How Financial Crisis History Informs Ethical Corporate Communication: Insights from Corporate Communication Leaders

Public Relations Review.

Abstract: This study explored how financial crisis history can inform corporate crisis communication practice across industries and over time. Thirty-eight interviews with chief communications officers (CCOs) and their counselors were conducted to explore what lasting lessons these corporate communication leaders learned from their crisis communication practice during the 2008 Financial Crisis. Key lessons learned include: 1) the importance for corporations to tailor their financial communication strategies according to victim vs. perpetrator perception and ethical response expectations held by stakeholders; 2) the importance of stakeholders, and employees in particular, when creating and implementing the plan; 3) the balance between speed and legal concerns, as well as the need for reducing complexity by making sure stakeholder communications are delivered with clarity and accessibility; and 4) a recipe for success includes honesty, transparency, trust/integrity, taking action to reform questionable practices, and abiding by one’s own personal morals. Insights from this study shed light on how learning contributes to ethical corporate communication practice in times of crisis and crisis spillover.

Camila Espina  Yan Jin  Bryan H. Reber