A Relational Approach Examining the Interplay of Prior Reputation and Immediate Response to a Crisis

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This experiment used a counterbalanced, within-subjects design to assess two factors in crisis communication and reputation management: defensive and apologetic responses to news stories and the effects of good and bad reputation. Dependent measures examined participants' attitudes, behavioral intentions, and source credibility assessments of companies in the short and long term. Both reputation and response profoundly affected attitude and behavioral intentions, bearing out platitudes about the bottom-line importance of reputation management. Evidence of a sleeper effect appeared in interactions between delay and response for two source credibility measures, indicating that a defensive response can become even more damaging over time.Significant differences were found as a function of reputation and response in a measure designed to assess reputation, reinforcing the notion of reputation as a powerful force in subsequent judgments of a company.

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