How spokespeople help or hurt business through crisis messaging: Experiments testing the roles of narratives, non-narratives, and counterargument

David Clementson & Page, T. G. (in press). “How spokespeople help or hurt business through crisis messaging: Experiments testing the roles of narratives, non-narratives, and counterargument.” Corporate Communications: An International Journal. doi:10.1108/CCIJ-10-2022-0133

Abstract:  When an audience mentally counterargues a spokesperson, the message is backfiring. In such cases, audience members are practically persuading themselves to take the opposite position advocated by the spokesperson. Yet spokespeople who are professional persuaders serving corporations often seem to instill counterargument. This paper examines the role of counterargument as the conduit through which a spokesperson’s different message types affect a company during a crisis. We explore the paradox of spokespeople’s (in)effectiveness by testing divides in research drawn from normative crisis communication theory, narrative persuasion theory, and the theory of reporting bias. Two controlled, randomized experiments are reported. Participants (total N = 828) watch video clips of media interviews of a company spokesperson fielding questions about a scandal. Reducing counterargument matters in the context of non-narrative persuasion, and non-narratives can perform at least as well as narratives in crisis communication.

Ethical challenges in an evolving digital communication era: Coping resources and ethical trainings in corporate communications

Abstract: This study is motivated to investigate the ethical challenges facing public relations professionals in today’s digital communication environment. Our research found nearly 60% of surveyed professionals reported that they faced ethical challenges in their day-to-day work, and there is a wide range of ethical challenges in digital practices. Results also revealed that professionals use various resources to deal with ethical issues. As common as experiencing ethical challenges, over 85% of surveyed professionals reported that they have participated in communication ethics training. However, only 30% of participants indicated that their ethics training took place in the past year. Our research provides solid evidence that the digital communication environment generates more ethical challenges while it creates new ways of delivering content in corporate communications. Professional associations and organizations shall dedicate efforts in providing timely ethics training to PR professionals at all levels of leadership within and beyond corporate communications.

Leadership excellence in corporate communications: A multi-group test of measurement invariance

Abstract: This study aims at advancing leadership research in corporate communications by introducing a more rigorous statistical approach to test whether communication professionals of different hierarchical reporting levels, years of experience, and educational backgrounds would ascribe the same meanings to the construct of leadership excellence in corporate communications via survey research. By using an established measurement model of leadership excellence in corporate communications, the study uses three samples, including senior communication executives/leaders, mid-level communication professionals, and senior college students majoring in communication and/or public relations, to conduct the measurement invariance tests. By imposing constraints to different parameters in a sequence of nested models, findings indicate that the measures of leadership excellence in corporate communications can be equivalent across multiple groups. Measurement invariance was confirmed at multiple levels, including the higher-order measurement model, configural invariance, metric invariance, scalar invariance, and error invariance as explained in Cheung & Rensvold’s (2002) research. This study deepens our understanding of measurement invariance when applying multi-group comparison in testing leadership excellence. Such evidence can also be used as central principles when developing corresponding leadership training and development modules by organizations in supporting multicultural and multi-group sensitivity in leadership development.

2019 Emerald Literati Award for Excellence

2019 Emerald Literati Award for Excellence – Highly Commended Paper, Corporate Communications: an International Journal
-LaShonda Eaddy and Yan Jin (2018). “Crisis History Tellers Matter: The Effects of Crisis History and Crisis Information Source on Publics’ Cognitive and Affective Responses to Organizational Crisis.” Corporate Communications: an International Journal, 23(2), 226-241.