Countering accusations with inoculation: The moderating role of consumer-company identification
Coauthor(s): Sabine Einwiller.
Accusations of wrongdoing, baseless or justified, can severely tarnish a company's reputation.
Once disseminated, even baseless accusations can persist and cause considerable
damage for a company. This study examines the proactive crisis communication strategy of
inoculating individuals against invalid accusations before they go viral. An experiment was
conducted in a real world consumer context among members of an online consumer panel
using an electronics discounter as the research stimulus. Expanding previous inoculation
research on the role of value-relevant involvement for inoculation and the effectiveness of
inoculation in the case of different preexisting attitudes, we find that consumers' identification
with a company moderates inoculation effectiveness. Consumers strongly opposing or
disidentifying with the company under attack reported fewer negative beliefs and attitude
change as well as fewer intentions to spread the accusation after being exposed to an inoculation
message refuting the claim against the company. Consumers strongly identifying
with the company, on the other hand, did not profit from such an inoculation. Their level
of identification alone was sufficient to prevent attitude slippage. Implications for public
relations research and practice are discussed.
Source: Public Relations Review
Einwiller, Sabine, and Gita Johar. "Countering accusations with inoculation: The moderating role of consumer-company identification." Public Relations Review 39, no. 3 (September 2013): 198?206.