Ye, L., & Ki, E. J. Impact of Message Convergence on Organizational Reputation: An Examination of Organizational Crisis Communication on Facebook. Corporate Reputation Review, 1-8. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41299-017-0040-5

Summary
This study examined how an organization’s reputation during a crisis is influenced by the convergence in organization-generated posts and follower-generated comments. The study is guided by the message convergence framework (MCF), which posits that during crises, stakeholders tend to make meaning out of multiple messages. To be specific, MCF posits that convergence in messages by different sources increases the strength of those messages; and the convergence observed earlier may be questioned as additional information is presented.

The results revealed that respondents perceived the organization-in-crisis positively when follower-generated comments supported the claims made in organization-generated posts (i.e., consistency), and negatively when comments opposed claims made in posts (i.e., inconsistency). Specifically, in consistency condition, the more credible that comments were perceived to be, the more positive the organization’s reputation was perceived to be; while in inconsistency condition, the more credible that comments were perceived to be, the less positive the organization’s reputation was perceived to be. It was also found that in both conditions, respondents’ pre-existing neutral-to-positive attitudes toward the organization were negatively affected when it used defensive strategies, while respondents’ pre-existing negative attitudes towards the organization did not change significantly regardless strategies used.

Method
This study used a 2×2 between-subjects online experiment and used posts and comments from BP Facebook page as stimuli. Four Facebook pages were created with strategies used by BP being accommodative or defensive, and followers’ comments supporting or opposing BP’s posts. A total of 165 participants took an online survey on their attitudes towards BP, perceived reputation of BP, and perceived credibility of BP’s posts and followers’ comments.

Key Findings
(1) Respondents were more likely to perceive an organization positively when Facebook follower-generated comments are consistent with organization-generated posts.

(2) Respondents’ perceived credibility of comments moderated the impact of post-comment consistency on their perceived reputation of the organization.

(3) Respondents’ pre-existing attitudes toward the organization were negatively affected by inconsistency among pre-existing attitudes, the organization’s Facebook posts, and Facebook followers’ comments.

Implications for Practice
An organization-in-crisis may benefit from using Facebook if the organization has favorable pre-crisis relationships with stakeholders because positive comments from stakeholders online could enhance the believability of messages by organization. If pre-crisis organization-stakeholder relationship is favorable but the organization has a strong crisis responsibility, accommodative strategies could be more effective than defensive strategies because stakeholders’ pre-existing positive attitudes are less stable than negative attitudes and are amenable to change if defensive strategies are used.

Article Location
The article is available at: http://rdcu.be/y0CC (free full article, download unavailable)

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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