Narratives as viable crisis response strategies: Attribution of crisis responsibility, organizational attitudes, reputation, and storytelling

Abstract: This article expands situational crisis communication theory (SCCT) to narrative persuasion. In a randomized experiment featuring a news interview of a scandalized company, an organization’s spokesperson responds to a journalist’s questions through (a) on-topic narratives, (b) off-topic (spinning) narratives, or (c) nonnarrative information. Consistent with SCCT, on-topic narratives and nonnarrative information reduce the public’s blame toward the organization, enhancing attitudes toward the organization, and ultimately bolstering the company’s image. However, the public ascribes more responsibility to the organization for causing the crisis when the spokesperson subverts questions through narrative spinning.

open access:

Narrative persuasion, identification, attitudes, and trustworthiness in crisis communication

Clementson, D. E. (2020, Nov.). Narrative persuasion, identification, attitudes, and trustworthiness in crisis communication. Paper to be presented at the 106th National Communication Association conference, Public Relations division, Indianapolis, IN.

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to test the effects of narratives in crisis communication. This research assesses how organizations benefit from using stories in their media responses, relative to sharing non-narrative information. The theory of crisis response narratives (Heath, 2004) holds that ethical narratives are effective because they enhance trustworthiness, attitudes toward the spokesperson, and identification with the spokesperson. Normative crisis communication theory exhorts disclosing truthful information rather than spinning. In an online experiment, participants (N = 365) watched a news interview in which a scandalized company’s spokesperson responded to a journalist’s questions with (a) ethical narratives, (b) unethical (spin) narratives, or (c) nonnarrative information. Multiple mediator modeling assessed identification with the spokesperson, attitudes toward the spokesperson, and perceived trustworthiness of the spokesperson. Results indicate ethical narratives are more effective than unethical narratives. However, nonnarrative information most effectively enhances trustworthiness and bolsters identification.

The Role of Regret and Hope in Anti-smoking Loss-Framing-Based Narrative Persuasion.

Abstract: this study examines the effect of discrete emotional appeal (i.e., regret and hope) in loss-framing-based narrative by exploring its impact on people’s emotional engagement and attitude toward the smoking issue. Emotional engagement in this study is not only defined as affective response, but also related to emotional sharing process between self and characters therein, including empathy and sympathy. A controlled experiment involving 137 smoking participants recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) revealed main effect for hope appeal and regret on the emotional engagement, as well as the mediating effect of sympathy to the relationship between emotional appeal and attitude toward quitting smoking.