Campus Location

Abilene Campus

Date of Award

Fall 12-14-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Communication

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Committee Chair

Lynette Sharp Penya, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Lauren Lemley, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

J. D. Wallace, PhD

Abstract

Situational crisis communication theory, also referred to as SCCT, is a central and very well-developed theory in the field of crisis communication. The goal of SCCT is to create a response strategy based on stakeholders’ levels of attributions of responsibility. SCCT states there are two main factors stakeholders take into consideration when attributing responsibility to an organization in crisis: crisis type and performance history. While the previously stated factors are very important, the progressive development of social media is not taken into consideration in this theory, specifically the use of social proof through social media channels. According to the principle of social proof, individuals look to the responses of others to determine what constitutes an appropriate action, behavior, opinion, or decision. The following study set out to prove the use of social proof through social media channels is potentially a third factor to take into consideration when determining stakeholders’ levels of attribution of responsibility. This study employed the use of an independent samples t-test to compare the means of the two conditions, high social proof and low social proof to measure individuals’ levels of attribution of responsibility. The hypothesis predicted participants in the high social proof condition would attribute greater responsibility to an organization in crisis than participants in the low social proof condition. The hypothesis was not supported but two main factors potentially contributed to the insignificant results.

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