David Clementson received a Top Paper Award for “Let Me Tell You Our Side of the Story: Narrative Immersion in a Crisis Communication Media Interview.” Paper to be presented at the 70th International Communication Association conference Mass Communication division, Gold Coast, Australia.
Abstract: Drawing upon the concept of parasocial interaction (PSI) with a TV performer, this paper examines the impact of a company spokesperson using narratives to respond to a crisis during a media interview. Theorizing of mass-mediated PSI (Moyer-Gusé, 2008) holds that narrative messages effectively persuade by viewers experiencing a pseudorelationship with a media figure, followed by less counterarguing of the message. A randomized experiment (N = 365) is reported in which a spokesperson in a televised news interview is questioned about a scandal that has gone viral online, and the spokesperson responds with either (a) on-topic narratives, (b) off-topic narrative spinning, or (c) nonnarrative information. Multiple mediator modeling indicates nonnarrative information most effectively bolsters purchase intentions and reduces negative word-of-mouth. The effect is mediated by PSI with the spokesperson, followed by a decrease in counterargument. Consistent with the theory of crisis response narratives (Heath, 2004) and the theory of crisis and renewal in media relations (Seeger & Sellnow, 2016), viewers react most adversely to narrative spinning.