Organizational crisis is defined diversely in the literature. However, Pearson and Clair (1998, p.60) provide a very general definition: ‘An organizational crisis is a low-probability, high-impact event that threatens the viability of the organization and is characterized by ambiguity of cause, effect, and means of resolution, as well as by a belief that decisions must be made swiftly.' A crisis is always unplanned and has the potential to negatively influence the entire structure of an organization (King, 2002). Although a crisis threatens the survival of an organization, it can lead to both positive or negative organizational outcomes (Marcus & Goodman, 1991). However it depends on the specific behaviors of an organization during crisis whether the results will be positive or negative. (Mishra, 1996).
2.1.1 CONSEQUENCES OF A CRISIS
A crisis is a critical situation that, if handled inadequately, can cause serious damage to the organization. In general, there are three potential threats for an organization and its stakeholders when a crisis occurs, namely public safety, financial loss and reputation damage (Coombs, 2015). In this study the effects of a crisis on emotions, trust, the willingness to forgive and purchase intentions of consumers towards an organization are central. The reason why these concepts are interesting to be studied will now be clarified.
Emotions of individuals, especially negative emotions (e.g. disappointment, frustration and anger) play an important role in crisis communication (Coombs & Holladay, 2005, 2007; Jin, Pang & Cameron, 2007). Attributions stakeholders make about a crisis, do not only influence an organization's reputation but also generate certain emotion about the organization (Coombs, 2007). Increased acknowledgment of crisis responsibility causes negative feelings such as anger (Coombs, 2004). Anger motivates people to do something about the situation because they believe that they have influence in the situation (Lerner & Tiedens, 2006). According to Coombs (2007), individuals who attribute responsibility to an event will experience an emotional reaction that influences their behavior. In the context of purchase behavior, anger has been found to predict negative intentions and negative word-of-mouth (Wetzer, Zeelenberg & Pieters, 2007).
To understand the consequences a crisis can have on the trustworthiness of an organization, the concept ‘trust' must be clarified. Trust can be defined as: “A psychological state comprising the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behaviour or another” (Rousseau, Sitkin, Burt & Camerer, 1998, p. 395 ).Thus, the public believes that the source can be trusted to provide objective and honest information (Martin-Santana, Reinares-Lara & Muela-Molina, 2015). Trust is a fundamental element of corporate success in companies, because it builds and supports long-term relationships between an organization and its stakeholder groups. Trust generates supportive behavior while preventing unsupportive behavior (Huang, 2001; Ki & Hon, 2007). It is therefore crucial for organizations to be seen as trustworthy by consumers to minimize negative effects, especially during hard times like a crisis. Utz, Schultz and Glocka (2012, p.41) state that “The foremost goal of crisis communication is to restore the reputation of the organization and the trust of consumers or other stakeholders”, which emphasizes how a crisis can damage people's trust in an organization embroiled in a specific crisis. Mayer, Davis and Schoorman (1995) propose a model of organizational trust. They suggest that the attributes associated with the trustee include ability, benevolence and integrity. The research presented here uses these attributes to measure consumers' trust in the organization.
McCullough, Worthington, Maxey and Rachal (1997, p.321-322) define forgiveness as ‘A set of motivational changes whereby one becomes decreasingly motivated to retaliate against an offending relationship partner, decreasingly motivated to maintain estrangement from the offender, and increasingly motivate by conciliation and goodwill for the offender”. Forgiveness from consumers after a crisis has occurred can be difficult to obtain. According to Coombs (2007), a crisis can evoke sympathy for the organization, as long as the message describes the organization as the victim, which causes people to belief the organization deserves sympathy. Forgiving an organization will be more likely when the company has apologized for the situation, and the organization has as less responsibility for the crisis as possible (Coombs, 2007).
Different types of associations with a company, have diverse influences on people's product or service evaluation (Berens, Van Riel & Van Bruggen 2005; Sen & Bhattacharya, 2001). A crisis can evoke negative thoughts about the organization which influences the behavioral intentions of consumers. According to Lin, Chen, chiu and Lee (2011) purchase intention cannot be randomly fostered by an immediate announcement of marketing, but rather it can be boosted after managers plan their firm's actions from two customer perspectives simultaneously (e.g., quality service to buyers and repayment to society). Different kinds of crisis response can thus have different effects on purchase intentions. In summary, a crisis has several negative consequences on an organization, which causes a great need for organizations to engage in crisis communication.
2.1.2 CRISIS COMMUNICATION
Crises are a threat to the organizational reputation. A crisis damages the reputation of organizations, and this can affect how stakeholders interact with the organization (Barton, 2001; Dowling, 2002). Post-crisis communication can be used to repair this reputational damage, and restore a good reputation for organizations (Coombs & Holladay, 2005). Crisis responsibility is related inversely to organizational reputation. To clarify, the higher the level of crisis responsibility held by the organization, the more severe the potential impact to its reputation (Jamal & Bakar, 2015).
2.2 CRISIS PROXIMITY
Within a crisis, people often react very differently. According to a study by Huang, Starbird, Orand, Stanek and Pedersen (2015), both physical and emotional proximity to a crisis influence consumers behavior towards information seeking and sharing. Choi and Lin (2009) describe that proximity or closeness to a crisis can influence the amount of involvement people have in a crisis. In general, involvement is considered a personal connection or bridging experience for an individual. Consumers with high crisis involvement process a message in greater detail and pay more attention to the message compared to low involved consumers (Choi & Lin, 2009).
Involvement is often conceptualized as personal relevance (Grau & Folse, 2007). Personal relevance can be defined as the level of perceived personal importance and/or interest evoked by a stimulus within a specific situation (Antil, 1984). Close geographic proximity makes a crisis endogenous, whereas for others the crisis is more exogenous. This difference in closeness can affect the way people react to the crisis (Nohrstedt & Weible, 2010), as it also affects the personal relevance of people to the crisis and thus the extent to which they feel involved. Recent examples, such as the global financial recession and the spread of the swine-flu affected all people worldwide which makes proximity to the crisis not relevant. However, when a crisis occurs only in a certain area (e.g. Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana), differences in proximity affect people's behaviors (Nohrstedt & Weible, 2010).
When there is high proximity to a crisis, people believe that certain issue affects them personally, whereas for low proximity subjects the issue has no personal impact (Petty, Cacioppo & Schumann, 1983). When the personal relevance in a crisis is low, people are less involved in a crisis which makes them process the crisis messages less actively than people with high personal relevance and therefore higher involvement (Choi & Lin, 2009; Engel & Blackwel, 1982; Krugman 1965).
2.2.1 CRISIS PROXIMITY AND PURCHASE INTENTIONS
There is little to no information about the effect of geographical proximity to a crisis on post-crisis purchase intentions. However, it seems very logical that consumers will have lower purchase intentions for products of an organization that has faced a crisis in their own country, than when the crisis happened far away. This assumption can be complemented by a study of Prendergast, Tsang and Chan (2010) in which is concluded that the impact of the country of origin of a brand on purchase intention is mediated by the level of personal involvement. It is stated that when a consumer is personally involved with the country of origin of a brand, the impact of favorable or unfavorable perceptions of that country is higher. In other words, this might indicate that the purchase intentions of people with high proximity to the crisis will lower after a crisis has occurred than the purchase intentions of people with low proximity to the crisis.
In addition, high involvement messages have greater personal relevance and consequences or elicit more personal connections than low involvement messages (Engel & Blackwell, 1982; Krugman, 1965; Petty & Cacioppo, 1979; Sherif & Hovland, 1961). This might indicate that high proximity would also cause more personal consequences which might lower the purchase intentions. Altogether, this leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 1a: When participants have low proximity to a crisis, they will have more purchase intentions after a crisis has occurred compared to when participants have high proximity to a crisis.
2.2.2 CRISIS PROXIMITY AND THE WILLINGNESS TO FORGIVE
The extent to which people forgive an organization after a crisis, might be dependent on the level of proximity they have to the crisis. Forgiveness expresses the desire to protect the relationship with the organization responsible for the offence. Therefore, the higher the level of closeness and commitment marking the relationship between a customer and the organization, the more likely it is that forgiveness will be granted (Nelson, 1993; Rackley, 1993). This indicates that consumers with high proximity to a crisis will be more likely to forgive the organization. This leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 1b: When participants have high proximity to a crisis, they will be more willing to forgive the organization after a crisis has occurred compared to when participants have low proximity to a crisis.
2.2.3 CRISIS PROXIMITY AND TRUST
Little is known about the effects crisis proximity might have on the trustworthiness of an organization. In a study of Heath, Seshadri and Lee (1998) it was found that proximity significantly affected uncertainty, support and dread. But proximity did not significantly affect trust, involvement, openness and knowledge. However, Nathan, Heath and Douglas (1992) have shown that proximity did not increase risk tolerance, and perceived risk is accompanied by low levels of trust (Heath, Seshandri & Lee, 1998). Thus, high proximity might decrease levels of trust in risky situations. This leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 1c: When participants have low proximity to a crisis, they will feel more trust towards the organization after a crisis has occurred compared to when participants have high proximity to a crisis.
2.2.4 CRISIS PROXIMITY AND EMOTIONS
To what extent people feel certain emotions during a crisis might be dependent on their proximity to the crisis. High geographical proximity to a crisis might be an important predictor of feeling distressed and increase feeling of personal threat (Thoresen et al., 2012). According to the research of Thoresen et al. (2012) people with high proximity felt higher levels of fear compared to people with low proximity to the crisis. However, their research focused on the terrorist attacks in Oslo specifically, and a different crisis with lower severity might trigger different emotional states of people. Other research has also found that geographical proximity is an important predictor of emotional reactions in the public after terrorist attacks (Hoven et al., 2005; Miguel-Tobal et al., 2006; Neria, DiGrande & Adams, 2011; Schlenger et al., 2002).
Previous studies have found that more physically distant objects are generally construed as being more psychologically distant (Fujita, Hendersen, Trope & Liberman, 2006; Henderson, Fujita, Trope & Liberman, 2006). This could indicate that a physically distant crisis is also generally perceived as being more psychologically distant. According to Hart, Stedman and McComas (2015), individuals may rely less on affect when making decisions about the object as it becomes more physically and psychologically distant. Strong emotional feelings may thus be less present in the low proximity condition compared to the high proximity condition. This indicates that high proximity will result in both more sympathy as more anger. Together, this leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 1d: When participants have low proximity to a crisis, they will feel (a) more sympathy and (b) less anger towards the organization compared to when participants have high proximity to a crisis.
2.3 CRISIS SOURCE
In April 2012 the telecom company Vodafone struggled with a big disorder when a fire occurred in one of their network locations. Their customers could not call with their phones for several days. The cause of the fire has never been found out, but it was most likely a result of too little precautions from the company. Vodafone replied clear and simple: they released videos on YouTube in which the CEO explains the problem, giving a behind-the-scenes look and showing the damage and how they are trying to fix everything. During this crisis the CEO constantly communicated honestly and transparently with Vodafone's customers, which resulted in a lot of understanding amongst the public. This is thus an example of successful crisis communication, by using the CEO as source.
Crisis response messages from spokespersons who are seen as credible and trustworthy can positively influence post-crisis communication (Yang, Kang & Johnson, 2010). The difference in source of the message might thus affect the trustworthiness of the organization. Organizations can communicate a crisis in various ways. The source that gives information can differ. In crisis responding, the credibility of the source of communicated information plays a critical role in information diffusion (Zhang, Veijalainen & Kotkov, 2016). Heath and Palenchar (2008, p.297) state: “A company suffering a crisis must be able to tell a credible story, one that has factual fidelity that can withstand the scrutiny of reporters, governmental investigators, and concerned citizens”. Having a CEO who takes clear and public command might be crucial for successfully ending a corporate crisis (Murray & Shohen, 1992).
Previous studies on the effect of crisis source are limited. This study explores the impact of using the CEO as source compared to the company as a whole as source. Trust in the CEO and the company are important for decision-making processes of consumers (Möllering & Sydow, 2005). Using a CEO as source does not directly mean the message is perceived more positively by consumers (Reidenbach & Pitts, 1986). Communicators that are perceived more credible by an audience are more likely to persuade that audience to accept or believe their message (Eagly, Wood & Chaiken, 1978; Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953; Wilson & Sherell, 1993). It is therefore important that the source possesses the right characteristics in order to be credible (e.g. trustworthiness, expertise and likability) (Reidenbach & Pitts, 1986).
2.3.1 CRISIS SOURCE AND PURCHASE INTENTIONS
When the CEO is visible during a crisis situation, he or she takes an active role in dealing with the crisis, rather than letting the media take control. This has a positive influence on the purchase intentions of consumers (Turk, Jin, Stewart, Kim & Hipple, 2012). Corporate credibility directly influences the consumers' purchase intentions (Lafferty & Goldsmith, 1999), and Turk et al. (2012) state that having a CEO present in crisis communication improves the credibility of an organization. This might all indicate that using a CEO as spokesperson will result in a perception of corporate credibility which in turn will enhance more purchase intentions among consumers.
Furthermore, Straughan, Bleske and Zhao (1996) found that source effects (CEO versus nonprofit organization spokesperson) indirectly impacted consumers' attitudes and intentions. According to their study, a CEO appears more persuasive than an outside authority because the CEO generates more interest among consumers. This might indicate that a CEO will also be more persuasive than the company as a whole. While persuasion can lead to behavioral changes, a CEO might be a more effective source to enhance purchase intentions than an unidentified spokesperson. Therefore the following hypothesis states:
Hypothesis 2a: When the CEO of the organization is used as source for the crisis response message, participants will have more purchase intention after a crisis has occurred compared to when the organization as a whole is used as a source for the crisis response message.
2.3.2 CRISIS SOURCE AND THE WILLINGNESS TO FORGIVE
After a crisis, consumers must be willing to forgive an organization in order to prevent reputational damage for the organization. This ‘willingness to forgive' might be dependent on who brings the crisis response message. There is not much information about the effect of crisis source on the willingness to forgive in the literature. But, in a study of Verhoeven, Van Hoof, Ter Keurs and Van Vuuren (2012), it was found that in a crisis situation, even one in which the CEO was personally responsible for the crisis, participants blamed the organization as a whole more than they blamed the CEO in person. This may indicate that consumers are also more likely to be willing to forgive a CEO rather than the organization as a whole. Also, Coombs and Holladay (2012) state that organizational leaders are ideal sources of apologies and that it is possible that apologies are more effective when communicated by top managers. This leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 2b: When the CEO of the organization is used as source for the crisis response message, participants will be more willing to forgive the organization after a crisis has occurred compared to when the organization as a whole is used as a source for the crisis response message.
2.3.3 CRISIS SOURCE AND TRUST
The extent to which consumers perceive an organization as trustworthy might depend on who brings the messages about the crisis. During a crisis, information can be given by the CEO of the organization, but might also be given by an (unidentified) spokesperson. Ingenhoff and Sommer (2010) examined the main influences of trust in companies and in companies' Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), and showed that general trust in the organization as a whole is higher than trust in CEOs. Individuals often have no direct, personal contact with the company except through its products and services. Therefore, information from the media about the organization is the basic source of information for consumers to build trust (Ingenhof & Sommer, 2010).
However, the CEOs represent the company and therefore they have a strong impact on the corporate image (Park & Berger, 2004). Using the CEO as source during crisis communication might be beneficial because findings suggest that a CEO is perceived to be more interesting, informative and persuasive by consumers than nonprofit organization spokespersons, even though CEOs are not perceived as more credible (Straughan, Bleske & Zhao, 1996).
Perceived trust is influenced by trustee attributes such as ability, integrity and benevolence (Butler, 1991; Mayer, Davis & Schoorman, 1995). These attributes are expected to be easier assigned to a human (in this case the CEO of the company) than to the organization as a whole. In summary, the literature provides very different perspectives on whether the CEO of an organization will be perceived as more trustworthy or the company as a whole would be trusted more. This leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 2c: When the CEO of the organization is used as source for the crisis response message, participants will more likely trust the organization after the crisis has occurred compared to when the organization as a whole is used as a source for the crisis response message.
2.3.4 CRISIS SOURCE AND EMOTIONS
The emotions people feel after reading a crisis response may be affected by the source of the message. According to Arpan (2002), the communicator's credibility strongly affects the extent to which consumers accept the message. When the message is accepted, more positive emotions might be felt. This might indicate that the more credible the source is as perceived by consumers, the more positive emotions these consumers feel.
Different crisis situations cause certain attributions of organizational responsibility for a crisis. These attributions can lead people to certain feelings and behaviors (Weiner, Perry & Magnusson, 1988). The stronger people feel the organization is responsible, the more likely it is that negative emotions are felt. Consumers will have more negative images of the situation and the organization and will less likely interact (again) with the company (Coombs, 1995). The amount of responsibility people assign to the organization might be dependent on the source of the crisis response. The source of information has been established as critical for establishing trust and credibility (Avery, 2010; Callison, 2001), which affect message acceptance. The source of information may therefore affect the extent to which the organization is held responsible which might influence the extent to which emotions (positive or negative) are felt by consumers after reading the crisis response message. Altogether, this leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 2d: When the CEO of the organization is used as source for the crisis response message, participants will feel (a) more sympathy and (b) less anger towards the organization compared to when the organization as a whole is used as source for the crisis response message.
2.4 CRISIS FRAMING
When an organization faces a crisis, a quick response is essential. By using framing, the organization chooses to highlight certain factors of the message. Those factors will then get more attention from the receivers (Druckman, 2001). Framing the message in crisis responding can be of impact on consumers as it presents one message differently by framing the same content in two ways (Mayer & Tormala, 2010) Framing provides a context for information and creates frames of reference that people use when interpreting and evaluating information (Hallahan, 1999).
The message is being framed in two ways in this study, namely emotionally and rationally. According to Yoo and Maclnnis (2005), emotional framing of a massage might appeal to the customers' own emotions and therefore enhance their perception, because it causes the organization to show humane characteristics with which people can better relate to. Moon and Rhee (2012) claim that a message in an emotional frame “focuses more on expressing the organization's sincere sorrow, regret, and concern for those affected by a crisis in describing how the organization is managing the crisis situation” (p. 681).
On the contrary, rational messages present merely objective and simple information which stimulate consumers to assess the trustworthiness of the messages instead of triggering primarily emotions (Yoo & Maclnnis, 2005). Claeys, Cauberghe and Leysen (2013) describe the rational frame as direct, straightforward and objective without referring to emotion or displaying the crisis in a vivid manner. In contrast, emotional framing is trying to evoke positive feelings such as sympathy by using apologies regarding the crisis (Schultz, Utz & Göritz, 2011). According to Flora and Maibach (1990) emotional appeals are more likely to be remembered than rational appeals. Also, emotional framing is more effective in terms of attitude changes (Rosselli, Skelly & Mackie, 1995). This might indicate that emotional framed messages are more persuasive than rational framed messages.
2.4.1 CRISIS FRAMING AND PURCHASE INTENTIONS
An emotionally framed crisis response message might trigger emotions of consumers. Research shows that negative emotions (e.g. regret, anger, disappointment) will lower purchase intention while for positive emotions (e.g. sympathy) it is expected to increase future purchase intention (Coombs & Holladay, 2007). In a study by Cooper (2002) it was concluded that the way a message is framed shapes how people define a crisis and its attributions of responsibility. When the organization is perceived not to be responsible, and sympathy is evoked, behavioral responses of consumers are positive (Weiner, 2006). In addition, Kim and Cameron (2011) proved in their study that emotionally framed messages lead to positive public responses. Also, by communicating emotion, the organization appears to be more human which may decrease feelings of anger towards the organization (Van der Meer & Verhoeven (2014). This all suggests that an emotionally framed message will more positively influence consumers' purchase intentions compared to a rationally framed message. This leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 3a: When emotional framing is used in the crisis response message, participants will have more purchase intentions after a crisis has occurred compared to when rational framing is used in the crisis response message.
2.4.2 CRISIS FRAMING AND THE WILLINGNESS TO FORGIVE
Whether or not consumers forgive an organization after a crisis might depend on the crisis communication used by the company. According to Cho and Gower (2006), framing a message is of great importance because it influences the public's evaluation of the organizational responsibility for the crisis to occur. Combinations of a cognitive and affective approach have already shown efficacy in obtaining forgiveness (Schmitt, Gollwizer, Förster & Montada, 2004). This study will compare a rational and an emotional framed message and the extent to which they provide willingness to forgive from consumers. In a study of Cleays, Cauberghe and Leysen (2013) it was found that when organizations express emotions during a crisis, they are more likely to be forgiven by the public. Altogether, this leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 3b: When emotional framing is used in the crisis response message, participants will be more willing to forgive the organization after a crisis has occurred compared to when rational framing is used in the crisis response message.
2.4.3 CRISIS FRAMING AND TRUST
Framing the crisis message either emotionally or rationally might affect the extent to which consumers trust the organization. According to Dunn and Schweitzer (2005), showing emotions can have an influence on perceived trust. This might indicate that during crisis communication it has also a positive effect on trust when emotions are showed. Negative emotions delay trust building, or even terminate relationships (Andersen & Kumar, 2006). However, positive emotions seem necessary in trust building because it allows consumers to take ‘a leap of faith' in the trust building process. When the message evokes positive emotions by consumers, their trust in the organization becomes higher (Dunn & Schweitzer, 2005). This is also confirmed by Weiss and Cropanzano (1996) who state that emotionally framed messages can increase consumers' trust in the organization during a crisis. This leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 3c: When emotional framing is used in the crisis response message, participants will have higher trust towards the organization after a crisis has occurred compared to when rational framing is used in the crisis response message.
2.4.4 CRISIS FRAMING AND EMOTIONS
The two different framing strategies used in this study (emotional framing vs. rational framing) might trigger different emotional states of consumers. When using an emotional appeal, the organization is perceived more human, which in turn decreases feelings of anger towards the organization (Van der Meer & Verhoeven, 2014). In a study by Kaufmann, Drevland, Wessel, Overskeid and Magnussen (2003) it was found that a message was perceived more credible when emotions were displayed but the credibility was not influenced by the content of the story. Although their research was not conducted with crisis response messages, their results might indicate that also in crisis communication, emotionally framed messages will be perceived as more credible than rational messages. More credibility might enhance more sympathy towards the organization. This might in turn decrease anger towards the organization. This leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 3d: When emotional framing is used in the crisis response message, participants will feel (a) more sympathy and (b) less anger towards the organization compared to when rational framing is used in the crisis response message.
2.5 INTERACTION BETWEEN SOURCE, FRAMING & PROXIMITY
2.5.1 SOURCE AND PROXIMITY
The success of using a certain type of source might be dependent on the level of proximity people have to a crisis. However, there is not much knowledge in the literature about the interaction between these two manipulations. In a study of Frewer, Howard, Hedderley and Shepherd (1999) was found that low perceived personal relevance was more likely to lead to elaborative processing than high personal relevance, contrary to their predictions. When consumers have high proximity to a crisis, they will most likely also feel more personal relevance compared to consumers with low proximity to the crisis.
Also, perceptions of source characteristics play an important part in determining whether central or peripheral processing occurs (Liska, 1978). In the research of Frewer et al. (1999), under conditions of high personal relevance, information from a source which was low in persuasiveness was more trusted. High trust and high credibility are likely to produce attitude change in the direction of the information content if motivation to process is low (Frewer et al., 1999).
In summary, a source that is trusted more and perceived more credible, is likely to produce change in behavior when the motivation to process is low. High proximity to a crisis will likely cause less elaborative processing compared to low proximity. Which results in the expectation that a combination of a CEO with a low proximity will enhance most trust and willingness to forgive. This leads to the following two hypotheses:
Hypothesis 4a: The combination of a CEO as source type with low proximity will enhance more trust and willingness to forgive the organization than the combination of the company as a whole as source type with low proximity to the crisis.
Hypothesis 4b: The combination of a CEO as source type with low proximity will enhance more trust and willingness to forgive the organization than the combination of CEO as source type with high proximity to the crisis.
2.5.2 FRAMING AND PROXIMITY
As described previously in this thesis, people with high geographical proximity to a crisis might feel more personally involved. When there is high involvement, message content determines persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo, 1981) and therefore the messages with rational framing persuade more, as they focus on the content (Stafford & Day, 1995; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005). When crisis involvement is low, consumers base their attitudes on simple inferences (Maheswaran & Meyers-Levy, 1990), and they tend to focus on the emotional framing of a message (Petty, Cacioppo & Schumann, 1983; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005). Controversially, for individuals with high involvement, the message with rational framing will be more persuasive, and they focus on the content itself (Stafford & Day, 1995; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005). This might indicate that high proximity in combination with rational framing will enhance more positive emotions than high proximity in combination with emotional framing. This leads to the following two hypotheses:
Hypothesis 5a: The source that will enhance most sympathy, is perceived as more trustworthy in combination with a rational frame, than the other source in combination with a rational frame.
Hypothesis 5b: The combination of the CEO as source with emotional framing will enhance more positive emotions than the combination of the CEO as source with rational framing.
2.5.3 SOURCE AND FRAMING
Choi and Lin (2007) conducted a study in which they found that framing of a message has an effect on how consumers interpret the message. By using an emotional frame, an organization might be perceived as more human, which enables people to feel more sympathy towards this organization (Van der Meer & Verhoeven, 2014). It can be expected that a CEO is also perceived more human than the organization as a whole. Therefore it is expected that the combination of an emotional frame with the CEO as source will enhance more positive emotions than an emotional frame with the organization as a whole as source of the message.
A study by Yan, Ogle and Hyllegard (2010) provides evidence to suggest that both message appeal and message source may impact consumers' attitudes and purchase intentions. The credibility of the message is related to the perceived persuasiveness of the source. Rational frames trigger consumers to evaluate the credibility of a message more than emotional frames, as rational frames appeal to the individual's cognitions (MacInnis, Rao & Weiss, 2002; McKay-Nesbitt et al., 2011; Yoo & MacInnis, 2005). This might indicate that the combination of the most credible source with rational framing will be more persuasive than the combination of this source with emotional framing. A more persuasive message will likely result in more positive emotions. This leads to the following two hypotheses:
Hypothesis 6a: When there is high proximity to the crisis, this will enhance more trust and willingness to forgive when a rational frame is used compared to when an emotional frame is used in combination with high proximity.
Hypothesis 6b: When there is low proximity to the crisis, this will enhance more trust and willingness to forgive when an emotional frame is used compared to when a rational frame is used.
2.6 THE MEDIATING ROLE OF EMOTIONS
According to Dunn and Schweitzer (2005), emotions with positive valence (e.g. happiness and gratitude) increase trust, and emotions with negative valence (e.g. anger) decreases trust. Thus, it is expected that the more positive emotions a participant feels after reading the crisis response message, the more trust this person has in the organization afterwards. Also, emotions influence attitudes and behavioral intentions towards the organization (Kim & Cameron, 2011). According to Kotler and Armstrong (1994) both negative and positive emotions motivate the purchase intentions of consumers. This leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 7: The more sympathy and anger participants feel after reading the crisis response message, the higher their purchase intentions will be afterwards.
When consumers develop feelings of empathy for the organization, this plays a vital role in beginning the forgiveness process (Worthington, 1998). When participants feel empathy after reading the crisis response message, the humanity of the organization is considered rather than defining the company solely in terms of the offence (Enright & Coyle, 1998). In the study of Enright and Coyle (1998) participants felt significantly more negative, aroused, angry, sad and less in control when they were unforgiving than when they were forgiving. This might indicate that the more positive emotions, and the less negative emotions a participant feels after reading the crisis response message, the more this person is willing to forgive the organization afterwards. Altogether, this leads to the following two hypotheses:
Hypothesis 8: The more sympathy and the less anger participants feel after reading the crisis response message, the more trust they will have in the organization.
Hypothesis 9: The more sympathy and the less anger participants feel after reading the crisis response message, the more they will be willing to forgive the organization.
2.7 THE MEDIATING ROLE OF TRUST
Several studies have similarly concluded that higher trust results in a higher degree of consumers' purchase intentions (e.g. Gefen & Straub, 2004; McCole & Palmer, 2001). This is caused by the fact that the present of trust increases consumers' beliefs that the trustee will not engage in opportunistic behavior (Gefen, 2000). This leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 10: The more trust participants have towards the organization after reading the crisis response message, the higher their purchase intentions will be afterwards.
2.8 THE MEDIATING ROLE OF WILLINGNESS TO FORGIVE
Apologies are also associated with increased purchasing behavior (Liao, 2007). When people are more willing to forgive, their purchase intentions and positive word-of-mouth intentions will likely increase (Lyon & Cameron, 2004). This leads to the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 11: The more participants are willing to forgive the organization after reading the crisis response message, the higher their purchase intentions will be afterwards.
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