The use of ambiguity markers in crisis communication: the moderating role of information disclosure

Publication Date: Wednesday 24 May 2017
Author(s): Hannelore Crijns; Veroline Cauberghe; An-Sofie Claeys & Liselot Hudders
Appeared in: Conference proceedings EMAC 2017


When a crisis breaks out, there are several uncertainties that surround the crisis. The current study investigates the impact of using uncertain (hedges) versus certain (pledges) statements (i.e., ambiguity markers) in crisis communication on organizational reputation and the moderating role of information disclosure (i.e., self-disclosure or stealing thunder versus third party disclosure or thunder). Findings of this experimental study (N = 270) demonstrate that hedges could generate a beneficial impact on organizational reputation, but only when the organization self-discloses crisis information. Results show that when the organization self-discloses crisis information, organizational reputation can be protected by using uncertain claims (i.e., hedges) because they lower attributed crisis responsibility which in turn beneficially influences organizational reputation. When a third party discloses crisis information, ambiguity markers do not affect crisis responsibility and subsequent organizational reputation.

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