This study examined the impact of spokesperson’s rank and selected media channels in crisis communication by employing different ranks (i.e., CEO and communication director spokespersons) and media channels (blogs, websites, and newspapers). Findings indicated that CEO spokespersons were more effective in terms of lowering publics’ crisis responsibility attributions than communication director spokespersons and that blogs were more effective in lowering crisis responsibility attributions than websites and newspapers.
A 2 × 3 between-subjects experimental design was used: 2 spokesperson rank (CEO vs. communication director) × 3 media channels (blog vs. website vs. newspaper). Along with a control group, seven conditions were employed in this study.
A total of 171 students in undergraduate communication courses at a large Southern university completed the study. The average age of participants was 20.1 years. Participants were 68.4% female (n =117) and 31.6% male (n =54).
- CEO spokespersons were more effective in terms of lowering publics’ crisis responsibility attributions than communication director spokespersons
- Blogs were more effective in lowering crisis responsibility attributions than websites and newspapers.
- Due to the high authority that CEOs have in their organizations, CEO spokespersons may enhance the believability of the crisis messages they deliver, leading publics to believe the company will adequately handle the crisis situation.
Implications for Practice
By providing empirical evidence of message impact, these findings are valuable for academics and crisis managers as they attempt to select effective online organizational spokespersons and crisis communication channels.
In addition to considering the CEO as a spokesperson to lower crisis responsibility attributions, organizations should think about employing blogs as an effective strategy that help lower crisis responsibility attributions in order to reduce crisis related damage .
The full article is available at http://www.prsa.org/intelligence/prjournal/documents/2014leekimwertz.pdf