Strategic Understanding and Management of Paracrisis for Crisis Prevention

Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


T. Makana Chock


Crisis Prevention, Emotion, Expectancy Violations, Paracrisis, Social Media, Social Vigilantism

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


The goal of this dissertation is to further crisis prevention efforts for crises in their early stage by providing a comprehensive understanding of and guidelines for effective management of paracrises—instances of publicly visible, unethical misbehavior by organizations that can signal a full-scale organizational crisis. Two phases of online experiments investigated the impact of different source statuses (CEO vs. layperson) as well as of various response strategies and response message sources on people’s cognition, emotions, and behaviors. Analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) and structural equation modeling (SEM) results revealed that people found corporate misbehavior to be especially problematic and more unacceptable than that of a layperson. Study 1 showed that employing a scapegoating strategy in managing a paracrisis event was effective in reducing the level of crisis appraisal, alleviating negative emotions, and ensuring positive reputation assessment. In Study 2, issuing an apology had a positive influence on reputation assessment. When the paracrisis management message was delivered by an official company account (a third-person response source), participants evaluated the company’s reputation more favorably. Interaction effects between response strategy and response message source on crisis emotions were found. This dissertation supports and extends situational crisis communication theory (SCCT) and the social-mediated crisis communication (SMCC) model by testing them to paracrisis management, as well as by testing a theoretical model in which a violation of expectations predicts counterfactual thinking (e.g., could/would/should have done something else). The violations of expectations led participants to undertake counterfactual thinking, which in turn induced negative emotions and less favorable reputation assessment. Negative crisis emotions and reputation evaluations were significant predictors of online word-of-mouth intention (WOM), both directly and indirectly. This dissertation also demonstrates the mediating role of social vigilantism in sparking stakeholders’ behavioral changes (i.e., it led to a greater likelihood of engaging in negative WOM). Theoretical contributions as well as practical implications for effective pre-crisis management are provided.


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