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.

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