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Inactive Publics in Organizational Crisis

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0024785/00001

Material Information

Title: Inactive Publics in Organizational Crisis A Test of Crisis Communication Strategies' Effects on Information-Seeking Behavior and Attitudes
Physical Description: 1 online resource (66 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Bao, Xiangxin
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2009

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: active, corrective, crisis, inactive, ingratiation, publics, strategies
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: INACTIVE PUBLICS IN ORGANIZATIONAL CRISIS: A TEST OF CRISIS COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES? EFFECTS ON INFORMATION-SEEKING BEHAVIOR AND ATTITUDES Xiangxin Bao 352-8717532 Department of Public Relations Supervisory chair: Youjin Choi Master of Arts in Mass Communication August, 2009 This study combined theories on public segmentation and crisis communication to test two crisis communication strategies? effects on inactive and active publics? information seeking behavior and attitudes in a real crisis situation. It used an experimental design. The study found that publics? levels of involvement and knowledge were positively related to their degree of seeking information. It also found that inactive publics were more motivated by ingratiation strategies to seek relevant information; while active publics were more motivated by corrective actions strategies to seek relevant information. These findings contribute to public relations research on understanding inactive publics? motivation of communications during an organizational crisis. This study also provides practical suggestions to public relations practitioners for preparing communication strategies when organizations are having crises.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Xiangxin Bao.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2009.
Local: Adviser: Choi, Youjin.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2009
System ID: UFE0024785:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0024785/00001

Material Information

Title: Inactive Publics in Organizational Crisis A Test of Crisis Communication Strategies' Effects on Information-Seeking Behavior and Attitudes
Physical Description: 1 online resource (66 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Bao, Xiangxin
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2009

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: active, corrective, crisis, inactive, ingratiation, publics, strategies
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: INACTIVE PUBLICS IN ORGANIZATIONAL CRISIS: A TEST OF CRISIS COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES? EFFECTS ON INFORMATION-SEEKING BEHAVIOR AND ATTITUDES Xiangxin Bao 352-8717532 Department of Public Relations Supervisory chair: Youjin Choi Master of Arts in Mass Communication August, 2009 This study combined theories on public segmentation and crisis communication to test two crisis communication strategies? effects on inactive and active publics? information seeking behavior and attitudes in a real crisis situation. It used an experimental design. The study found that publics? levels of involvement and knowledge were positively related to their degree of seeking information. It also found that inactive publics were more motivated by ingratiation strategies to seek relevant information; while active publics were more motivated by corrective actions strategies to seek relevant information. These findings contribute to public relations research on understanding inactive publics? motivation of communications during an organizational crisis. This study also provides practical suggestions to public relations practitioners for preparing communication strategies when organizations are having crises.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Xiangxin Bao.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2009.
Local: Adviser: Choi, Youjin.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2009
System ID: UFE0024785:00001


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1 INACTIVE PUBLICS IN ORGANIZATIONAL CRISIS: A TEST OF CRISIS COMM UNICATION STRATEGIES EFFECTS ON INFORMATION SEEKING BEHAVIOR AND ATTITUDES By XIANGXIN BAO A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FL ORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN M ASS COMMUNICATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2009

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2 2009 Xiangxin Bao

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3 For all that I have accomplished and become, I d edicate this thesis to my parents Without their love and support, I would not be where I am today.

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank a number of people for helping me during my graduate studies at the University of Florida. I wish to express sincere appr eciation to my professor and chair, Dr.Youjin Choi, for her generous time, advice, and commitment to this study. I am also thankful to Dr. Spiro Kiousis and Dr. Michael Mitrook for serving as my committee members. I am gratefu l to Ms. Jooyun Hwang for a llo wing me to collect data in her class. I would like to give my friend and roommate Xia Wang in this college many thanks Her friendship and support have helped me a lot in both my school and my personal life. I would also like to express my gratitude toward all of my classmates in the program I would like to thank all my wonderful good friends in China and other countries for being there for me and encouraging me during my two years of study. They are Hanying Xu, Mok Wai Shan Jie Zhu, Shujun Guan, Xiaoxiao Liu, Mengting Zhou, Yanye Huang, Guoyin Liu, Junmin Lin, and Wei Xu Finally, I owe my deepest gratitude to my parents Tianhong Bao and Yiping Wang for their unquestioned love and for their support and encouragement. Without my family, I would not have been able to accomplish all the things that I have and would not be where I am today.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 7 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 8 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 9 I NTRODU CTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 11 LITERATURE REVIEW ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 15 ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 15 Crisis Si tuation ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 18 Situational Theory ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 21 Crisis Communication Strategies ................................ ................................ ........................... 25 Combining Crisis Communication Strategies with the Issue s Processes Model .................... 26 Hypotheses ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 30 METHODOLOGY ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 33 Research Stimuli ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 33 Pilot Study ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 34 Procedure ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 34 Corrective action s strategy check ................................ ................................ ............. 35 Ingratiation strategy check ................................ ................................ ....................... 35 Pilot Test Result ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 35 Main Study ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 36 Research Design ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 36 Participants ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 36 Procedure ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 36 Measurements ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 37 Types of inactive and active publics ................................ ................................ ........ 37 Information seeking ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 37 Attitude ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 38 Control variables ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 38 RESULTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 39 Statistical Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 39 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 40 Manipulation Check ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 40 Hypotheses Testing ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 40

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6 DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 45 Summary of Results ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 45 Implications for Public Relations Theory and Practice ................................ .......................... 46 Limitations and Future Researc h ................................ ................................ ............................ 50 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 52 EXPERIMENT STIMULI ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 54 Case Scenario Focusing on Corrective Action Strategy ................................ ......................... 54 Case Scenario Focusing on Ingratiation Strategy ................................ ................................ ... 55 QUESTIONNAIRE ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 56 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 62 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 66

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7 LIST OF TABLES Table page 2 1. Alternative response strategies as forms of advocacy versus acco mmodation ...................... 30

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8 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2 1. Hallahan ................................ ................................ ............................... 17 2 2 Matching crises and communication strategies ................................ ................................ ...... 26

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9 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the G raduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Mass Communication INACTIVE PUBLICS IN ORGANIZATIONAL CRISIS: A TEST OF CRISIS COMM UNICATION STRATEGIES EFFECTS ON INFORMATION SEEKING BEHAVIOR AND ATTITUDES By Xiangxin Bao August 2009 Chair: Youjin Choi Major: Mass Communication An effective public relations effort builds on a positive long term relationship with an A ctivists and ac tive publics receive much attention in organization public relationship research. However, the majority of the stakeholders remain invisible and inactive. To advance a business, an organization should motivate those publics and engage them in the process o f relationship building. The purpose of this study is to test the effects of corrective actions and ingratiation crisis strategies in motivating inactive and active publics information seeking and attitudes Based on Grunig s situational theory, and Halla han s Five Public Model and Issues Processes Model, the study proposes five hypotheses: 1) that t he level of knowledge of and involvement with an crisis ; 2) ina ctive publics are more likely to show information seeking behavior when they are exposed to an ingratiation strategy compared to when they are exposed to a corrective action strategy ; 3) active publics are more likely to show information seeking behavior w hen they are exposed to a corrective action strategy compared to when they are exposed to an ingratiation strategy ; 4) inactive publics are more likely to construct positive attitudes towards the

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10 organization when they are exposed to an ingratiation strate gy compared to when they are exposed to a corrective action strategy ; 5) active publics are more likely to construct positive attitudes towards the organization when they are exposed to a corrective action strategy compared to when they are exposed to an i ngratiation strategy. To test the proposed hypotheses, a 2 (type of crisis communication strategy: ingratiation vs. corrective action) x 2 (type of publics: inactive vs. active) factorial design was developed. This study used a real crisis case child labor crisis in 2007 A nd two scenarios of crisis responses. The dependent variables were information seeking and attitudes toward Gap. The results show or crisis when they are exposed to an ingratiation strategy compared to when they are exposed to a corrective action strategy. Subjects in the group of active publics are more likely to show information seeking they are exposed to a corrective action strategy compared to when they are exposed to an ingratiation strategy. The results of this study provide theoretical applications to connect crisis communication strategies to different kinds of publics and explo r e the effects of corrective actions and ingratiation strategies on inactive and active publics information seeking behavior and attitudes. This study also provides practical implications to public relations practitioners when they are preparing strategies in an organizational crisis situation

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11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION An effective public relations effort builds on a positive long term relationship with an t o maintain good relationships with stakeholders because organizations affect and are affected by their stakeholders. A positive organization public relationship may have short term and long term benefits to organizations. In public relations research, one major goal is to understand how to establish and maintain organization public relationships. In particular, activists and active publics receive much attention in organization public relationship research (Hallahan, 2000b). Organizations often have to con front activists who either support or condemn the organizations. Active publics are those who are aware of the organizations activities and operation and openly express their opinions towards the organizations. Active publics are comparatively easy to iden tify and to target in strategic public relations efforts. However, active publics turn out to be only a relatively small percentage of stakeholders (Hallahan, 2000b). The majority of the stakeholders remain invisible and inactive. Hallahan (2000b) descri To advance the business, an organization must motivate these inactive publics. At the same time, an organization needs to engage inactive publics in relationship building. However, few studies have focused on identifying and motivating inactive publics.

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12 measuring how members of publics perceive situations in which they are affec ted by such (Grunig & Hunt, 1984, p. 148, see also Grunig, 1997). Therefore, publics interact or communicate with organizations depending on their perceptio ns of how they are directly affected different responses or different levels of interaction with the responsible organization. An organizational crisis is one type of situation that may affect perceptions of an organization among mass publics including those who do not pay much attention to the organization during normal times. For example, a crisis can cause inactive publics to consider the consequences of the crisis on their lives and to realize their relationship with the organization. To establish and maintain good relationships, organizations may need to use different communication approaches to address different publics who have varying levels of exist ing response strategies for different publics. Hallahan posits that inactive publics lack initiative in communicating with organizations because they have little problem recognition or perceived ability to solve the problem. Therefore, if inactive publics can identify an organizational problem or believe that they have the ability to solve the organizational problem, they may be motivated to communicate with the or ganization. An organizational crisis and strategic crisis communication can enhance interactions between an organization and its publics. A crisis can activate information seeking behavior in people and cause them to re evaluate their relationship with th e organization. The organization must actively engage in crisis communication to minimize the negative effects on its stakeholders and the damage to the business. Crisis communication can change attitudes and

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13 motivate inactive publics to pursue a higher le vel of interaction with the organization. A good crisis communication strategy may not only mitigate the negative impacts on the organization but also motivate inactive publics to reassess their relationship with the organization, which results in a higher level of knowledge and involvement. The purpose of this study is to test the effects of various crisis strategies in motivating knowledge and involvement in motivation and ability to process information. A crisis strategy targeting inactive publics should attempts. efforts and operation. How the organization deals with the present crisis is their primary concern. Their attitudes toward the organization may be affected by the organiza and on going efforts to establish and maintain a good relationship with its publics, may be one of the most effective approaches in motivating inactive publics. A more accommodative strategy corrective action would be more appropriate in targeting active publics. As Hallahan (2000a) suggested, understanding inactive publics is necessary for theoretical reasons for studying how to motivate inactive publics, especially in a crisis situation. From the per spective of business operation, changing inactive publics into active publics is relationships with various stakeholders. An organization should not only pay atten tion to active

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14 publics but also needs to engage all other publics, because all the publics have potential impact time buyer into a loyal customer? How to attract talents to join the organ ization? How to persuade a potential donor to support the organization? These people may be the inactive publics, but they can have significant deal with the cr Inactive publics may become adversarial and confront with the organization, but it is also possible that inactive publics become active and develop positive perceptions of the organization From the perspective of public relations research, it is important to identify inactive public and their motivations to engage in communication and interaction with or ganizations, because (Hallahan, 2000a, p.464). The main focus of public relations research is to study the relationship between organization and its stakeholders and pr ovide a theoretical basis for positive relationship building. Having a better understanding of the effects of various crisis strategies on motivating different publics can contribute to the theoretical development of crisis management and organization publ ic relationship.

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15 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Organizations have intricate relationships with various stakeholders. On the one hand, sta demands from stakeholders both inside the organization and in their env ironments employee, to Grunig and Repper (1992), the difference between stakeholders and publics is that activities and also more interactive with the organization. Stakeholders are influenced by organizations. Dozier, Grunig, and Grunig (1 segmenting publics is based on a situational theory that argues that organizations create publics They ident ified four kinds of publics by their level of interaction (p. 31): Nonpublics are organizations or groups of individuals in the environment who are not Latent publics are organizations or groups of indivi duals in the environment who are affected by organizational behavior, but are not aware of this. Aware publics are organizations or groups of individuals in the environment who realize that they are affected by organizational behavior. Active publics are organizations or groups of individuals in the environment who realize that they are affected by organizational behavior and organize to do something about their common problem.

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16 fluenced by and influence three kinds of publics: latent publics, aware publics, and active publics. While involvement with organizations are different. Dozier et al. publics are the only ones that generate consequences for organizations, communicators might be engage active publics more than the other two kinds of publics even though active publics may compose only a small part of t (Hallahan, 200b). publics are inconsist initiatives are not limited to publics alone, that is, active groups, but can (and should) be directed communication efforts should not be limited to active publics, but they also need to address passive stakeholders, who may become active publics if their level of involvement with the organization increases. Therefore, Hallahan (2000b) d ifferentiates various publics according to relate to an organization, who demonstrate varying degrees of activity passivity, and who might (or night not) intera s or active communicators, the groups of people related to an organization are its publics. He

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17 organizations. Figure 2 1 shows that various types of publics have different levels of knowledge about and involvement with an organization. Low Involvement High Involvement High Knowledge Aware Publics Active Publics Low Knowledge Inactive Publics Aroused Publics No Knowledge/ No Involvement Figure 2 1. Hallaha n s (2000b) Five Publics Model (p.504) memory about a particular object, person, situation, or organization, based on everyday sees an object, person, situation, or organization as being personally relevant or having personal refers to involvement with the organization refers to their attitudinal or behavioral relevance to the organization. According to the Figure 2 1, an inactive public possess only a minimum understanding of the organization and have minimum interaction with the organization. They have low knowledge about an organization and low involvement in its operations. Aroused publics also possess only a minimum understanding of the organization but they have more interaction with the Non Publics

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18 organization than inactive publics. They have low knowledge about an organization and high involvement with its operations. Aware publics understand the organization better than inactive publics, but they also have minimum interaction with the organization as inactive publics do. They have high knowledge about an organization and low involvement with is operations. active publics. These publics have a good understanding of the organization and a high level of interaction with the organization. They have high knowledge about an organization and high involvement with is operations. Nonpublics do not know about the organizatio n and have no interaction with it. The Five Publics Model suggests that a type of public is not permanent but rather may move to a higher level of knowledge or involvement triggered by certain factors or move down to a lower level of knowledge and involvem ent under certain circumstances. Due to the large size of inactive publics and their potential in advancing organizational development (Hallahan, 2000a), it is worth exerting public relations efforts to reach them. Inactive publics can be motivated to beco An organizational crisis is one event that can change publics because it may attract a large amount of media organization and to search for related information. Crisis Situation stakeholders. Fearn y

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19 negative outcome affecting an organization, company or industry, as well as its publics, products, that is an unpredictable, major threat that can have a negat ive effect on the organization, industry, Although these definitions are different, they all emphasize three components of a crisis. First, a crisis is an unpredictable event. Second, a crisis has potential n egative outcomes for the organization. Third, a crisis affects relevant publics. Crises have many typologies. Based on previous crisis studies, Coombs (1999) synthesized nine types: natural disaster, malevolence, technical breakdowns, human breakdowns, cha llenges, mega damage, organizational misdeeds, and workplace violence (p. 61). A natural disaster is caused by extreme weather or other environmental problem that cannot be controlled by the organization. Malevolence is a crisis caused intentionally by an external party or internal stakeholder. A technical breakdown is a crisis caused by computer, machinery, or other infrastructure problems. A human breakdown is a crisis caused by human error. A challenge is a crisis caused by dissatisfied stakeholders who confront the organization Mega damage is an unexpected event causing a significant environmental disturbance. Organization misdeeds are the a crisis caused by one employee against other employees. Rumors are false or misleading information about an organization or its products. externally and internally contributed depending on their causes. An externally contributed crisis is caused by outside factors such as a natural disaster. An organization is not responsible for causing an externally contributed crisis. An internally contributed crisis is caused by or

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20 directly related to the org anization itself, for example organizational misdeeds or workplace violence. The organization is responsible for causing this type of crisis. With internally attributed crises, organizations and crisis situations often receive large amounts of media cover age. Molotch and Lester (1975) examined the press coverage of the re: It was also the subject of 22 network evening news stories between March 27 and March 31, and an additional 70 stories in April and May of 1989. Nearly 1,000 print news stories and 69 network news stories discussed the Valdez spill between June of 1989 and the one year anniversary of the spill. (Birkland & Lawrence, 2002, p. 18) ed total of 295 news/editorial items consisting of articles, editorials, stand alone photo captions, and bylined columns in The Atlanta Journal the 1st month postcrash was crisis attracted tremendous media organizational crises, which cause fatal, societal, and environmental problems, are put on the media agenda. These crises can attract tremendous media coverage. Organizations in crisis are highly exp osed in the mass media. The media exposure can

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21 (1973) found a strong r the amount of media coverage on these issues. Hallahan (2001) argues that agenda building bility of these issues to different publics. Media coverage of an organizational crisis can increase aware publics, aroused publics, or even active publics. That is, the crisis itself or the media Situational Theory To discuss the possibility of motivating an inactive public to become a higher level of public, we fir st need to understand the reasons that publics communicate with organizations and the effects of organization public communication on different publics. Grunig (1997) develops the situational theory of publics for segmenting organizational publics by publi behavior. The theory consists of three antecedents (problem recognition, constraint recognition, and communication behaviors and two communication behaviors -active and passive, which may also be called information seeking and processing (Grunig, 1997). Active communication behavior refers to deliberate searching out of information on a specific topic, wh ile passive communication behavior refers to unintentional processing of information that comes in randomly (Grunig, 1997). Situational theory suggests that communication behaviors are affected by three factors. First, problem recognition, which is highly

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22 their persona l connection to a situation (Grunig, 1983, 1987, 1997). The theory states that problem recognition is positively correlated with both active information seeking and passive information processing, while constraint recognition is negatively correlated with these communication behaviors (Grunig, 1989). Level of involvement is positively correlated only with information seeking (Grunig, 1989). While people engaging in active communication intentionally search and process certain information about certain issue s, people who are passive communicators process the information they randomly encounter in the environment. Grunig (1989) argues that people who actively seek information on a certain topic apply more cognitive thinking, have a higher tendency to hold atti tudes about a situation, and are more likely to take action. should be done the problem and their perception of personal involvement with the situation affect their level of information seeking and processing behavior (Grunig, 1989, p. 5). Therefo knowledge and involvement affects communication outcomes. ly on issues that issue issue publics,

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23 problem, for example a water pollution issue could be one aspect of general environmental damage. All issue publics are concerned with every issue and have a high level of knowledge about and involvement with these issues. Apathetic publics pay little attention to any of the issues. Single issue publics are concerned with only one aspect of a problem. Involving issue only publics are concerned with any ongoing issue which receives a large amount of media (1989) four groups of publics. All issue publics are active publics, who have a high level of knowledge of and involvement with all related issues of a problem. Single issue publics and involving issue only publics can be aware publics or aroused publics, who have knowledge of a problem or try to take actions regarding this problem. Apathetic publics are inactive publics. theory. Two studies aimed at defining urban environmental publics and rural publics done by Grunig (1983) are among the first studies that test the situational theory. The results found Club, tried to determine if differences exist between various publics in the likelihoo d of joining an activist group. The results confirm the basic premise of situational theory. The results show The study shows that problem recognition and level of involvement are positively related to the level of communication and interaction. Thus, publics with a higher level of knowledge about and involvement with certain issues are more likely to perform ac tive communication behavior. According to Grunig (1989, 1997), people join hat do not

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24 seeking and processing behaviors. public responses to a disaster prediction shows that situational theory is applicable not only to communication behavior but also to the risk assessment process. People with different levels of risk and constraint perception have different responses to di saster prediction information. Based on the findings, Major (1989) suggests that programs and beliefs. Hamilton (1992) conducts a survey study during the Kansa 1990 to test the validity of situational theory and to try to extend the theory. The results shows that highly active respondents are more likely to perform information search in the media than other respondents and also more likely to vote in elections. The results indicate that the general hypotheses of the situational theory are supported. Active publics are more likely to engage in information seeking behavior. According to situational theory, crisis communication targeti ng different publics should use different communication strategies. Active publics, who are quite familiar with organizations and related issues, are more likely to engage in active communication with organizations. Crisis communication, which targets acti ve publics, should focus more on organizational efforts in solving the problem. Inactive publics, with a low level of knowledge and involvement, may not conduct an active information search regarding the organization or crisis. They may engage only in pass ive communication with the organization. As Hallahan suggested (2001), organizations cannot deny the existence of certain problem and prevent inactive public from receiving counteract issue activation b y shape the

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25 information that inactive publics received from various outsider sources and reduce the negative impact the problem creates (Hallahan, 2001, p.47) Therefore, when an organization has a crisis, lem recognition and involvement and reduce constrains they might face in information processing. It can minimize the negative impact that the crisis brings in on the stakeholders. Crisis C ommunication Strategies organization in crisis should actively engage in crisis communication. An effective crisis communication approach can minimize the negative eff knowledge and involvement with the organization. In crisis communication, public relations efforts focus on image, reput ation, and ttack the accuser stresses that the organization confronts the individual or group who makes the accusation. Denial means that the organization do es not admit the existence of a crisis. Excuse acknowledges the existence of a crisis, but the organization uses various explanations to limit its responsibility. Justification acknowledges the existence of a crisis, but the organization tries to minimize related damage. Ingratiation stresses the benevolence of the organization to its stakeholders in the past rather than focusing on the crisis or taking responsibility for the crisis. Corrective action tries to repair the damage caused by the crisis, and

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26 the organization takes preventive actions to avert similar crises in the future. Full apology admits full responsibility for the crisis and asks for forgiveness. Different crises situations require different communication strate gies. Coombs (1999) the most accommodative strategy because the organization takes responsibility for the crisis, strategy because the organization takes an aggressive approach to deny the crisis assuming no responsibility and also attacking publics who tries to offset the of responsibility they wish to assume, organizations should adopt different strategies. Defensive Accommodative Atta ck Accusers Denial Excuse Justification Ingratiation Corrective Action Full apology Weak Crisis Strong Crisis Responsibility Responsibility Rumors Nat ural Disaster Malevolence Accidents Misdeeds Figure 2 2 Matching crises and communication strategies (Coombs, 1999, p.124) Combining Crisis Communication Strategies with the Issue s Processes Model Hallahan (2001) develops the Issue P rocesses Model for issues management, targeting the five types of publics he categorizes (Figure 1), according to the level of involvement and allocation of resources According to his definition, an organizational crisis can be an issue. It is a dispute between an d operation. The

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27 model explains the process of issue occurrence and possible responses that organizations can use Issu es activation certain issues (Hallahan, 2001, p.36) It occurs when an individual recognizes an unequal allocation of resources between the problem and its rectification Issues responses are the activities that the relevant parties undertake to change those inequalities (Hallahan, 2001). Issues s making, and activist publics identify the existence of certain problems or issues, or they start to take preliminary actions regarding the identified problems or issues. Hallahan (2001) explains the process of issues activation inside the five types of publics. Problem recognition, which occurs when publics find conflicts in a situation, is the first step of issues activation (Hallahan, 2001). Hallahan (2001) argues that once inactive publics recognize a problem and start to gather information or seek solutions, they move to a more active state. recognition, and one key factor is issu e exposure. An organizational crisis, which receives media coverage, can increase issue exposure among inactive publics. Issue exposure induces inactive acknowledgeme predisposed to engage in any organized activity to effect change without being motivated by heightened self respond to the problem if they perceive some relevance of the problem to themselves. Hallahan

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28 (2001) identified six factors that account for a low level of involvement by inactive publics: sessment that a problem is not important enough to take action, conviction that others are attending to the problem, or belief ility Inactive publics need to perceive more self interest in order to engage in communication. Problem recognition is also one of the three variables that exp Therefore, attain a higher level of involvement or t o initiate their information seeking behavior. How organizations respond to issues can significantly affect their relationship with various publics. Hallahan (2001) develops issues responses strategies in his model. He argues for different strategies targ eted to different types of publics on separate contingency continua (see Table 1). In the model, he proposes three different types of strategies for each public: advocacy, mix of advocacy and accommodation, and accommodation. For active publics, communica tion should focus on negotiation based strategies. The proposed advocacy strategy for active publics is avoidance in which organizations try to avoid or defer contacting active publics. Although this strategy is possible, active publics, who are usually we ll organized and have clear claims, are unlikely to give up easily (Hallahan, 2001). The mixed strateg y of advocacy and accommodation for active publics includes acknowledgement and bargaining An organization acknowledges the claims of active publics and engages in direct negotiations with these publics (Hallahan, 2001). The mostly accommodation strategy for active

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29 publics is concession, which means that an organization agrees with the public and changes the 2001). The focus of negotiation based strategies When communication targets inactive publics, the Issues Processes Model (See Table 2 1) suggests using pr evention based strategies. Hallahan (2001) explains that this strategy is to most used advocacy strategies are ingratiation and reputation enhancement. Ingrat iation strategy benefits an organization provides to individuals such as customers, investors, donors, employees, can issue a news release about its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs which benefit the local community. The message and information used in a reputation enhancement strategy focus on particular characteristics of an organization (Hallahan, 20 01), e.g., its people orientated nature or its successes at energy conservation. The mixed strategy of advocacy and accommodation focuses its communication efforts on performance and quality assurance. The most effective accommodation strategies are poll t (Hallahan, 2001). To prevent inactive publics from being affected by negative information and outside sources, organizations must continually monitor those inactive public s to ensure that organizational performance meets their standards. The negotiation based strategy of Hallahan (2001) for active publics is similar to problem and i based strategy tries to prevent inactive publics from paying too much attention to certain issues or problems by providing information about the

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30 (1999) ingratiation Hypotheses Five hypotheses based on the literature reviewed above regarding the effectiveness of different c situational theory states that active or passive communication behaviors are affected by an (2001) five types of publics segments publics according to their knowledge of an organization a positive relationship exists between problem re cognition and information seeking behavior. That is, the level of knowledge and involvement should be positively related to information seeking behavior. H1: The level of knowledge of and involvement with an organization is positively related to the degr Table 2 1. Alternative response strategies as forms of advocacy versus accommodation (Hallahan, 2001, p.51) Public (Strategy) Mostly Advocacy Mixture of Advocacy an d Accommodation Mostly Accommodation Active (Negotiation) Aroused (Intervention) Aware (Education) Inactive (Prevention) Avoidance Co optation Containment Media advocacy Ingratiation Reputation enhancement Acknowledgment Bargaining Outreach Lobbying Performance/ Quality assurance Concession Monitoring Collaboration Inquiry handling Alliance building Poll taking Market monitoring

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31 If an organization has a crisis, the effects of various crisis strategies on different publics strategies show similarity in terms of suggesting certain crisis response strategies in correspondence to crisis types. Hallahan considers not only the crisis type but also the type of public in selecting proper crisis response strategies. For inactive publics, Hall ahan (2001) suggests prevention which emphasizes the benevolent projects that an organization has done or can do for its stakeholders. For active publics, Hallahan (2001) suggests negotiation based issue response perception of the organization. In a crisis situation, an organization cannot and should not deny the existence of the crisis and the responsibilities they should take Therefore, in order to prevent inactive public from paying too much attention to the crisis and its negative impact, the organization should direct inactive public to focus on the organization itself rather than the crisis. The ingratiation strategy may be the most effective approach to motivate inactive publics to get more involved with an organization and to maintain a relatively positive attitude about the organization. The corrective action strategy may be a more effective approach at targeting active publics. H2: Inactive publics are more likely to show information seeking behavior when they are exposed to an ingratiation strategy compared to when they are exposed to a corrective action strategy.

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32 H3: Active publics are more likely to show information seeking behavior when they are exposed to a corrective action strategy compared to when they are exposed to an ingratiation strategy. H4: Inactive publics are more likely to construct positive attitudes towards the organization when they are exposed to a n ingratiation strategy compared to when they are exposed to a corrective action strategy. H5: Active publics are more likely to construct positive attitudes towards the organization when they are exposed to a corrective action strategy compared to when th ey are exposed to an ingratiation strategy.

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33 CHAPTER 3 METHODOL O GY This study used an experimental design. According to Wimmer and Dominick (2003), an s manipulate the independent variable (s) is a valid choice for this study because the goal of the study is to prove a link between different seeking tendency and attitudes. To test the hypotheses proposed in the previous chapter, a 2 (types of crisis communication strategy: ingratiation vs. corrective action s ) x 2 (types of publics: inactive vs. active) factorial design was devel oped. The independent variables were the two crisis strategies and the two types of publics. A real crisis case was used in the study. Two c risis communication strategies (ingratiation and corrective actions) were deve loped based on attitudes toward Gap. Research Stimuli ild labor crisis. In October 2007, a British newspaper revealed that one of Gap Inc. has received a great deal of media coverage on this issue. The crisis stra tegies in the activities as shown on its Web site. The two versions of case scenarios reflected the two types of crisis communication strategies: an ingratiation s child la bor issue.

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34 relations hip with its stakeh olders. These efforts included providing a supportive environment for employee development, protecting the environment, helping women and children affected by AIDS, and giving back to stakeholders, communities and societies through vario us programs. The corrective action s described the actual actions Gap took to solve the child labor issue and prevent the problem from happening again. These actions included cancelling the product order in question, prohibiting the embroidery subcontractor production, working with a child advocacy organization and the Indian government to ensure that the children found in the facility were cared for and reunited with their families, placing the vendor on proba tion and suspe nding 50% of its future orders for a minimum of six months, and against child labor and the implications of non compliance. A complete copy of the scenarios is locate d in Appendix A. Pilot Study The purpose of the pilot study was to identify whether the research subjects perceived the two case scenarios focusing on a corrective actions strategy and an ingratiation strategy as stimuli that provided information about cor rective action strategy and ingratiation strategy. Procedure Thirty public relations students at the University of Florida participated in the pilot study to ensure that the two different crisis communication strategies worked as stimuli. Fifteen students were given the scenario focusing on ingratiation information and the other fifteen students were given the scenario focusing on corrective action s information. All students were asked to answer five yes or no questions about their perceptions of the case s cenario immediately after reading it. Since there are no existing questions for testing the validity of these two crisis

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35 strategies, the questions for the perceptions of a corrective action s strategy were modified from Coomb s ctions strategy, and the questions for the perceptions of an place s cris goal is to win approval of Corrective action s strategy check First, two questions were asked to determine if the scenario provides the information similar crises in the future. These questions were used to test whether the case scenario focusing on the corrective actions strategy was perceived as relevant to corrective actions ( Ingratiation strategy check The following three questions were used to test whether the case scenario focusing on the scenario 1) reminds the pub more desirable context and 3) indicates that Gap tried to win approval of target publics. Since the three questions had low reliability, a factor analysis was run. It resulted in two factors. The second question, which asked if the scenario placed the crisis in a larger, more desirable context, was not clustered with the other two questions (questions 1) and 3)). When a reliability test was run with questions 1) and 3), the test showe Pilot Test Result When comparing the mean scores of the perceptions of the corrective actions strategy between the two groups (t[28] = 4.05, p <.001), the group exposed to the corrective actions strategy condition had a s ignificantly higher mean score (M = .90, SD = 0.21 ) than the group

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36 exposed to the ingratiation strategy condition (M = .40, SD = 0.43). When comparing the mean scores of ingratiation strategy between the two groups (t[28]= 1.73, p = .095), the group expos ed to the ingratiation strategy condition had a marginally higher mean score (M = 0.80, SD = 0.32) than the group exposed to the corrective actions strategy condition (M = 0.57, SD = 0.42). For the main study, the measurement of each manipulation question was changed to a 5 point Likert scale. Main Study Research Design A 2 x 2 between subject (types of crisis communication strategy: ingratiation vs. corrective action s types of publics: inactive publics vs. active publics) factorial design was implemented for the main study. The main study used the same case scenario s and questions as the pilot study. Participants Undergraduate students taking a course on public relations principles were recruited as the sample for the main study. Because Gap Inc. position s itself as an apparel brand targeting young people, college students are an appropriate sample for this study. These participants were the They were treated in a human subjects. Procedure The questionnaires were sent out through the online survey software Survey Monkey Participants whose student ID number ended with an odd digit were ass igned to an ingratiation strategy condition. Participants whose student ID number ended with an even digit were assigned to a corrective actions strategy condition. All participants were asked general questions regarding their knowledge of Gap and involvem

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37 labor crisis scenario as well as one of the two crisis strategies. This was followed by a series of questions to determine their attitudes toward Gap and their intentions, if any, to seek more informat ion. A complete copy of the questions is located in Appendix B. Measurements Types of inactive and active publics publics were measured (before exposure to the case) wit h regard to their knowledge of and The level of knowledge of Gap Inc. was assessed on a 5 point Likert scale (from 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree) in response to the following four c h Gap Inc. was assessed with eleven questions on a 5 point Likert scale (from 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree); significant insignificant, matters to me does not matter to me, important unimportant, valuable worthless, essential non essential, usel ess useful, of no concern of concern to me, undesirable desirable, vital superfluous, and boring Information seeking seeking behavior were constructed ) information seeking questions. The questions of information seeking behavior were assessed on a 5 point Likert scale (from 1= strongly disagree to 5= strongly agree ) in response to the following statements: (a) When the child labor issue comes

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38 ly to tune it on, (b) Whenever the child labor issue comes up, I try to learn more about it, (c) Gathering a lot of information on the child labor issue is worth my time, and (d) When it comes to the child labor issue, I am likely to go out of my way to ge t more information Attitude Participants were asked to describe their attitudes toward Gap Inc. after reading the case scenario and one of the two crisis communication strategies. The attitudes were assessed according to Trifts and Hauble s (20 03) five bipolar adjectives on a 5 point Likert scale (from 1= strongly disagree to 5= strongly agree ): undependable/dependable, dishonest/honest, Control variables Four questi labor crisis and information seeking behavior before their participation in the study were measured to remove their potential effects on attitudes and information seeking after the ir exposure to one of the two crisis response strategies. Gender was measured because women are found to have more positive attitudes toward ingratiating corporate philanthropic activities than ublic relations, 2 = non public relations) also were measured because public relations students might pay more attention to the topic than other students, due to its relevance to their major.

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39 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS Statistical Analysis Data collected were ana lyzed using t he statistical package for social sciences (SPSS) 16.0 for Windows. Correlation between involvement and information seeking, and correlation between knowledge and information seeking were used to test H1, and a series of analyses of covariance seeking behavior and attitudes. A total of 198 subjects participated in the main study. Among 180 valid observations, 33.9% of subjects (N = 61) were male and 66.1% (N = 119) w ere female. Among these subjects, 75% (N = 135) were not public relations majors and 25% (N = 45) were public relations majors. Six subjects left most of the questions unanswered and twelve subjects heard about the case or searched for information related to it before participating in the study. Thus, the total valid sample included 180 subjects. Sixty six subjects with odd digits at the end of their student ID numbers were exposed to a corrective actions strategy and 114 subjects with even digits at the en d of their student ID numbers were exposed to an ingratiation strategy. The respondents were divided into types of publics based on their knowledge and involvement scores. Hallahan (2000) proposes to divide publics according to their knowledge and involve ment, from which he makes four different groups: active publics with high knowledge and high involvement, aware publics with high knowledge and low involvement, aroused publics with low knowledge and high involvement, and inactive publics with low knowledg e and low involvement. The median score of knowledge was 3.00, with a standard deviation of 0.67 and a range of 4.00, and the median of involvement was 3.00, with a standard deviation of 0.71 and a range of 4.00. The types of publics were categorized via m edian split.

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40 T he subjects with both knowledge and involvement scores of 3.00 or higher (40.6%) were with knowledge scores below 3.00 and involvement scores of 3.00 or higher were classified in group; 23 subjects were in the aroused public group; 36 subjects were in the aware public group; 73 subjects were in the active public group. Data Analysis Manipulation Check For a manip ulation check of the two different case scenarios focusing on ingratiation and corrective action s strategies, participants were asked the same questions as in the pilot study, but with a 5 point Likert scale (from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agre e ). The results showed that the two case scenarios worked successfully as research stimuli. When comparing the mean scores of the perception of a corrective actions strategy ( t = 2.47, p < .05), the group exposed to the corrective actions strategy had a h igher mean score ( M = 3.58, SD = 0.67) than the group exposed to the ingratiation strategy ( M = 3.30, SD = 0.77). When comparing the mean scores of the perception of an ingratiation strategy ( t = 1.86, p = 0 64 ), t he group exposed to the ingratiation stra tegy had a marginally higher mean score ( M = 3.58, SD = 0.54) than the group exposed to the corrective actions strategy ( M = 3.43, SD = 0.55). Hypotheses Testing The first hypothesis states that levels of knowledge of and involvement with an organization crisis. Knowledge was measured by a 5

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41 als. The mean knowledge score was 3.50, with a standard deviation of 0.67 and a range of 4. Involvement was measured by another 5 the company. The mean involvement score was 2.90, w ith a standard deviation of 0.71 and a range of 4. Information seeking was measured by four 5 point Likert scale questions asking information seeking score was 3.14, w ith a standard deviation of 0.76 and a range of 4. A Pearson correlation was conducted to test the relationship of knowledge and involvement to dependent variable: information seeking behavior. The level of knowledge was positively correlated with inform ation seeking behavior and the finding was significant ( r = .138, p < .0 1 ). The level of involvement was also positively correlated with information seeking behavior and the finding was significant ( r = .158, p <. 05). Therefore, Hypothesis 1 was supported The second hypothesis states that inactive publics are more likely to show informati on seeking behavior when they are exposed to an ingratiation strategy compared to when they are exposed to a corrective action s strategy. An analysis of covariances ( ANCOVA ) test was conducted to compare the mean scores of information seeking behavior betw een the inactive public subjects exposed to the corrective action s strategy and those exposed to the ingratiation seeking likelihood were tested after controlli ng the effects of gender and major. Of subjects in the inactive public group, 35.4% (N = 17) read the case scenario focusing on a corrective action s strategy, and 64.6% (N = 31) read the case scenario focusing on an ingratiation strategy. The

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42 inactive publ ic subjects exposed to the ingratiation strategy condition had a higher mean score ( M = 3.12, SD = 0.76) of information seeking behavior than those exposed to the corrective action s strategy condition ( M =2.66, SD = 0.98). The difference was marginally sig nificant ( F ( 1, 46) = 3.27 p = .0 77 ) Gender and major did not make significant influences on information seeking behavior. Therefore, Hypothesis 2 was partially supported. These results illustrate that subjects in the inactive public group are more likel y to show information labor crisis when they are exposed to an ingratiation strategy than when they are exposed to a corrective action s strategy. The third hypothesis states that active publics are more likely to show information seeking behavior when they are exposed to a corrective action s strategy compared to when they are exposed to an ingratiation strategy. Another ANCOVA was conducted to compare the mean scores of information seeking behavior between the active p ublic subjects who were exposed to the corrective action s strategy and those exposed to the ingratiation strategy. The influences of the two crisis strategy types on seeking likelihood were tested after controlling the effec ts of gender and major. Of subjects in the active public group, 37.0% (N = 27) read the case scenario focusing on a corrective action s strategy, and 63.0% (N = 46) read the case scenario focusing on an ingratiation strategy. The active public subjects expo sed to the corrective actions strategy condition had a higher mean score of information seeking behavior ( M = 3.41, SD = 0.74) than those exposed to the ingratiation strategy condition ( M =3.11, SD = 0.73). This finding was marginally significant ( F ( 1, 71) = 2.83, p = .097 ) significant differences on information seeking behavior.

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43 Therefore, Hypothesis 3 was partially supported. These results illustrate that subjects in the active public group are more likely to show inform ation labor crisis when they are exposed to a corrective action s strategy than when they are exposed to an ingratiation strategy. The fourth hypothesis states that inactive publics are more likely to construct positive attitudes towards the organization when they are exposed to an ingratiation strategy compared to when they are exposed to a corrective action s strategy. The mean score for attitude was 3.23 with a standard deviation of 0.6 7 and a range of 4. As discusse d above, seventeen subjects defined as inactive public read the case scenario focusing on a corrective action s strategy, and 31 subjects read the case scenario focusing on an ingratiation strategy. An ANCOVA test was conducted to compare the mean scores of attitudes between those who were exposed to the corrective action s strategy condition and those exposed to the ingratiation strategy condition. The inactive public subjects exposed to the corrective actions strategy condition had a lower mean score ( M = 2 .73, SD = 0.75) than those exposed to the ingratiation condition ( M = 3.04, SD = 0.66). However, the difference was not significant. At influences on attitude formati on. Therefore, Hypothesis 4 was not supported. The results illustrate that subjects in the inactive public group showed no differences in attitudes toward Gap whether they were exposed to an ingratiation strategy or a corrective action s strategy. The fif th hypothesis states that active publics are more likely to construct positive attitudes toward the organization when they are exposed to a corrective actions strategy compared to when they are exposed to an ingratiation strategy.

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44 As discussed above, 27 s ubjects defined as active public read the case scenario focusing on an corrective action s strategy, and 46 subjects read the case scenario focusing on an ingratiation strategy. An ANCOVA test was conducted to compare the mean scores of attitudes between th ose active public subjects who were exposed to a corrective action s strategy and those exposed to an ingratiation strategy. The active publi c subjects exposed to the corrective actions strategy condition had a higher positive mean score ( M = 3.70, SD = 0.6 5) than those exposed to the ingratiation strategy condition ( M = 3.47, SD = 0.57). However, the differences were not significant influences on attitude formation. Therefore, Hypothesis 5 was not supported. These results illustrate that subjects in the active public group show no differences in attitudes toward Gap whether they are exposed to an ingratiation strategy or a corrective action s strategy.

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45 CHAPTER 5 DI SCUSSION Summary of Results This study was designed to test the effect of different crisis strategies on different types of publics with a focus on active and inactive publics, as defined by Hallahan. Hypothesis 1 state d ge and involvement were positively correlated with their degrees of information seeking behavior. It was supported. Results showed that the correlation exists, though it was not a strong one. The findings indicated that subjects with higher level s of knowl edge of Gap displayed higher degrees of information seeking about Gap s child labor crisis. Subjects with higher levels of involvement with Gap also displayed higher degrees of information seeking about Gap s child labor crisis The results also indicate d that subjects with higher level s of knowledge of an organization are usually more involved with the organization ( r = .71, p < .05) Hypotheses 2 and 3 state d that inactive publics with low levels of knowledge and involvement would react better to an ing ratiation strategy and seek more information about an react better to a corrective action s strategy. The findings moderately supported Hypotheses 2 and 3. Subje information ly to show information seeking intentions toward the child labor crisis when they read the corrective actions case scenario. The results indicate d that an ingratiation strategy works better to encourage inactive publics to search for information, while a c orrective action s strategy works better to motivate active publics to search for information.

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46 Hypotheses 4 and 5 state d that inactive publics a re more likely to show positive attitudes toward the organization when they a re exposed to an ingratiation strate gy, while active publics with high levels of knowledge and involvement would favor a corrective actions strategy. The public showed no differences in attitude s towa rd Gap whether they read the ingratiation case scenario or the corrective actions one. Implications for Public Relations Theory and Practice One of the important goals of public relations research is to understand different types of publics and their moti vations to communicat e with organizations Most of the previous research focused on active publics or activist groups, such as Grunig s situation theory B ased on varying public knowledge and involvement Hallahan developed a Five Publics Model (2000b) This model include s inactive publics as one of the key stakeholders of organizations. However, hi s theories have not been empirically tested in a crisis situation. Th is study conducts an experiment focusing on inactive and active publics, which appl ies Hal lahan s theories in a real situation. T his experiment proves that there is a positive relationship between knowledge and information seeking and between involvement and information seeking. It also show s that there is a positive relationship between knowle dge and involvement Therefore, publics with higher levels of knowledge and involvement are more likely to seek information about the crisis or the organization. At the same time, attitude is positively corr elated to both knowledge ( r = 0.32, p < .05) and involvement ( r = 0.50, p < .05). Although the findings only suggest moderate correlations, they indicate that publics with higher levels of knowledge and involvement are more likely to show positive attitudes towards the organizations. However, attitude does not correlate to information seeking behavior, which indicates that the intention of seeking more information about the crisis or the organization may not lead to a more positive or negative attitudes about the crisis or the organization.

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47 Crisis com munication and management are key areas of public relations research. Coomb s theory of crisis communication elaborates different types of crisis strategies in response to different types of cris e s. His theory focuses on the organization s in crises Howeve r, different types of publics may respon d variously to the same crisis strategies or different types of strategies. Th is study appli es Grunig s situation theory and Hallahan s Issues R esponses Model to a crisis situation to test the effects of corrective a ctions and ingratiation crisis strategies on active and inactive publics information seeking and attitudes T hese two theories provide a solid theoretical basis for understanding publics attitudinal and behavioral responses in different situations. T hi s study shows a significant relationship between an ingratiation strategy and inactive publics information seeking behavior and between a corrective actions strategy and active publics information seeking behavior It proves that the effects of ingratiat ion and corrective actions strategies are different in motivating inactive and active publics information seeking behavior toward a crisis topic. The findings of this study are consistent with the hypotheses Gruni g s theory states that a positive relationship exists between problem recognition and information seeking behavior. The problem recognition refers to people s perception of a problematic situation (Grunig 1997 ), which is similar to Hallahan s definition o f knowledge. In this study, subjects with higher level s of knowledge and involvement display higher degrees of information seeking about an organization s crisis. The findings of this study have important practical implication s C rises can bring great da relationship with its stakeholders if not handled well. Therefore, it i s important to understand the effects of crisis strategies on different publics. T h is study use s a real crisis as research stimulus which increase s the validi ty of practical application.

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48 The finding that inactive publics a re more likely to seek information when they a re exposed to an ingratiation strategy seems due to their low level s of knowledge and involvement Because inactive publics are not very engaged corrective actions strategy which mainly provides information about the organization s responsive actions may not catch the attention of inactive publics Inactive knowledge of and low involvement with a topic affect their abilities and motivation s to process unfamiliar messages (Hallahan, 2000a). However, an ingratiation strategy focusing on an organization s benevolent efforts may send out a confusing message to inactive publics seeing crisis on one side and p ositive information on the other side. These contradicti ng messages may motivate inactive publics to search for information about the crisis and the organization. T h is study finds that an ingratiation crisis strateg y is not more effect ive than a correctiv e actions strategy on the construction of positive attitudes in inactive publics This also seem s to be due to their low levels of knowledge and involvement Hypothesis 4 predicted that inactive publics would construct positive attitudes after exposure to an ingratiation strategy; however, it did not consider the factor of exposure time. T o motivate inactive public s to engage in information process ing three factors motivation, ability and opportunity need to work together (Hallahan, 2000a). Hallaha n states that repeating messages frequently is one of the key technique s for enhancing inactive publics opportunity of message processing (2000a, p. 469). An ingratiation strategy may work to motivate inactive publics to se ek more information about a cr isis or an organization, however, one time exposure to a crisis strategy message does not provide enough opportunit ies for inactive publics to develop specific attitudes. A short term exposure to the organization s crisis reactions or benevolent informatio n may not have clear

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49 eff ects on inactive publi attitude s toward the organization Inactive publics with minimum or no knowledge of the organization need more information or a longer time to develop attitudes. I n a crisis situation, an organization s ac tions and communication should engage inactive publics in active communication, which increases their level s of knowledge and involvement The inactive publics may become aware or aroused publics even active publics if they have more information about the crisis and are able to perform deeper information process ing Therefore, a n organization should react quickly to a crisis. At the same time, it should expend efforts to provide more positive information about the organization by repeat ing messages and ke y points. This study finds that active publics are more likely to seek information when they are exposed to a corrective actions strategy. This seems to be true because of their high levels of knowledge and involvement. Before being exposed to different t ypes of crisis strategies, active publics have a good knowledge of the organization and its activities. An ingratiation strategy may not provide any new information to them. A corrective actions strategy, which provides new information about the organizati on s activities, can catch active publics attention and encourage them to se ek more information. A t the same time, th is study f inds that active publics attitudes are not more affected by a corrective actions strategy than an ingratiation strategy in a c risis situation. This also seems to be due to their high levels of knowledge and involvement Active publics are less likely to be affected by exposure to corrective actions or ingratiation strategies. Generally, a ctive publics are more likely to construct positive attitudes toward the organization than inactive publics whether they read corrective action s or ingratiation strategies Between subjects in the inactive and active publics exposed to the corrective action s strategy, active public subjects ha d a higher attitude

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50 mean score ( M = 3.70, SD = 0.65) than inactive publics ( M = 2.72, SD = 0.75) This finding was significant ( t = 4.52, p < .001 ) Between subjects in the inactive and active publics exposed to the ingratiation strategy, active public subjec ts a gain ha d a higher mean score ( M = 3.47, SD = 0.57) than inactive publics ( M = 3.04, SD = 0.66) This finding also was significant ( t = 2.98, p < .0 1 ) The findings indicate that active publics tend to be more affected by corrective actions and ingratia tion crisis strategies than inactive publics. As suggested in Grunig s Sierra Club Study (1989), publics with high level s of knowledge and involvement are most likely to communicate actively about the situational issues and to engage in individual behavi ors related t o (p.22). Active publics tend to pay more attention to and react quickly to the organization s activities and operations. T herefore, they are more like ly to show positive attitudes when exposed to organizational information Bec an organization in crisis should react quickly to minimize damages to its reputation and operation Active publics, w hich rank high in knowledge and involvement may initiate their own communicatio n regarding the crisis (Hallahan, 2000a). Therefore, when an organization s crisis strategy is targeting active publics, the messages should focus on actions to remedy the crisis and prevent it from recurring ; at the same time, they should remind active pu blics of the organization s benevolence. T h is study suggests that different types of publics have different reactions towards an organizational crisis and different types of crisis strateg ies A n organization under crisis should prepare different crisis c ommunication programs for targeting different types of publics. Limitations and Future Research Although it is a real case, it is inappropriate to generalize to ot her crisis situation s from this

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51 single case. Replication with other types of crises from different companies or industries is needed. The second limitation is relat ed to the stimulus materials. Although the case scenario and crisis strategies were created they were not exact company materials for the crisis. Future research can use materials released by organization s having crises, which would provide a more realistic setting for research. T he third limitation is related to the questions used in the manipulation check. Since no previous research testing the effects of crisis strategies on different publics has been conducted, there were no pre existing questions available to check the validit y of different crisis strategies. T he questions used in the manipulation check were created based on the definition s of different crisis strategies. However, neither set of questions had high reliability coefficient s. Further research should develop a more reliable set of questions for manipulation checks. The forth limitation is related to the ingratiation case scenario. Because both of the manipulation checks in the pilot study and the main study showed that the group s exposed to the ingratiation strategy only had marginally significant higher mean score s than the group s exposed to the corrective actions strategy. I t indicates that the manipulation for the ingratiation case might not be successful and elicit other perceptions rather than ingratiation For example, the its past good deeds. F uture study should develop scenarios which have a more precise focus on ingratiation and replicate this study with the impr oved scenarios At the same time, since this study didn t have an equal number of participants per condition and per public group, future study may use equal number of research subjects for each strategy and each public group which also may increase the i nternal reliability.

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52 Finally, the method of measuring attitude s could be improved. Because attitudes were measured right after participants read the case scenarios, long term effects were not analyzed. Analysis over a longer time frame would be helpful t o understand formation or attitude changes F urther research could expose inactive publics to an ingratiation strategy messages for a longer period of time then analyze attitudes to test the effects of the ingratiation strategy over a prolonged time period Although Gap is a famous clothes brand for young people, a child labor crisis happened in India does not seem to have strong connection s with college students in the US. A civilian crisis that can affect students daily life may have stronger effects on students attitudes formation or changes. Fu ture study may also use a crisis that is more connected to the college students personal life, such as campus violence which can have significant influence on their daily life. Con clusion to engage in communication with organizations. This study combined theories on public segmentation and crisis communication to test two communication strate were positively related to their degree of seeking information. It also found that inactive publics were more motivated by ingratiation strategies to seek relevant information; while active publics were more motivated by corrective actions strategies to seek relevant information. These findings may contribute to public relatio during an organizational crisis. This study also provides practical suggestions to public relations practitioners for preparing communication strategies when organizations are havi ng cris e s.

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53 However, this study only testes two crisis communication strategies ingratiation and corrective actions with a focus on inactive and active publics. To have a throughout es of publics, it requires reactions to organizational communicati on may be different when there is a n externally attributed crisis. This study illustrates only one possibility for connecting crisis communication reactions to crisi s communication strategies.

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54 APPENDIX A EXPERIMENT STIMULI Case Scenario Focusing on Corrective Action Strategy On October 28, 2007, The Observer, a British newspaper, released a two page investigative report about Gap using child labor in the production of a line of children's clothing in India. The reporter, Dan McDougall, said the children were working without pay as virtual slaves in filthy conditions with a single, backed up latrine and bowls of rice covered with flies and they slept on the roof. Mc Dougall also videotaped the situation. His video material showed that children, all appearing to be between the ages of 10 and 13, stitched embroidered shirts in a crowded, dimly lit work room. The video clearly showed a Gap label on the back of each garme nt. Later, Gap admitted that it might have unknowingly used child labor in the production of a line of children's clothing in India. Gap Inc. responded within hours of the news breaking in London on October, 28th, 2007. They ordere d a full investigation into the allegations and re iterated its policy never to use child labor in the production of its clothes. Gap took immediate actions following their investigation. Firstly, they cancelled the product order i n question and ensured that the garment would n ever be sold. The embroidery subcontractor involved was immediately proh ibited from any future Gap Inc. production. Gap also worked with a child advocacy organization, BBA, and the Indian government, who ensured that the children found in the makeshift f acility, were cared for and reunited with their families. Gap placed the vendor on probation and suspended 50 percent of its future orders for a minimum o f six months. At the same time, Gap convened a summit of their North Indian vendors on November 2, 20 policy against child labor and the implications of non compliance.

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55 Case Scenario Focusing on Ingratiation Strategy On October 28, 2007, The Observer, a British newspaper, released a two page investigative r eport about Gap using child labor in the production of a line of children's clothing in India. The reporter, Dan McDougall, said the children were working without pay as virtual slaves in filthy cond itions with a single, backed up latrine and bowls of ric e covered with fl ies and they slept on the roof. McDougall also videotaped the situation. His video material showed that children, all appearing to be between the ages of 10 and 13, stitched embroidered shirts in a crowded, dimly lit work room. The video clearly showed a Gap label on the back of each garment. Later, Gap admitted that it might have unknowingly used child labor in the production of a line of children's clothing in India. Gap Inc. responded within hours of the news breaking in London on Oc tober 28th, 2007. They ordered a full investigation into t he allegations and re iterated its policy never to use child labor in the production of its clothes. Gap has been trying to build a company where people can stretch their capabilities and build the ir careers in an environment that reflects and respects their values. With 150,000 employees around the globe, Gap places a pri ority on providing a supportive environment in which their employees can flourish. They have been exerting every effort on givin g back to their stakeholders, communities and societies wher e they do business. They have been working closely with garment factories in different countries to ensure a safe and heal thy working environment, at the same time, they have been partnering with many organizations around the world to address industry wide issues. Gap has been trying to reduce their impact on the environment through reducing energy consumption or creating covetable products through innovative, sustainable design. At the same time, they have been working closely with local communities and co nducting different programs to help local people change the course of their lives and take personal owne rship of their future and their potential. In order to help women and children affected by AIDS in Africa, Gap established the Gap (PRODUCT)RED Collecti on. Half of the profits from its sale are contributed to the Global Fund.

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56 APPENDIX B QUESTIONNAIRE Please read this consent document carefully before you decide to participate in this study. Purpose of the research study: The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of crisis communication strategies What you will be asked to do in the study: First, you will be asked to answer 15 questions about your knowledge of Gap. Then yo u will read a case scenario, and you will be asked another 11 questions. Time required: About 10 15 minutes Risks and Benefits: You will experience no more than minimal risk in this research. There is no direct benefit to you for participating in the s tudy. Compensation: You will be given 5 extra points in the third exam for participating in this research. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your information will be assigned a code number. The lis t connecting your name to the number will be kept in a locked file in my faculty supervisor's office. When the study is completed and the data have been analyzed, the list will be destroyed. Your name will not be used in any report. Voluntary participati on: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if you have quest ions about the study: Xiangxin Bao, Master Student, Department of Public Relations, Weimer Hall, phone 352 8717532 Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: IRB02 Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611 2250; phone 392 0433. Agreement: I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the procedure.

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57 1. I accept to participate in this study. I accept NO 2. Please write down your UFID UFID 3. Major Public relations Non public relations 4. Gende r Male Female 2. General Information 5. I am aware of Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongl y disagree responsibility activates 6. I perceive that Gap Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree is significant matters to me is import ant is valuable means a lot to me is essential is useful concerns me is desirable is vital is interesting Please read the case scenario in the next page

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58 ( Case Scenario Version 1: Corrective Acti on Strategy ) On October 28, 2007, The Observer, a British newspaper, released a two page investigative report about Gap using child labor in the production of a line of children's clothing in India. The reporter, Dan McDougall, said the children were wor king without pay as virtual slaves in filthy conditions with a single, backed up latrine and bowls of rice covered with flies and they slept on the roof. McDougall also videotaped the situation. His video material showed that children, all appearing to be between the ages of 10 and 13, stitched embroidered shirts in a crowded, dimly lit work room. The video clearly showed a Gap label on the back of each garment. Later, Gap admitted that it might have unknowingly used child labor in the production of a lin e of children's clothing in India. Gap Inc. responded within hours of the news breaking in London on October, 28th, 2007. They ordere d a full investigation into the allegations and re iterated its policy never to use child labor in the production of its c lothes. Gap took immediate actions following their investigation. Firstly, they cancelled the product order i n question and ensured that the garment would never be sold. The embroidery subcontractor involved was immediately proh ibited from any future Gap Inc. production. Gap also worked with a child advocacy organization, BBA, and the Indian government, who ensured that the children found in the makeshift facility, were cared for and reunited with their families. Gap placed the vendor on probation and s uspended 50 percent of its future orders for a minimum o f six months. At the same time, Gap convened a summit of their North Indian vendors on policy against child labor and the implications of non compl iance. Please answer the questions in the next pages.

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59 ( Case Scenario Version 2: Ingratiation Strategy ) On October 28, 2007, The Observer, a British newspaper, released a two page investigative report about Gap using child labor in the product ion of a line of children's clothing in India. The reporter, Dan McDougall, said the children were working without pay as virtual slaves in filthy cond itions with a single, backed up latrine and bowls of rice covered with fl ies and they slept on the roof. McDougall also videotaped the situation. His video material showed that children, all appearing to be between the ages of 10 and 13, stitched embroidered shirts in a crowded, dimly lit work room. The video clearly showed a Gap label on the back of each garment. Later, Gap admitted that it might have unknowingly used child labor in the production of a line of children's clothing in India. Gap Inc. responded within hours of the news breaking in London on October 28th, 2007. They ordered a full investigat ion into t he allegations and re iterated its policy never to use child labor in the production of its clothes. Gap has been trying to build a company where people can stretch their capabilities and build their careers in an environment that reflects and r espects their values. With 150,000 employees around the globe, Gap places a pri ority on providing a supportive environment in which their employees can flourish. They have been exerting every effort on giving back to their stakeholders, communities and so cieties wher e they do business. They have been working closely with garment factories in different countries to ensure a safe and heal thy working environment, at the same time, they have been partnering with many organizations around the world to address i ndustry wide issues. Gap has been trying to reduce their impact on the environment through reducing energy consumption or creating covetable products through innovative, sustainable design. At the same time, they have been working closely with local commu nities and co nducting different programs to help local people change the course of their lives and take personal owne rship of their future and their potential. In order to help women and children affected by AIDS in Africa, Gap established the Gap (PRODUCT )RED Collecti on. Half of the profits from its sale are contributed to the Global Fund. Please answer the questions in the next pages.

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60 7. crisis. Strongly ag ree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree 8. avert similar crises in the future. Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly d isagree 9. positive aspects. Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree 10. I think the scenario provides the information that plac es crisis in a larger, more desirable context. Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree 11. I think the scenario provides the information that indicates Gap tries to win approval of target publics. Strongly agree A gree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree 12. Have you heard about this case before? Yes No 13. Have you searched information about this before? Yes No

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61 14. When the child labo Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree 15. Whenever the child labor issue comes up, I try to learn more about it. Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Str ongly disagree 16. Gathering a lot of information on the child labor issue is worth my time. Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree 17. When it comes to the child labor issue, I am likely to go out of my way to get m ore information. Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree 18. I think that Gap is Strongly agree Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly disagree dependable honest Reliable sincere trustworthy Thank you very much for completing the survey!

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62 LIST OF REFERENCES Allen, M. W., & Caillouet, R. H. (1994). Legitimation endeavors: Impression management strategies used by an organization in crisis. Communication Monographs 61, 44 62. Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 50, 179 211. Ajzen, I. (1999). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 50, 179 211. Barton, L. (1993). Crisis in organization: Managing and communicating in the heat of chaos Cincinnati, OH: College Divisions South Western. Benoit, W. L. (1995). Accounts, excuses, and apologies: A theory of image restoration strategies Albany, NY: State University of New York. Benoit, W. L. (1997). Image repair discourse and crisis communication. Public Relations Review 45, 263 280. Birkland, T. A., & Lawrence, R. G. (2002, June). The social and political meaning of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Spill Science & Technology Bul letin 7, 17 22. Booth Butterfield, S., & Welbourne, J. (2002). The elaboration likelihood model: Its impact on persuasion theory and research. In J. P. Dillard & M. Pfau (Eds.), The persuasion handbook: Developments in theory and practice (pp. 155 173). Thousan d Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.. Cancel, A. E., Cameron, G. T., Sallot, L. M., & Mitrook, M. A. (1997). It depends: A contingency theory of accommodation in public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research 9 (1), 31 63. Cancel, A. E., Mitrook M. A, & Cameron, G. T. (1999). Testing the contingency theory of accommodation in public relations. Public Relations Review 25 (2), 171 197. Clarke, P., & Kline, F.G. (1974). Mass media effects reconsidered: Some new strategies for communication researc h. Communication Research 1, 224 270. Coombs, W. T. (1995, May). Choosing the right words: The development of guidelines for the responses strategies. Management Communication Quarterly 8 (4), 447 476. Coombs, W. T (1999). Ongoing crisis communication London, UK: SAGE Publications, Inc.. Dozier, D. M., Grunig, L. A., & Grunig, J. E. (1995). relations and communication management. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

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63 Kahlor, L.A., Dunwood y, S., Griffin, R.J. & Neuwirth, K. (2006). Seeking and processing information about impersonal risk. Science Communication, 28 (2), 163 194. Fearn Banks, K. (1996). Crisis communication: A casebook approach Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Funkhouser, G. R (1973). The issues of the sixties: An exploratory study in the dynamics of public opinion. Public Opinion Quarterly, 37 62 75. Englehardt, K. J., Sallot, L. M., & Springston, J. K. (2004). Compassion without blame: Testing the accident decision flow ch art with the crash of ValuJet Flight 592. Journal of Public Relations Research 16 (2) 127 156. Grunig, J. E. (1983). Communication behaviors and attitudes of environmental publics: Two Studies. Columbia, SC: Association for Education in Journalism and Ma ss Communication. Grunig, J. E. (1997). A situational theory of publics: Conceptual history, recent challenges and new research. In D. Moss, T. MacManus, & D. Vercic (Eds). Public Relations Research: An International Perspective (pp. 3 48). London: International Thomson Business Press. Grunig, J. E. (1989). Sirerra Club study shows how to become activists. Public Relations Review, 15 (3), 3 24. Grunig, J. E., & Hunt, T. (1984). Managing public relations. New York: Holt, Rinehar t & Winston. Grunig, J. E., & Repper, F. C. (1992). Strategic management, publics and issues. In J. E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence in public relations and communication management (pp. 117 158). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Grunig, L., Grunig, J., & Dozier, D. (2002). Excellence in public relations and communication management: A review of the theory and results. In J. E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellent public relations and effective organizations (pp. 1 30). Nahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Hallahan, K. (1999). Seven models of f raming: Implication for public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research 11, 205 242. Hallahan, K. (2000a). Enhancing motivation, ability, and opportunity to process public relations messages. Public Relations Review, 26 (4), 463 480. Hallahan, K. (2000b). Inactive publics: The forgotten public in public relations. Public Relations Review 26 (4), 499 515. Hallahan, K. (2001). The dynamics of issues activation and response: An issues processes model. Journal of Public Relations Research, 13 (1), 27 5 9.

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64 Journal of Public Relations Research, 4 (3), 123 149. Major, A. M. (1998). The utility of situational theory of publics for assessing public responses to a disaster prediction. Public Relations Review, 24 (4), 489 508. Laroche, M., Bergeron, J., & Goutaland, C. (2003). How intangibility affects perceived risk: The moderating role of knowledge and involvement. The Journal of Services Marketing 17, 122 140. Matos, C. A., & Rossi, C.A.V. (2007). Consumer reaction to product recalls: Factors influencing product judgment and behavioral intentions. International Journal of Consumer Studies 31, 109 116. McCombs, M. E., & Shaw, D. L. (1972). The agenda setting f unction of the media. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 36 (2), 176 187. Molotch, H., & Lester, M. (1975, September). Accidental news: The great oil spill as local occurrence and national event. The American Journal of Sociology 81 (2), 135 160. Pearson, C. M., & Mitroff, I. I. (1993). From crisis prone to crisis prepared: A framework for crisis management. The Executive 7, 48 59. Seiter, J. S. (1995). Surviving turbulent organizational environments: A case study examination of a lumber company's internal and external influence attempts. The Journal of Business Communication 32 (4), 363 382. Stephens, K. K., Malone, P. C., & Bailey, C. M. (2005). Communicating with stakeholders during a crisis: Evaluating message strategies. Journal of Business Communication 42 (4), 390 419. Stevens, B. (1999). Persuasion, probity, and paitering: The Prudential crisis. The Journal of Business Communication 36 (4), 319 334. Sturges, D. L. (1994). Communicating through crisis: A strategy for organizational survival. Management Communication Quarterly, 7, 297 316. Trifts, V., & Haubl, G. (2003). Information availability and consumer preference: Can online retailers benefit from providing access to competitor price information. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 13 (1&2), 149 159. V lad, I., Sallot, L. M., & Reber, B. H. (2006). Rectification without assuming responsibility: Testing the transgression flowchart with the Vioxx recall. Journal of Public Relations Research, 18 (4), 357 379

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65 Wimmer, R.D. & Dominick, J.R. (2003). Mass media research: An introduction Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning

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66 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Xiangxin Bao was born in China. She graduated from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in 2005, earning a B.E. in International Trade and Economies (Internationa l Trade) and a B.A. in English (Cultures and Communication Studies) After gra duation, she worked two years for a nonprofit organization. T hen, she went to University of Florida to continue her graduate study specializing in public relations. She completed her Master of Arts in Mass Communication at the University of Florida in 200 9