Contingency Theory and Public Emotions in Crisis Communication –A Conceptual Study
Keywords:contingency theory, crisis communication, conflict management, emotions, cognitive appraisal, coping
Aim. Problems are inevitable in the subtleties of organizational communication, but it does not mean confronting them is uncontrollable. This paper aims to offer a conceptual structure for investigating contingency theory in Public Relations (PR) during an organizational crisis. The research investigates PR practitioners’ use of advocacy and accommodation in contingency theory to intervene in crisis communication. It also offers insights into the public’s emotional response and coping mechanisms during a crisis, as well as how understanding these emotions (such as anger, anxiety, fear, and grief, among others) could aid PR professionals in developing more effective crisis communication methods.
Method. Empirical research was conducted on the basis of literature reviews by observing and analyzing the existing literature on contingency theory, crisis communication in organizations, and public emotions.
Results. This conceptual paper proposes and empirically tests a few propositions. The implications for future studies are included in the paper. Findings promote the adopting a dual-continuum strategy that might assist public relations professionals in preferring superior crisis management strategies for obtaining desired organizational outcomes.
Conclusion. The authors assert that PR professionals must move from embracing Grunig’s four models of excellence to contingency theory for communicating strategically with the public. The authors propose to adopt a dual-continuum approach that varies from advocacy to accommodation and might provide practical guidance to choose a better stance adopted by the organization towards the public during a crisis. The negative emotions of the public influenced by a crisis along with their emotional coping approaches are also discussed.
Alzahrani, F. (2016). The role of public relations in organizational crisis management. International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research, 7(1), 1085-1086.
Benoit, W. L. (1995). Accounts, excuses, and apologies: A theory of image restoration strategies. State University Of New York Press.
Benoit, W. L. (2004). Image restoration discourse and crisis communication. In D. P. Millar, R. L. Heath, (Eds.), Responding to Crisis: A Rhetorical Approach to Crisis Communication (pp. 263-280) Lawrence Erlbaum.
Brinson, S. L., & Benoit, W. L. (1999). The tarnished star: Restoring Texaco’s damaged public image. Management Communication Quarterly, 12(4), 483-510. https://doi.org/10.1177/0893318999124001
Broom, G. M. (2006). An open system approach to building theory in public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 18(2), 141-150.
Cameron, G. T., Cropp, F., & Reber, B. H. (2001). Getting past platitudes: Factors limiting accommodation in public relations. Journal of Communication Management, 5(3), 242-261. https://doi.org/10.1108/13632540110806802
Cameron, G. T., Pang, A., & Jin, Y. (2008). Contingency theory: Strategic management of conflict in public relations. In T. Hansen-Horn & B. Neff (Eds.), Public relations: From theory to practice (pp. 134-157). Pearson Allyn & Bacon.
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. https://doi.org/10.1207/s1532754xjprr0901_02
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. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0363-8111(99)80161-1
Carver, C. S., & Blaney, P. H. (1977). Perceived arousal, focus of attention, and avoidance behavior. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 86(2), 154-162. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.86.2.154
Chen, Y. (2020). Comparative study on language features of disastrous news items in China and the west-taking the crash of Boeing 737 MAX as an example. Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Humanities and Social Science Research (ICHSSR2020). https://doi.org/10.2991/assehr.k.200428.022
Christen, C. T., & Lovaas, S. R. (2022). The dual-continuum approach: An extension of the contingency theory of strategic conflict management. Public Relations Review, 48(1). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2021.102145
Coombs, W. T. (1998). An analytic framework for crisis situations: Better responses from a better understanding of the situation. Journal of Public Relations Research, 10(3), 177-191. https://doi.org/10.1207/s1532754xjprr1003_02
Coombs, W. T. (2007). Ongoing crisis communication (2nd ed.). Sage.
Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2006). Unpacking the halo effect: Reputation and crisis management. Journal of Communication Management, 10(2), 123-137. https://doi.org/10.1108/13632540610664698
Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2007). The negative communication dynamic. Journal of Communication Management, 11(4), 300-312. https://doi.org/10.1108/13632540710843913
Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J. (2019). The handbook of crisis communication. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Deutsch, M. (1973). The resolution of conflict: Constructive and destructive processes. Yale University Press. https://doi.org/10.1177/000276427301700206
Donaldson, L. (2001) The contingency theory of organisations. Sage.
Fall, L. T. (2004). The increasing role of public relations as a crisis management function: An empirical examination of communication restrategising efforts among destination organisation managers in the wake of 11th September, 2001. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 10(3), 238-252. https://doi.org/10.1177/135676670401000304
Faulkner, B. (2001). Towards a framework for tourism disaster management. Tourism Management, 22(2), 135-147. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0261-5177(00)00048-0
Fearn-Banks, K. (2002). Crisis Communications: A Casebook Approach (Routledge Communication Series) (2nd ed.). Routledge.
Fearn-Banks, K. (2007). Crisis communications: A casebook approach. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Fiedler, F. (1964). A contingency model of leadership effectiveness. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 149-190. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0065-2601(08)60051-9
Fink, S. (1986). Crisis management: Planning for the inevitable. American Association of Management.
Folkman, S., Lazarus, R. S., Gruen, R. J., & DeLongis, A. (1986). Appraisal, coping, health status, and psychological symptoms. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(3), 571-579. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2061
Ginsberg, A., & Venkatraman, N. (1985). Contingency perspectives of organisational strategy: A critical review of the empirical research. Academy of Management Review, 10(3), 421-434. https://doi.org/10.2307/258125
Glaesser, D. (2006). Crisis management in the tourism industry. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780080464596
Grunig, J. E., & Grunig, L. A. (1992). Models of public relations and communications. In J. E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence in public relations and communication management (pp. 285-326). Lawrence Erlbaum.
Grunig, J. E., & Hunt, T. (1984). Managing public relations. Holt.
Grunig, L. A. (1996). Public relations. In M. D. Salwen & D. W. Stacks (Eds.), An integrated approach to communication theory and research (pp. 459-477). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Grunig, L. A., Dozier, D. M., & Grunig, J. E. (2003). Excellent public relations and effective organisations. Routledge.
Jeong, J. (2015). Enhancing organisational survivability in a crisis: Perceived organisational crisis responsibility, stance, and strategy. Sustainability, 7(9), 11532-11545. https://doi.org/10.3390/su70911532
Jin, Y. (2009). The effects of public’s cognitive appraisal of emotions in crises on crisis coping and strategy assessment. Public Relations Review, 35(3), 310–313. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2009.02.003
Jin, Y., & Cameron, G. T. (2003). Rediscovering emotion in public relations: An adapted appraisal model and an emotion-laden contingency plane [Unpublished manuscript].
Jin, Y., & Cameron, G. T. (2007). The effects of threat type and duration on public relations practitioner’s cognitive, affective, and conative responses in crisis situations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 19(3), 255-281. https://doi.org/10.1080/10627260701331762
Jin, Y., & Pang, A. (2010). Future directions of crisis communication research: Emotions in crisis – the next frontier. In W. T. Coombs & S. J. Holladay (Eds.), The handbook of crisis communication (pp. 677–682). Wiley-Blackwell. https://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/lkcsb_research/6037
Jin, Y., Pang, A., & Cameron, G. T. (2006). Strategic communication in crisis governance: Analysis of the Singapore management of the SARS crisis. The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies, 23(1), 81-104. https://doi.org/10.22439/cjas.v23i1.693
Jin, Y., Pang, A., & Cameron, G. T. (2007). Integrated crisis mapping: Towards a publics-based, emotion-driven conceptualisation in crisis communication. Sphera Publica, 7, 81-96.
Jin, Y., Pang, A., & Cameron, G. T. (2010). The role of emotions in crisis responses: Inaugural test of the integrated crisis mapping (ICM) model. Corporate Communications, 15(4), 428-452. https://doi.org/10.1108/13563281011085529
Kamil, A. (2020). Role of public relations in crisis management with the coronavirus crisis as an example: A case study on the UAE. Global Media Journal, 18(35).
Kunczik, M. (2016). Images of nations and international public relations. Routledge.
Lazarus, R. S. (1991). Cognition and motivation in emotion. American Psychologist, 46(4), 352-367. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066x.46.4.352
Marra, F. J. (1998). Crisis communication plans: Poor predictors of excellent crisis public relations. Public Relations Review, 24(4), 461-474. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0363-8111(99)80111-8
Morton, N. A., & Hu, Q. (2008). Implications of the fit between organisational structure and ERP: a structural contingency theory perspective. International Journal of Information Management, 28(5), 391-402. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2008.01.008
Marsen, S. (2020). Navigating crisis: The role of communication in organisational crisis. International Journal of Business Communication, 57(2), 163-175. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488419882981
Millar, D. P., & Heath, R. L. (Eds.). (2004). Responding to crisis: A rhetorical approach to crisis communication. Lawrence Erlbaum.
Normandin, J., & Therrien, M. (2016). Resilience factors reconciled with complexity: The dynamics of order and disorder. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 24(2), 107-118. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-5973.12107
Oparanma, O. A., & Wechie, I. (2014). Crisis management processes to ensure effective and continuous performance. IOSR Journal of Business and Management, 16(8), 01-04. https://doi.org/10.9790/487x-16830104
Pang, A., Cropp, F., & Cameron, G. T. (2006). Corporate crisis planning: Tensions, issues, and contradictions. Journal of Communication Management, 10(4), 371-389. https://doi.org/10.1108/13632540610714818
Pang, A., Jin, Y., & Cameron, G. T. (2010a). Strategic management of communication: Insights from the contingency theory of strategic conflict management. In R. H. Heath (Ed.), The Sage handbook of public relations (pp. 17–34). Sage Publications.
Pang, A., Jin, Y., & Cameron, G. T. (2010b, March 10-13). Contingency theory of strategic conflict management: Unearthing factors that influence ethical elocution in crisis communication [Conference Presentation]. 13th International Public Relations Research Conference, Coral Gables, FL, United States. https://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/lkcsb_research/6095
Pang, A., Jin, Y., Kim, S., & Cameron, G. T. (2020). Contingency theory: Evolution from a public relations theory to a theory of strategic conflict management. In F. Frandsen & W. Johansen (Eds.), Crisis communication (pp. 141-164). De Gruyter Mouton.
Pearson, C. M., & Clair, J. A. (1998). Reframing crisis management. The Academy of Management Review, 23(1), 59-76. https://doi.org/10.2307/259099
Petrovici, A. (2014). PR in crisis situations. A case study. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 149, 714-718. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.08.269
Pieczka, M., & L'Etang, J. (2006). Public relations and the question of professionalism. In R. L. Heath (Ed.), Handbook of Public Relations (pp. 223-235). Sage Publications.
Ping, J. W., Cui, T., & Pan, S. L. (2011). Strategies of crisis management from contingent perspective. PACIS 2011 – 15th Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems: Quality Research in Pacific
Plowman, K. D. (1996). Negotiation and two-way models of public relations [Paper presentation]. Annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Reber, B., & Cameron, G. T. (2003). Measuring contingencies: Using scales to measure public relations practitioner limits to accommodation. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 80(2), 431-446. https://doi.org/10.1177/107769900308000212
Ritchie, B. W. (2004). Chaos, crises and disasters: A strategic approach to crisis management in the tourism industry. Tourism Management, 25(6), 669-683. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tourman.2003.09.004
Sapriel, C. (2003). Effective crisis management: Tools and best practice for the new millennium. Journal of Communication Management, 7(4), 348-355. https://doi.org/10.1108/13632540310807485
Sarwatay, D., & Paul, N. (2018). Crisis communication and contingency theory: What we can learn from Nestlé Maggi’s case. Indore Management Journal, 10(2), 47-61.
Seeger, M. W. (2006). Best practices in crisis communication: An expert panel process. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 34(3), 232-244. https://doi.org/10.1080/00909880600769944
Shin, J., Cameron, G. T., & Cropp, F. (2006). Occam’s razor in the contingency theory: A national survey on 86 contingent variables. Public Relations Review, 32(3), 282-286. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2006.05.005
Sremac, S. (2008). Theoretical approaches to coping with crises and conversion. Religija i Tolerancija, 6(10), 55-69. http://scindeks.ceon.rs/article.aspx?artid=1451-87590810055S
Sullivan, S. (2003). Crisis communication. Harvard Business Review, 28, 103-109.
Thai, M. (2015). Contingency perspective. In C. L. Cooper (Ed.), Wiley encyclopedia of management (3rd Ed). Wiley. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118785317.weom060036
Thomas, K. W. (1992). Conflict and negotiation processes in organisations. In M. D. Dunnette & L. M. Hough (Eds.), Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (pp. 651-717). Consulting Psychologists Press.
Woodward, J. (1965) Industrial organization: Theory and practice. Oxford University Press.
Yarbrough, C. R., Cameron, G. T., Sallot, L. M., & McWilliams, A. (1998). Tough calls to make: Contingency theory and the Centennial Olympic Games. Journal of Communication Management, 3(1), 39-56. https://doi.org/10.1108/eb023483
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 Rainy Rose, V. Vijay Kumar, Lalatendu Kesari Jena
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. All authors agree for publishing their email adresses, affiliations and short bio statements with their articles during the submission process.