Title

Exploring Public Relations Challenges in Compounding Crises: The Pariah Effect of Toxic Trailers

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

8-1-2017

Department

Communication Studies

Abstract

This study examined the distinct exigency of a compounding crisis, a crisis that occurs in close succession to another (potentially unrelated) crisis before an organization has had the opportunity to rebuild legitimacy. Specifically, we identified the public relations challenges faced by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency during the formaldehyde travel trailer crisis and examined how the Hurricane Katrina crisis encumbered the agency’s response efforts. We offer a theoretical frame for understanding the public relations challenges inherent in compounding crises and propose that, in a compounding crisis, organizational legitimacy and social capital decrease while stakeholder risk perceptions and attribution of crisis responsibility increase. A new phenomenon termed the pariah effect is offered to explain when an organization experiencing a compounding crisis is ostracized by other organizations that could assist with the crisis response to avoid negative spillover effects that could result from associating with the offending organization. This study also demonstrates how attribution of responsibility in a compounding crisis can create an exigency in which an organization must take actions beyond the scope and original mission of the organization.

Publication Title

Journal of Public Relations Research

Volume

29

Issue

4

First Page

141

Last Page

157

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