and ceremonial actions respectively. Surprisingly, a statistically significant interaction between strategic actions and crisis history indicated a more favorable tone for repeat offender firms which did not announce strategic actions. I discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings and present suggestions for future research.



Committee Chair

McGuire, Jean