transfer 16(1) » PR / Werbung

How Organization-public Relationships impact public reactions to crisis response messages

An experimental study in public relations using a recent Deutsche Bahn Crisis

The research tests the impact of organization-public relationships (OPR) on how stakeholders react to crisis response messages in terms of crisis responsibility, reputation and account honouring. A between-subject randomized experiment was conducted to investigate the problem. The sample (n=290) participated in a pre-test survey measuring OPRs. They were then exposed to an identical article simulating a past Deutsche Bahn crisis, but were placed in one of four crisis response message treatments formulated according to Situational Crisis Communication theory (SCCT). Findings indicate that OPRs affect how stakeholders react to crisis response messages. No group differences resulted as an effect of the crisis response on attributions of responsibility, indicating that attributions are dictated by the frame of the crisis. Reputation assessments differed however when OPRs was statistically controlled, without a corresponding effect on responsibility. Respondents also differed on account honouring, as an effect of the message, while controlling for OPRs further increased between-group variance. This provides new insights into crisis response research. OPRs inform more accurately about how respondents will assess reputation following a crisis response, enabling organizations to craft more effective messages. The analysis rests on a theoretical framework that combines strategic public relations with the importance of identifying, building and protecting intangible assets such as the reputation of a business organization.