Government

Journal of Business Research 67 (2014) 182–189

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Journal of Business Research

What makes crisis response strategies work? The impact of crisis involvement and message framing☆

An-Sofie Claeys a,⁎, Verolien Cauberghe b,⁎⁎ a Institute for Media Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium b Ghent University, Belgium

☆ The authors thank Liselot Hudders, Ghent University (B GhentUniversity (Belgium), for their constructive comment thank the three anonymous reviewers for their constructiv ⁎ Correspondence to: An-Sofie Claeys, Institute for Medi

45, 3000 Leuven, Belgium. Tel.: +32 494 26 69 32. ⁎⁎ Correspondence to: Verolien Cauberghe, Ghent Un munication Sciences, Korte Meer 7, 9000 Ghent, Belgi fax: +32 9 264 69 92.

E-mail addresses: ansofie.claeys@soc.kuleuven.be (A verolien.cauberghe@ugent.be (V. Cauberghe).

0148-2963/$ – see front matter © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2012.10.005

a b s t r a c t

a r t i c l e i n f oArticle history: Received 1 September 2011 Received in revised form 1 March 2012 Accepted 1 July 2012 Available online 15 November 2012

Keywords: Crisis response strategies Crisis involvement Emotional vs. rational framing Post-crisis attitude toward the organization

This study investigates the moderating impact of crisis involvement and message framing on the effect of cri- sis response strategies on post-crisis attitude toward an organization. In the experiment, 274 respondents participate in a 2 (crisis response strategy: match vs. mismatch)×2 (crisis involvement: low vs. high)×2 (message framing: emotional vs. rational) between-subjects factorial design. The results show that in the case of high crisis involvement or in the case of rational framing of crisis communication, crisis response strategies that match the crisis type increase the post-crisis attitude toward the organization. In the case of low crisis involvement or in the case of emotional framing of crisis communication, the impact of a matched or mismatched crisis response strategy on the post-crisis attitude toward the organization does not differ. In addition, the study suggests that crisis involvement has a moderating impact on the efficacy of message fram- ing in terms of post-crisis attitude toward the organization, which depends on whether the crisis response strategy matches the crisis type or not.

© 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Organizations in crisis face severe reputational damage (Coombs, 2007). As a response to these crises, organizations best communicate in the most appropriate way to minimize the damage and to restore their organizational reputation (Coombs, 2004). Early research in cri- sis communication focuses on case studies in order to develop typol- ogies of the crisis response strategies practitioners use (e.g., Benoit, 1995). More recently however, scholars focus on experimental re- search in order to study under which conditions these crisis response strategies are most effective in restoring an organizational reputation (Coombs, 2007). Previous experimental research on crisis communi- cation focuses on the impact of situational variables, such as the type of crisis and the severity of the crisis, on the effectiveness of crisis response strategies (e.g., denial and apology) in restoring an or- ganizational reputation (Avery, Lariscy, Kim, & Hocke, 2010; Coombs

elgium), and Melanie De Vocht, s onprevious drafts. The authors e feedback. a Studies, KU Leuven, Parkstraat

iversity, Department of Com- um. Tel.: +32 472 23 07 87;

.-S. Claeys),

rights reserved.

& Holladay, 1996). As a result of this research the Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) now distinguishes three clusters of crisis types differing in the amount of crisis responsibility that stake- holders attribute to the organization, and three clusters of crisis re- sponse strategies differing in the amount of responsibility that the organization takes for the crisis by means of crisis communication (Coombs, 2007). In sum, the SCCT provides guidelines for matching crisis response strategies to crisis types by taking the level of organi- zational crisis responsibility into account, in order to restore the crisis damage.

However, previous studies contradict each other concerning the efficacy of these SCCT guidelines for restoring organizational reputa- tions in crisis. While some studies find that a matched crisis response strategy results in a better post-crisis reputation than a mismatched crisis response strategy (e.g., Coombs & Holladay, 1996), others do not (e.g., Claeys, Cauberghe, & Vyncke, 2010). This study adds value by investigating two factors that may moderate the efficacy of matching crisis response strategies to crisis types in restoring organi- zational reputations.

The first moderator under investigation is the consumers’ crisis in- volvement. Recent studies in crisis communication stress the impor- tance of involvement during crises (Arpan & Roskos-Ewoldsen, 2005; Choi & Lin, 2009a; Coombs & Holladay, 2005). The results of a case study in the context of crisis communication suggest that indi- viduals with high crisis involvement scrutinize crisis information more in depth than those who are low in involvement (Choi & Lin,

183A.-S. Claeys, V. Cauberghe / Journal of Business Research 67 (2014) 182–189

2009a). This finding is in line with consumer research literature according to which individuals’ involvement with products/issues influences the depth in which they process information (Petty, Cacioppo, & Schumann, 1983). As a consequence, the importance of the content of messages differs for consumers’ with low versus high in- volvement. The current study experimentally investigates this proposi- tion for crisis communication, in order to show that organizations should take consumers’ involvement with a certain crisis into account when determining their crisis communication strategy (Coombs & Holladay, 2005).

The second moderator under investigation is the message framing. Marketing research shows that the presentation of information (i.e., emo- tional versus rational framing) influences individuals’willingness to thor- oughly evaluate the content of advertising messages (McKay-Nesbitt, Manchanda, Smith, & Huhmann, 2011). This study investigates if the framing of crisis communication has an impact on the way consumers evaluate the organizational communication and, more specifically, if framing has an impact on the importance of using a crisis response strat- egy that matches the crisis type. Prior studies in a marketing and adver- tising context focus extensively on the persuasive impact of emotions in communication (Coombs & Holladay, 2005; Geuens, De Pelsmacker, & Faseur, 2011). The field of crisis communication however, focuses on the emotions consumers feel during crises (Choi & Lin, 2009b; Jin, 2009; Jin & Hong, 2010), but not on the possible effects of emotional framing of the message. The current study demonstrates the importance of message framing as a crisis communication strategy in addition to the content (Coombs, 2007) and the potentialmoderating impact ofmessage framing on the effectiveness of the guidelines of the SCCT for applying cri- sis response strategies.

This study contributes to the research field of crisis communica- tion in four ways. First, the study fulfills the need for more experi- mental research on crisis communication (Coombs, 2007; Rowland & Jerome, 2004). Second, the findings establish under which condi- tions taking the SCCT guidelines into account is crucial or less crucial for communication managers. Hereby, this study also adds to the cur- rent academic knowledge about the SCCT, which is one of the most important theories in crisis communication (Kim, Avery, & Lariscy, 2009). Third, experimentally testing the impact of crisis involvement in consumers’ organizational evaluations allows the formulation of clear guidelines to crisis communication managers. When organiza- tions are able to establish if a crisis evokes a high or low level of in- volvement with certain stakeholder groups, they can use the results of this study to tailor their crisis communication. Finally, this study establishes the impact of emotional versus rational message framing in crisis communication. Investigating the impact of message framing is beneficial to the research field because the findings change the focus from consumers’ felt emotions during crises to the strategic use of emotions by organizations in crisis communication. In addition, the study shows the relative importance of content versus framing in crisis communication.

2. Conceptual framework and hypotheses development

2.1. The Situational Crisis Communication Theory

Coombs’s (2007) Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) aims to provide crisis managers with guidelines to match crisis re- sponse strategies to different crisis types. According to the SCCT, the amount of responsibility individuals attribute to the organization in crisis determines the reputational threat a crisis causes (Coombs, 2004, 2007). The SCCT includes three clusters of crisis types based on individuals’ attributions of responsibility to the organization in cri- sis (Coombs, 2007; Coombs & Holladay, 2002). The victim cluster en- tails crises with weak attributions of organizational responsibility (e.g., product tampering). The accidental cluster involves crises with a certain, but low level of responsibility attribution to the

organization (e.g., technical-error product harm). The preventable cluster incorporates crises with high perceptions of crisis responsibil- ity (e.g., organizational misdeed with injuries). According to the SCCT, the more responsibility that consumers accredit to the organization with respect to the crisis, the more the organizational reputation suf- fers (Coombs, 1998).

The SCCT matches these crisis types, differing in organizational re- sponsibility, with three clusters of crisis response strategies, differing in the amount of responsibility that the organization takes for the cri- sis by means of communication (Coombs, 2007). When using deny strategies, the organization rejects all responsibility for the crisis. Di- minish strategies minimize the organizational responsibility or the crisis damage. With rebuild strategies organizations admit full re- sponsibility. Crisis managers should select crisis response strategies that match the amount of potential reputational damage that a cer- tain crisis inflicts (Coombs & Holladay, 2002). As such, the SCCT ad- vises organizations to use deny strategies in the case of a victim crisis, diminish strategies in the case of an accidental crisis and re- build strategies in the case of a preventable crisis (Coombs, 2007).

2.2. The moderating impact of crisis involvement on the effect of crisis response strategies on post-crisis attitude toward the organization

Past experimental research on the role of consumer involvement during crises focuses on the importance of involvement with the or- ganization in crisis or with the organization’s products, and shows that high involvement with an organization or with the organization’s products leads to lower levels of perceived severity of the crisis (Arpan & Roskos-Ewoldsen, 2005). More recently, crisis communica- tion researchers additionally stress the importance of consumers’ in- volvement with the crisis (Choi & Lin, 2009a; Coombs & Holladay, 2005). These authors introduce crisis involvement as a potential moderating variable of the effectiveness of the guidelines of the SCCT for matching crisis response strategies to crisis types in mini- mizing crisis damage. Choi and Lin (2009a) investigate how con- sumers with high crisis involvement (i.e., parents) report about the 2007 Mattel product recalls on online platforms compared to how newspapers report about the crisis in their articles. Hereby, the study compares several dimensions of organizational reputation and attributions of responsibility manifested by both parents and news- papers. The results show that both parties differ strongly in their per- ceptions about the crisis. A difference which the authors explain by the fact that consumers with high crisis involvement process crisis messages more actively. Choi and Lin’s (2009a) study does not how- ever, compare the crisis evaluation of consumers with high involve- ment to consumers with low involvement. The assumptions they make about the impact of crisis involvement on the degree to which consumers process crisis information stems from consumer behavior research.

Different features of communication are more or less effective in influencing consumers’ attitudes depending on their level of involve- ment (Petty et al., 1983). Individuals with high involvement devote a higher amount of attention to the content of a message than individ- uals with low involvement (MacInnis, Rao, & Weiss, 2002). Issue in- volvement increases a person’s motivation to engage in a thorough consideration of issue-relevant information that an organization pre- sents, in order to form an attitude about a product (Petty et al., 1983).

The results of these previous studies in the marketing domain allow making predictions of the effect of involvement on the effec- tiveness of the guidelines of the SCCT to match crisis response strate- gies to crisis types. This study predicts that the content of a crisis response and more specifically the match between the crisis response and the crisis type have a positive impact on a consumer’s attitude toward the organization for individuals with high involvement, but not for individuals with low involvement. Based on Petty et al. (1983) this study expects that if organizations offer consumers with

184 A.-S. Claeys, V. Cauberghe / Journal of Business Research 67 (2014) 182–189

high crisis involvement a crisis response strategy that matches the crisis type, they may consider the crisis response as convincing and subsequently form a more favorable post-crisis attitude toward the organization. However, if the crisis response does not match the crisis type, consumers with high crisis involvement may generate counter- arguments to the crisis response given by the organization (Petty & Cacioppo, 1979) and form an unfavorable attitude.

For individuals with low crisis involvement, the content of the cri- sis response does not attract as much attention as for individuals with high crisis involvement. Instead, individuals with low crisis involve- ment tend to process the crisis response strategy more superficially (Petty & Cacioppo, 1981).

H1A. A matched crisis response strategy leads to a more positive post-crisis attitude toward the organization than a mismatched crisis response strategy in the case of high crisis involvement.

H1B. Crisis response strategies (match vs. mismatch) do not impact the post-crisis attitude toward the organization in the case of low cri- sis involvement.

2.3. The moderating impact of message framing on the effect of crisis response strategies on post-crisis attitude toward the organization

Coombs and Holladay (2005) claim that the study of crisis com- munication needs to focus on the importance of affect. However, until now, the crisis research focus mainly lies on the emotional re- sponses of consumers (Jin, 2009). As such, studies investigate the im- pact of attributions of responsibility on the emotions (e.g., anger and sadness) consumers experience during crises (Choi & Lin, 2009b; Coombs & Holladay, 2005). Some of these emotions relate negatively to organizational reputation (Choi & Lin, 2009b). In addition, content analyses of newspaper stories investigate the primary emotions orga- nizations express during crises (e.g., Jin, Park, & Len-Rios, 2010).

However, emotional framing may also serve as a crisis communi- cation strategy in addition to the content of crisis communication (Coombs, 2007) as advertisers commonly use emotional framing in their persuasive communication to convince consumers (Cotte & Ritchie, 2005). Research in political psychology describes the strategic use of emotional framing in political campaigns as well (Ridout & Searles, 2011). Politicians often use positive or negative emotional framing in their messages to gain votes.

Messages with emotional framing appeal to individuals’ emotions by using drama and including subjective, evaluative properties (Stafford & Day, 1995; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005). Organizations can also frame their messages in a rational manner however. Messages with rational framing appeal to the rationality of the receiver by presenting information in an objective and straightforward manner. How organizations present or frame crisis information may influence consumers’ willingness to attend to the content of an organizational message (i.e., the crisis response strategy) (McKay-Nesbitt et al., 2011). Yoo and MacInnis (2005) find that rational versus emotional ad formats cause consumers to form their brand attitude in different ways. The primary responses to emotional frames are likely to be feel- ings as they appeal to receivers’ emotions (McKay-Nesbitt et al., 2011; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005). Rational frames however trigger con- sumers to evaluate the credibility of a message as they appeal to indi- viduals’ cognitions (MacInnis et al., 2002; McKay-Nesbitt et al., 2011; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005). Hence, if an organization frames the crisis re- sponse in a rational way, organizations should match the crisis re- sponse strategy to the crisis type so that consumers regard the crisis response strategy as credible and meaningful (Yoo &MacInnis, 2005).

H2A. A matched crisis response strategy leads to a more positive post-crisis attitude toward the organization than a mismatched crisis response strategy in the case of a rationally framed crisis response.

H2B. Crisis response strategies (match vs. mismatch) do not impact the post-crisis attitude toward the organization in the case of an emo- tionally framed crisis response.

2.4. The moderating impact of crisis involvement on the effect of message framing on post-crisis attitude toward the organization depending on the crisis response strategy

Studies in themarketing domain show that issue involvementmight have amoderating influence on the persuasive effects ofmessage fram- ing (Gallagher, Updegraff, Rothman, & Sims, 2011; Maheswaran & Meyers-Levy, 1990). When crisis involvement is low, consumers base their attitudes on simple inferences (Maheswaran & Meyers-Levy, 1990). Individuals with low crisis involvement expend little effort to think about issue-relevant information (i.e., crisis response strategies) (Petty et al., 1983). They rather focus on non-content elements such as the emotional framing of a message (Petty et al., 1983; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005).

Under high involvement however, message content determines persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo, 1981) and therefore the messages with rational framing persuade more, as they focus on the content (i.e., the crisis response strategy) (Stafford & Day, 1995; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005). The moderating impact of crisis involvement on or- ganizational message framing depends however, on whether the cri- sis response strategy matches the crisis type or not.

When the crisis response strategy matches the crisis type, con- sumers react differently to the message framing depending on their level of involvement. For consumers with low crisis involvement, the post-crisis attitude toward the organization most likely does not differ depending on the message frame used. Emotional message framing succeeds in appealing to their emotions (Petty et al., 1983; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005). Rational message framing attracts the atten- tion to the content (Stafford & Day, 1995; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005), making them realize that the response matches the crisis type. The persuasion of consumers with high involvement on the other hand depends on the message content (Petty & Cacioppo, 1981). Since ratio- nalmessage frames focus on this content, consumerswith high crisis in- volvement have a better post-crisis attitude toward the organization if that organization frames amatched crisis response strategy in a rational manner than in an emotional manner.

H3A. When the crisis response strategy matches the crisis type, ratio- nal message framing leads to a more positive post-crisis attitude to- ward the organization than emotional message framing in the case of high crisis involvement.This effect will not be apparent in the case of low crisis involvement.

A different trend occurs when organizations use a crisis response strategy that is a mismatch according to the SCCT guidelines. In this case, consumers with low crisis involvement may less likely perceive this mismatch when organizations apply emotional framing. When organizations use rational message framing however, consumers with low crisis involvement will perceive the mismatch since the ra- tional framing forces their attention to the content, which results in a lower attitude toward the organization. Considering consumers with high crisis involvement, emotional message framing appeals less to them (Yoo & MacInnis, 2005), therefore, this type of framing cannot compensate for the mismatch between the crisis response strategy and crisis type. A rational framing highlights the mismatch to con- sumers with high crisis involvement, leading to the following:

H3B. When the crisis response strategy does not match the crisis type, emotional message framing leads to a more positive attitude to- ward the organization than rational message framing in the case of low crisis involvement.This effect will not be apparent in the case of high crisis involvement.

185A.-S. Claeys, V. Cauberghe / Journal of Business Research 67 (2014) 182–189

3. Method

3.1. Design and stimuli

This study uses a 2 (crisis response strategy: match vs. mismatch)× 2 (crisis involvement: lowvs. high)×2 (message framing: emotional vs. rational) between-subjects experimental factorial design to investigate the hypotheses. Eight fictitious scenarios manipulate crisis involve- ment, crisis response strategy, and message framing.

The scenarios describe a fictitious organization in order to prevent any confounding effects of pre-crisis reputation (Laufer & Jung, 2010). The crisis situation involves the pollution of drinking water since all respondents use this product. The scenario of the crisis refers to a preventable crisis, which is the type of crisis which poses the highest level of threat to organizations and their reputation (Coombs, 2007). The scenario manipulates the crisis type by explicitly stressing the culpability of the organization responsible for the water treatment installation in the newspaper article. In addition, the article explains that the company had received plenty of warning and had the ability to avoid the problem, but had refused to take action when necessary.

The scenarios manipulate crisis involvement in line with the ap- proach of Petty et al. (1983). They propose to make high involvement subjects believe that a certain issue affects them personally, whereas for low involvement subjects the issue has no personal impact. The high involvement group of Belgian respondents reads about the pol- lution of drinking water in The Netherlands, due to a company that is also responsible for the water treatment installations in Belgium. The article on the crisis also includes a comment of Belgian scientists warning people for the risk of the same crisis occurring in Belgium. The low involvement group reads about the same crisis occurring in India, and scientists assured people that a similar crisis could not occur in Belgium.

After reading about the crisis, the respondents received the com- munication response to the crisis offered by the CEO of the organiza- tion responsible for controlling thewater treatment installation. In the matched crisis response strategy condition, the organization takes full responsibility and apologizes (i.e., rebuild strategy). In the mis- matched crisis response strategy condition, the organization denies any responsibility for the pollution of the drinking water (i.e., deny strategy).

In line with Stafford and Day (1995), the message with emotional framing includes subjective, evaluative properties and emotional ad- jectives (e.g., “I find it horrible that such a tragedy happened”). The message with rational framing on the other hand is more direct and presents the same information in a more straightforward and objec- tive manner (e.g., “We regret that this incident occurred”).

3.2. Participants and procedure

A convenience sample of 274 respondents participated in the study. Respondents received an email inviting them to fill in an online ques- tionnaire. The website randomly divided the respondents across the eight experimental conditions and instructed them to read a scenario. The scenario first describes an article that appeared in either a Dutch or an Indian newspaper on the pollution of drinking water, which ma- nipulates the crisis involvement. Then, respondents read a text containing a reaction of the CEO of the organization responsible for the water treatment installation, manipulating both the crisis response strategy and the message framing. After reading the scenario, respon- dents filled in a questionnaire containing the manipulation checks, measures of the dependent variables and socio-demographical vari- ables. Participants were Dutch-speaking Belgian men and women with an average age of 32 years (SD=12.27; range=17–70 years). Ap- proximately 46% were males, 54% were females.

3.3. Measures

A seven-point Likert scale ranging from one (completely disagree) to seven (completely agree) measures crisis involvement (Kopalle & Lehmann, 2001) (α=.87). This scale consists of three items (e.g., “These events are very important to me”).

To measure the crisis response strategy as a manipulation check, respondents rated the degree to which they felt the organization took responsibility for the crisis on a one-item seven-point Likert scale. This item relates to the Situational Crisis Communication Theory (Coombs, 2007), which states that crisis response strategies differ in the amount of responsibility organizations take.

A four-item seven-point semantic differential scale based on the work of Liu and Stout (1987) measures the emotional versus rational framing (α=.83). Respondents rated the organizational reaction on each of the items (e.g., rational vs. emotional; objective vs. subjective).

A four-item seven-point Likert scale of Griffin, Babin, and Darden (1992) measures respondents’ attributions of responsibility (α= .84). Two of the items measure the blame and responsibility of the or- ganization; the others measure the blame and responsibility of exter- nal circumstances.

Finally, a four-item seven-point semantic differential scale (Mitchell &Olson, 1981)measures the post-crisis attitude toward the organization (α=.96). The measure of attitude allowed respondents to give their general impression of the organization (e.g., unfavorable vs. favorable). Previous research on the impact of crisis involvement during the Mattel crisis has focused on the organizational reputation (Choi & Lin, 2009a). Given the fact that the current study described a fictitious organization however, respondents are more likely to form an attitude rather than an actual perception on the organizational reputation, which covers sev- eral dimensions (Claeys et al., 2010; Fombrun, Gardberg, & Sever, 2000).

4. Pre-test

Apre-test tested the effectiveness of themanipulations of the crisis re- sponse strategies, crisis involvement and message framing. The pre-test (N=135) used a between-subjects design. First, respondents rated to what extent they perceived that the organization took responsibility for the crisis. The results show that, in line with expectations, respondents in the matched response condition (cf. rebuild strategy) perceived that the organization took more responsibility for the crisis than respondents in the mismatch response condition (cf. deny strategy) (Mmatch=6.3, SD=1.17 vs.Mmismatch=1.8, SD=1.16; t (133)=−22.35, pb .001).

A second analysis measured the attributions of responsibility to es- tablish the crisis type, in order to ensure that the rebuild crisis response strategy offers a matched condition and that the deny crisis response strategy offers a mismatched condition. On average, respondents feel like the company is highly responsible for the crisis (M=4.6, SD= 1.87) and therefore the issue at hand involves a preventable crisis.

In addition, the results show that in the low crisis involvement condition, respondents feel less involved with the crisis than in the high crisis involvement condition (Mlow involvement=2.6, SD=1.20 vs. Mhigh involvement=5.6, SD=1.42; t (133)=13.12, pb .001).

The last analysis of the pre-test checked the manipulation of message framing. The results show that in the emotional framing condition, respondents feel like the organizational communication is more emotional than in the rational framing condition (Memotional= 5.4, SD=.90 vs. Mrational=2.3, SD=1.02; t (133)=18.96, pb .001). In sum, the scenariosmanipulate all independent variables as intended.

5. Results

5.1. Manipulation check

The study tests the manipulation of the independent variables through an independent samples t-test. In the matched condition

3,1

3,73,3

2,9

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

emotional message framing

rational message framing

matched crisis

response strategy

mismatched crisis

response strategy

Fig. 2. Interaction between message framing and crisis response strategy on post-crisis attitude toward the organization.

186 A.-S. Claeys, V. Cauberghe / Journal of Business Research 67 (2014) 182–189

(cf. rebuild strategy), respondents think that the organization takes more responsibility for what happened than in the mismatched con- dition (cf. deny strategy) (Mmatch=6.3, SD=1.53 vs. Mmismatch=1.6, SD=1.20; t (272)=28.14, pb .001). In line with the findings of the pretest, the attributions of responsibility of the organization for the crisis are moderately high (M=4.5, SD=1.48). Hence, the crisis de- scribed is a preventable crisis and the rebuild strategy a matched re- sponse, whereas the deny strategy proves to be a mismatched response. The results also show the effective manipulation of crisis in- volvement. Crisis involvement is higher for respondents in the high cri- sis involvement condition than for those in the low crisis involvement condition (Mlow involvement=3.4, SD=1.4 vs. Mhigh involvement=4.5, SD=1.5; t (269)=−5.92, pb .001).

To conclude, the independent samples t-test shows that respon- dents in the emotional framing condition consider the CEO’s response more emotional than respondents in the rational framing condition (Memotional=4.9, SD=1.25 vs. Mrational=3.2, SD=1.35; t (272)= 10.97, pb .001).

3,2 2,9

2,8

4,6

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

low crisis involvement high crisis involvement

at ti

tu d

e to

w ar

d t

h e

o rg

an iz

at io

n

matched crisis response strategy

emotional message framing

rational message framing

5.2. Tests of hypotheses

Two separate univariate two-way ANOVAs (general linear model) analyze the hypotheses of the moderating impact of crisis involve- ment and message framing on the effect of crisis response strategies on post-crisis attitude toward the organization. Fig. 1 shows an inter- action effect between crisis involvement and the matching of the cri- sis response strategy to the crisis type on respondents’ post-crisis attitudes (F (1, 263)=10.62, p=.001). The interaction effect shows that the level of crisis involvement moderates the impact of matching the crisis response strategy to the crisis type on consumers’ attitude toward the organization. Two independent-samples t-tests allow looking at this moderating effect of crisis involvement in detail. The results show that in the case of high crisis involvement, the post-crisis attitude toward the organization is higher in the case of a matched crisis response strategy as compared to a mismatched crisis response strategy (Mmatch=3.8, SD=1.59 vs. Mmismatch=3.0, SD= 1.22; t (133)=3.30, p=.001). These results support H1A. In the case of low crisis involvement however, no difference in attitude toward the organization occurs depending on the use of either a matched or a mismatched crisis response strategy (Mmatch=3.0, SD=1.33 vs. Mmismatch=3.3, SD=1.42; t (130)=−1.30, p=.20), supporting H1B.

Secondly, an interaction effect appears between message framing and the match–mismatch between crisis response strategy and crisis type on post-crisis attitude toward the organization (F (1, 263)= 9.10, p=.003) (cf. Fig. 2). This effect illustrates that the organization’s message framingmoderates the impact of offering consumers either a match between the crisis response strategy and the crisis type or a mismatch on their attitude toward the organization. Looking at this

3

3,83,3

3

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

low crisis involvement high crisis involvement

matched crisis response strategy

mismatched crisis response strategy

Fig. 1. Interaction between crisis involvement and crisis response strategy on post-crisis attitude toward the organization.

interaction effect more in detail, an independent samples t-test shows that in the case of a rationally framed crisis response, the attitude toward the organization is better in the case of a matched crisis response strategy than in the case of a mismatched crisis re- sponse strategy (Mmatch=3.7, SD=1.64 vs. Mmismatch=2.9, SD= 1.14; t (134)=3.15, p=.002). These results support H2A. In addition, in the case of an emotionally framed crisis response the attitude to- ward the organization after the crisis does not differ depending on whether the crisis response strategy matches the crisis type or not (Mmatch=3.1, SD=1.30 vs. Mmismatch=3.3, SD=1.48; t (129)= −1.15, p=.25). These results support H2B.

The last hypothesis expects that crisis involvement moderates the impact of organizational message framing on post-crisis attitude to- ward the organization, but that this interaction depends on whether the crisis response strategy matches or mismatches with the crisis type (cf. Fig. 3). A univariate three-way ANOVA (general linear model) tests this assumption. The results show that the overall three-way interaction between crisis response strategy, crisis involvement and

3,9

2,82,7

3,2

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

low crisis involvement high crisis involvement

at ti

tu d

e to

w ar

d t

h e

o rg

an iz

at io

n

mismatched crisis response strategy

emotional message framing

rational message framing

Fig. 3. Interaction between crisis involvement and message framing on post-crisis attitude toward the organization depending on crisis response strategy.

187A.-S. Claeys, V. Cauberghe / Journal of Business Research 67 (2014) 182–189

message framing is not significant (F (1, 259)=.30, p=.59). The results of four separate independent sample t-tests suggest however, that the impact of crisis involvement on the efficacy of message framing on post-crisis attitude toward the organization may differentiate based on the crisis response strategy.

In the case of a matched crisis response strategy, the post-crisis atti- tude toward the organization is higher in the case of rational message framing than in the case of emotional message framing in a high crisis involvement condition (Memotional=2.9, SD=1.10 vs. Mrational=4.6, SD=1.57; t (66)=−5.11, pb .001). No effect of message framing oc- curs in the case of low crisis involvement (Memotional=3.2, SD=1.50 vs. Mrational=2.8, SD=1.16; t (65)=1.05, p=.29). These results sup- port H3A.

In the case of a mismatched crisis response strategy, the results il- lustrate that the post-crisis attitude toward the organization is higher in the case of emotional message framing than in the case of rational message framing for consumers in a low crisis involvement condition (Memotional=3.9, SD=1.50 vs. Mrational=2.7, SD=1.04; t (63)=3.88, pb .001). No effect of message framing occurs in the case of high crisis involvement (Memotional=2.8, SD=1.24 vs. Mrational=3.2, SD=1.19; t (65)=−1.46, p=.15), supporting H3B.

6. Discussion

This study investigates the impact of crisis involvement and mes- sage framing on the effectiveness of guidelines of the SCCT to match crisis response strategies to crisis types (Coombs, 2007). In addition, the results show that consumers’ crisis involvement moderates the impact of emotional versus rational message framing on post-crisis attitudes toward the organization, depending on whether the crisis response strategy matches the crisis type or not.

The first set of hypotheses expects that the impact of a matched versus a mismatched crisis response strategy, based on the guidelines of the SCCT (Coombs, 2007), depends on consumers’ crisis involve- ment. Consumers’ with high crisis involvement pay more attention to the content of relevant messages than those with low crisis in- volvement (MacInnis et al., 2002; Petty et al., 1983). The results of this study correspond to research on persuasion according to which consumers with high involvement generate counterarguments when a persuasive message is unconvincing (Petty & Cacioppo, 1979). If however, consumers with high crisis involvement consider a crisis response as persuasive, the crisis response strategy results in positive attitudes toward the organization. Hence, the results show that a matched crisis response strategy positively influences the post-crisis attitudes toward the organization of consumers with high crisis involvement as compared to a mismatched crisis response strategy. Additionally, the results show that the matching versus mismatching of crisis response strategies and the crisis type does not affect the post-crisis attitude toward the organization of con- sumers with low crisis involvement. These findings offer experimen- tal support to the proposition made by Choi and Lin (2009a), that consumers with high crisis involvement scrutinize crisis information more thoroughly than those with low crisis involvement.

The results of the study also show that the framing of crisis re- sponses has an impact on the effectiveness of the guidelines of the SCCT. The presentation of information by an organization, the mes- sage framing, influences consumers’ evaluation of organizational messages (McKay-Nesbitt et al., 2011; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005). The re- sults show that when an organization emotionally frames crisis infor- mation, the resulting post-crisis attitude toward the organization does not differ depending on a match or mismatch between crisis re- sponse strategy and crisis type as proposed by the SCCT guidelines. According to Yoo and MacInnis (2005), rational framing however, re- sults in evaluative thoughts of consumers regarding the organization- al message’s credibility. Consequently, the results show that in the

case of rational framing organizations should match the crisis re- sponse strategy to the crisis type based on the SCCT guidelines.

The moderating impact of both crisis involvement and message framing on the efficacy of the guidelines of the SCCT is noteworthy because this finding can explain why some previous studies found that a matched crisis response strategy restores organizational repu- tations better than a mismatched crisis response strategy (Coombs & Holladay, 1996; Huang, 2006) and others did not (Claeys et al., 2010). This study shows that the SCCT guidelines may only be effective in restoring organizational reputations during crises when consumers’ crisis involvement is high or when organizations frame their response rationally.

Finally, the study suggests that the impact of individuals’ crisis involvement on the effectiveness of message framing may depend on whether the crisis response strategy matches the crisis type or not. Consumers with low crisis involvement tend to focus on non- content elements of a message such as emotional message framing (Petty et al., 1983; Stafford & Day, 1995; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005). Hence, when an organization does not match the crisis response strategy to the crisis type, consumers with low crisis involvement will have a more favorable post-crisis attitude toward the organiza- tion in the case of emotional message framing than in the case of a ra- tional message. Respondents with high involvement however, tend to focus more on the content. They therefore prefer rational framing of the crisis response over emotional framing since rational framing fo- cuses more directly on the content of the message (Stafford & Day, 1995; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005). However, when the rationally framed message involves a mismatch, consumers with high crisis involve- ment notice that the response does not suit the crisis type. Conse- quently, they will likely form counterarguments which results in a negative attitude (Petty & Cacioppo, 1979). The results illustrate that the post-crisis attitude toward the organization does not differ depending on the message framing for consumers with high involve- ment, in the case of a mismatch.

A different pattern emerges when organizations in crisis match their crisis response strategy to the crisis type. The rational statement focuses on the content and therefore clearly meets with the need for information expressed by consumers with high crisis involvement (Yoo & MacInnis, 2005). In addition, a rationally framed message makes the match between the crisis type and the crisis response strategy apparent for these consumers, resulting in a more positive attitude toward the organization in crisis compared to an emotionally framed response. When consumers with low crisis involvement re- ceive a crisis response strategy that matches the crisis type however, the emotional message framing will lose the additional value over the rational message framing, since the latter stresses the matched re- sponse (Stafford & Day, 1995).

7. Limitations and further research

Some limitations of this study offer suggestions for further research. Firstly, this studymeasures consumers’ evaluation of an organization in crisis bymeans of their post-crisis attitude toward that organization, in- stead of using ameasure of reputation like previous research on the im- pact of involvement during crises did (Choi & Lin, 2009a). Respondents can have difficulties however, in rating the reputation of a fictitious or- ganization, since reputation is a multidimensional construct (Fombrun, Gardberg, & Sever, 2000). Reputation also develops over time (Claeys et al., 2010; Fombrun et al., 2000) and is therefore hard to measure after one exposure to a fictitious organization. Secondly, this study uses only one (rather specific) product/organization, namely a drinking water cleaning organization. Future research should consider different types of products and organizations.

In addition, the study focuses on the match between a preventable crisis type and a rebuild crisis response strategy on the one hand and the mismatch between a preventable crisis and a deny strategy on the

188 A.-S. Claeys, V. Cauberghe / Journal of Business Research 67 (2014) 182–189

other hand. This study focuses on a preventable crisis because this cri- sis type results in the most reputational loss and therefore poses the highest level of threat to organizations (Claeys et al., 2010; Coombs, 2007). Further research needs to replicate these effects however, by means of different types of matches and mismatches (cf. Coombs, 2007). In addition, the attributions of responsibility in this study are only moderately high for a preventable crisis type; future research focusing on a preventable crisis can describe a crisis for which the attributions of responsibility are even higher.

Future studies might also consider the inclusion of a control group which does not receive a crisis response strategy at all. However, be- cause the main focus of this study was to investigate under which conditions organizations should match their crisis response strategy to the crisis type and when the matching principle is less important, the design did not add a control group. Also, possibly the forced expo- sure nature of the experiment induced all subjects in a high involve- ment processing state, even those subjects exposed to the low crisis involvement situation. In case of a non-forced exposure study, those subjects in the low crisis involvement condition might not have the motivation to process the message at all. Previous research (Shiv, Britton, & Payne, 2004) suggests that in the case of low processing motivation and low processing opportunity, message frame-related heuristics are inaccessible to respondents. However, when processing opportunity is high, the impact of framing increases. Subsequently, if the experiment had a non-forced exposure nature with high process- ing opportunity, message framing would likely still have an impact.

The findings of this study offer some directions for further re- search. The results first illustrate that the importance of applying the SCCT-guidelines depends on consumers’ crisis involvement. Further research should study what characterizes a low or high in- volvement crisis. Secondly, concerning the strategic use of message framing in crisis communication, future studies should focus not only on the impact of framing on the effectiveness of crisis response strategies, but also on the effectiveness of crisis timing strategies. Al- though most research in crisis communication focuses on the content of an organizational communication response and the proper use of that content to restore or maintain organizational reputations (Avery et al., 2010), another line of research that is fruitful to investi- gate are studies on the proper timing of information release during crises (Arpan & Pompper, 2003; Arpan & Roskos-Ewoldsen, 2005; Wigley, 2011). Further research should explore the impact of emo- tional versus rational framing under different conditions of crisis timing (Coombs & Holladay, 2005). In addition, future studies should investigate what impact organizations’ emotional framing has on consumers’ felt emotions, since these can impact organizational rep- utation as a mediating variable (Choi & Lin, 2009b). Finally, this study shows that emotional message framing can be beneficial for or- ganizations in crisis during the post-crisis stage, when organizations attempt to restore their reputation. Further research should investi- gate if emotional message framing might backfire when organizations apply this type of framing during the crisis event, when management should show they can handle and control the crisis situation.

8. Conclusions

This study contributes to the research field of crisis communica- tion for several reasons. First, the study answers the need for more experimental research on crisis communication (Coombs, 2007; Rowland & Jerome, 2004). Second, the findings show under which conditions communication managers should apply the guidelines of the SCCT, and when they are less effective. These findings are not only noteworthy in the light of the further development of the SCCT; they also offer more clear directions for practice.

Third, no experimental research tested crisis involvement (Choi & Lin, 2009a) and message framing (Coombs & Holladay, 2005) before in a crisis context. The results show that the guidelines of the SCCT

are crucial when consumers are highly involved with a crisis. Conse- quently, organizations should attempt to differentiate between stake- holder groups based on their crisis involvement, in order to tailor their crisis communication to the needs of each stakeholder group.

Fourth, the results of this study also illustrate that communication managers should not only consider the content of their crisis communi- cation, but also the framing of their message. The efficacy of the SCCT- guidelines concerning the content depends on the message frame used. Matching the crisis response strategy to the crisis type is highly impor- tant in the case of rational message framing, but not in the case of emo- tional message framing. Emotional message framing could therefore be an alternative for companies that are unwilling to explicitly admit re- sponsibility when confronted with a preventable crisis, due to liability concerns (Coombs & Holladay, 2008; Hearit & Brown, 2004).

Finally, this study suggests that even though involvement has a moderating impact on the persuasive effects of message framing (Gallagher et al., 2011; Maheswaran & Meyers-Levy, 1990), the direc- tion of this effect in crisis situations depends on whether the crisis re- sponse strategy matches the crisis type or not. Rational framing is only beneficial for the post-crisis organizational attitude of con- sumers with high crisis involvement when the crisis response strate- gy matches the crisis type. Emotional framing can be beneficial in the case of a mismatch for consumers with low crisis involvement, but loses added value compared to rational framing when the response matches the crisis type.

References

Arpan, L. M., & Pompper, D. (2003). Stormy weather: Testing “stealing thunder” as a crisis communication strategy to improve communication flow between organiza- tions and journalists. Public Relations Review, 29(3), 291–308.

Arpan, L. M., & Roskos-Ewoldsen, D. R. (2005). Stealing thunder: Analysis of the effects of proactive disclosure of crisis information. Public Relations Review, 31(3), 425–433.

Avery, E. J., Lariscy, R. W., Kim, S., & Hocke, T. (2010). A quantitative review of crisis communication research in public relations from 1991 to 2009. Public Relations Review, 36(2), 190–192.

Benoit,W. L. (1995). Accounts, excuses, and apologies: A theory of image restoration strategies. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Choi, Y., & Lin, Y. -H. (2009a). Consumer response to crisis: Exploring the concept of in- volvement in Mattel product recalls. Public Relations Review, 35(1), 18–22.

Choi, Y., & Lin, Y. -H. (2009b). Consumer responses to Mattel product recalls posted on online bulletin boards: Exploring two types of emotion. Journal of Public Relations Research, 21(2), 198–207.

Claeys, A. -S., Cauberghe, V., & Vyncke, P. (2010). Restoring reputations in times of cri- sis: An experimental study of the Situational Crisis Communication Theory and the moderating effects of locus of control. Public Relations Review, 36(3), 256–262.

Coombs, W. T. (1998). An analytic framework for crisis situations: Better responses from a better understanding of the situation. Journal of Public Relations Research, 10(3), 177–191.

Coombs, W. T. (2004). West Pharmaceutical’s explosion: Structuring crisis discourse knowledge. Public Relations Review, 30(4), 467–473.

Coombs, W. T. (2007). Protecting organization reputations during a crisis: The devel- opment and application of situational crisis communication theory. Corporate Reputation Review, 10(3), 163–176.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (1996). Communication and attributions in a crisis: An experimental study in crisis communication. Journal of Public Relations Research, 8(4), 279–295.

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(2), 165–186.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2005). An exploratory study of stakeholder emotions: Affect and crises. Research on Emotion in Organizations, 1, 263–280.

Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2008). Comparing apology to equivalent crisis re- sponse strategies: Clarifying apology’s role and value in crisis communication. Pub- lic Relations Review, 34(3), 252–257.

Cotte, J., & Ritchie, R. (2005). Advertisers’ theories of stakeholders: Why use negative emotions to sell? Advances in Consumer Research, 32, 24–31.

Fombrun, C. J., Gardberg, N. A., & Sever, J. M. (2000). The reputation quotient: A multi-stakeholder measure of corporate reputation. Journal of Brand Management, 7(4), 241–255.

Gallagher, K. M., Updegraff, J. A., Rothman, A. J., & Sims, L. (2011). Perceived suscepti- bility to breast cancer moderates the effect of gain- and loss-framed messages on use of screening mammography. Health Psychology, 30(2), 145–152.

Geuens, M., De Pelsmacker, P., & Faseur, T. (2011). Emotional advertising: Revisiting the role of product category. Journal of Business Research, 64(4), 418–426.

Griffin, M., Babin, B. J., & Darden, W. R. (1992). Consumer assessments of responsibility for product-related injuries: The impact of regulations, warnings, and promotional policies. Advances in Consumer Research, 19(1), 870–878.

189A.-S. Claeys, V. Cauberghe / Journal of Business Research 67 (2014) 182–189

Hearit, K. M., & Brown, J. (2004). Merrill Lynch: Corporate apologia and business fraud. Public Relations Review, 30(4), 459–466.

Huang, Y. -H. (2006). Crisis situations, communication strategies, and media coverage: A multicase study revisiting the communicative response model. Communication Research, 33(3), 180–205.

Jin, Y. (2009). The effects of public’s cognitive appraisal of emotions in crises on crisis coping and strategy assessment. Public Relations Review, 35(3), 310–313.

Jin, Y., & Hong, S. Y. (2010). Explicating crisis coping in crisis communication. Public Relations Review, 36(4), 352–360.

Jin, Y., Park, S. A., & Len-Rios, M. E. (2010). Strategic communication of hope and anger: A case of Duke University’s conflict management with multiple publics. Public Relations Review, 36(1), 63–65.

Kim, S., Avery, E. J., & Lariscy, R. W. (2009). Are crisis communicators practicing what we preach? An evaluation of crisis response strategy analyzed in public relations research from 1991 to 2009. Public Relations Review, 35(4), 446–448.

Kopalle, P. K., & Lehmann, D. R. (2001). Strategic management of expectations: The role of disconfirmation sensitivity and perfectionism. Journal of Marketing Research, 38(3), 386–394.

Laufer, D., & Jung, J. M. (2010). Incorporating regulatory focus theory in product recall communications to increase compliance with a product recall. Public Relations Review, 36(2), 147–151.

Liu, S. S., & Stout, P. A. (1987). Effects of message modality and appeal on advertising acceptance. Psychology and Marketing, 4(3), 167–187.

MacInnis, D. J., Rao, A., & Weiss, A. (2002). Assessing when increased media weight of real-world advertisements helps sales. Journal of Marketing Research, 39(4), 391–407.

Maheswaran, D., & Meyers-Levy, J. (1990). The influence of message framing and issue involvement. Journal of Marketing Research, 27(3), 361–367.

McKay-Nesbitt, J., Manchanda, R. V., Smith, M. C., & Huhmann, B. A. (2011). Effects of age, need for cognition, and affective intensity on advertising effectiveness. Journal of Business Research, 64(1), 12–17.

Mitchell, A. A., & Olson, J. C. (1981). Are product attribute beliefs the only mediator of advertising effects on brand attitude? Journal of Marketing Research, 18(3), 318–332.

Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1979). Issue involvement can increase or decrease persua- sion by enhancing message-relevant cognitive responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(10), 1915–1926.

Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1981). Issue involvement as a moderator of the effects on attitude of advertising content and context. Advances in Consumer Research, 8, 20–24.

Petty, R. E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Schumann, D. (1983). Central and peripheral routes to ad- vertising effectiveness: The moderating role of involvement. Journal of Consumer Research, 10, 135–146.

Ridout, T. N., & Searles, K. (2011). It’s my campaign I’ll cry if I want to: How and when campaigns use emotional appeals. Political Psychology, 32(3), 439–458.

Rowland, R. C., & Jerome, A. M. (2004). On organizational apologia: A reconceptualization. Communication Theory, 14(3), 191–211.

Shiv, B., Britton, J. A. E., & Payne, J. W. (2004). Does elaboration increase or decrease the effectiveness of negatively versus positively framed messages? Journal of Consumer Research, 31(1), 199–208.

Stafford, M. R., & Day, E. (1995). Retail services advertising: The effects of appeal, me- dium, and service. Journal of Advertising, 24(1), 57–71.

Wigley, S. (2011). Telling your own bad news: Eliot Spitzer and a test of the stealing thunder strategy. Public Relations Review, 37(1), 50–56.

Yoo, C., & MacInnis, D. (2005). The brand attitude formation process of emotional and informational ads. Journal of Business Research, 58(10), 1397–1406.

  • What makes crisis response strategies work? The impact of crisis involvement and message framing
    • 1. Introduction
    • 2. Conceptual framework and hypotheses development
      • 2.1. The Situational Crisis Communication Theory
      • 2.2. The moderating impact of crisis involvement on the effect of crisis �response strategies on post-crisis attitude towar…
      • 2.3. The moderating impact of message framing on the effect of crisis �response strategies on post-crisis attitude toward t…
      • 2.4. The moderating impact of crisis involvement on the effect of message framing on post-crisis attitude toward the organi…
    • 3. Method
      • 3.1. Design and stimuli
      • 3.2. Participants and procedure
      • 3.3. Measures
    • 4. Pre-test
    • 5. Results
      • 5.1. Manipulation check
      • 5.2. Tests of hypotheses
    • 6. Discussion
    • 7. Limitations and further research
    • 8. Conclusions
    • References

Order now and get 10% discount on all orders above $50 now!!The professional are ready and willing handle your assignment.

ORDER NOW »»