The importance of empathy for the effectiveness of organizational crisis communication
This research project proposes that stakeholders’ empathy with an organization in crisis can help us to understand the connection between a crisis situation, crisis communication, and reputation damage. Previous studies explained the effectiveness of crisis communication by means of attributions of organizational crisis responsibility (cf. Coombs, 2007). Research in social psychology indicates, however, that attributions of responsibility are one of two crucial factors in the forgiveness process (Davis & Gold, 2011; McCullough, Worthington & Rachal, 1997).The second factor, the degree to which people experience empathy for an offending party may be even more important, but has not been examined in the context of crisis communication. Therefore, this project examines how empathy with an organization in crisis is established through crisis communication strategies and how this affects an organization’s post-crisis reputation.