Purpose – To provide a comparative overview with respect to the employment of two
different crisis communication strategies, namely corrective action vs. apology, in the
wake of an online firestorm and to avoid its further escalation.
Design/methodology/approach – A 2x3 factorial experimental design was
implemented, comprising two levels of image repair strategies (corrective action;
apology), and three levels of online firestorm triggers (unethical behaviour; core
business problem; communication issue). A total of 564 valid responses were collected
by means of an online questionnaire.
Findings - Corrective action, as image repair strategy, is more effective than an apology
following core business and communication related incidents, whilst neither of the
strategies differ in their effects following unethical behaviour incidents.
Furthermore, the effect of image repair strategy on perceptions, attitudes and
behavioural intentions is moderated and mediated by users’ attribution related to
companies´ responsibility and brand attitude, respectively.
Last, the absence of an organizational response following an incident has a negative
effect on users’ brand attitude in an online setting.
Practical implications – Contribution towards the body of knowledge of crisis
communication and crisis management fields in online settings.
Originality/value – This is the first paper that integrates a comparative overview of
CCS’ effectiveness into the management of online firestorms.