Crisis Communication Online: How Medium, Crisis Type and Emotions Affected Public Reactions in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster

Sonja Utz, Friederike Schultz, Sandra Glocka

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    Social media play in today's societies a fundamental role for the negotiation and dynamics of crises. However, classical crisis communication theories neglect the role of the medium and focus mainly on the interplay between crisis type and crisis communication strategy. Building on the recently developed “networked crisis communication model” we contrast effects of medium (Facebook vs. Twitter vs. online newspaper) and crisis type (intentional vs. victim) in an online experiment. Using the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster as crisis scenario, we show that medium effects are stronger than the effects of crisis type. Crisis communication via social media resulted in a higher reputation and less secondary crisis reactions such as boycotting the company than crisis communication in the newspaper. However, secondary crisis communication, e.g. talking about the crisis communication, was higher in the newspaper condition than in the social media conditions because people consider traditional media as more credible. We also found higher levels of anger in the intentional crisis condition than in the victim crisis condition. Anger in turn was related to reputation, secondary crisis communication and secondary crisis reaction. The results stress the need for more complex models of crisis communication.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPublic Relations Review
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)40–46
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

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