Does being real pay off? : examining the impact of perceived authenticity in crisis communication
This study examines whether communicating with authenticity in a crisis situation can help produce more successful post-crisis results and if the type of crisis apology impacts the relationship between authenticity and post-crisis success. The theoretical framework is centered around the contingency theory of accommodation, the situational crisis communications theory, and findings from other fields on the impact of authenticity. Authenticity is hypothesized to have a positive effect on post-crisis outcomes, and it is also explored if there is an interaction effect between authenticity and degree of accommodation. The study uses a 2 (authenticity: present vs. not present) x 2 (type of crisis response: accommodative vs. advocating) mixed experimental design, where authenticity and type of crisis response both are between-subjects factors. For the experiment, 229 participants were presented with modified crisis scenarios and manipulated responses in an online setting and subsequently asked about how the organization handled the crisis. The experiment was repeated in two different scenarios focusing on the American Red Cross and United Airlines. The findings show that authentic crisis responses lead to significantly more positive crisis outcomes, measured on four different parameters than non-authentic crisis responses did. Whether an organization accommodated or not in their crisis response did not significantly impact the crisis outcomes, and the study also failed to find any interaction between authenticity and accommodation on crisis success.
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