Johnson, Erika Katherine, & Hong, Seoyeon Celine (Winter 2015). Social Media as a Loudspeaker for Nike: Can Image Repair Communication on Facebook Impact Emotion and Responsibility Attribution? Public Relations Journal, 9(4).
This study analyzed comments in response to a corrective action statement from Nike on its Facebook page. The results revealed that effortful involvement in commenting was positively associated with crisis responsibility attribution. However, involvement was not associated with emotional venting. This suggests that corrective action may quell emotional reaction, but responsibility attribution may be of concern when using social media as a two-way communication tool. Since this study found that effortful involvement is associated with responsibility attribution, involvement as a processing phenomenon perhaps has a weaker association with attribution (since no significance was shown between processing involvement and responsibility attribution). We studied this in the context of limited understanding in regard to how publics attribute responsibility for public relations crises through social media. Public involvement in social media has emerged as an area of interest in conflict management because involvement impacts negative emotion and attribution of responsibility to an organization. The Contingency Theory of Accommodation and the Situational Crisis Communication Theory illuminated our findings on involvement and attribution.
The researchers measured involvement, as related to emotional reaction and responsibility attribution, in Facebook consumer comments (N = 236) made after Nike Running issued an apology and a statement of corrective action about the technical problems with the Nike Plus Sports Kit. To examine the themes of emotion and involvement in the responses to the Nike Running corrective action statement posted on Facebook, a quantitative content analysis of comments left in response to the statement was executed. Each consumer comment in response to the statement was coded for involvement, corporate responsibility attribution, and emotion, given the hypotheses. All comments were used in the analysis with a focus on the reactive phase 10 days after the initial statement.
- Effortful involvement in commenting on a corrective action statement was positively associated with crisis responsibility attribution.
- Effortful involvement was not associated with emotional venting toward the corrective action statement.
- Corrective action may prevent or prohibit emotional reactions from publics on social media.
Implications for Practice
The study may help public relations practitioners understand how apology and corrective action as image repair strategies trigger emotional venting responses and expressions of corporate responsibility attribution. Additionally, while emotion was not related to involvement, responsibility attribution may be more concerning than emotional outbreak in the crisis lifecycle. This suggests that corrective action may be a good tactic for managing emotional response, even among highly involved publics. This strategy may be less effective for reducing blame on the organization, however, since involvement was related to crisis responsibility attribution.
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