Crisis communications : an examination of spokespersons use of response strategies during the Adam's Mark Hotel racial discrimination lawsuit

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Durril, Roseanne E.
Popovich, Mark N.
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Thesis (M.A.)
Department of Journalism
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There have been a number of studies that examine how public relations practitioners respond during a crisis. Many researchers have examined the various response strategies and the success or failure of theses methods. Because a crisis can have legal ramifications, it is important that a good working relationship between the legal staff and public relations staff exists. To better understand the relationship between the two groups and the response strategies generated during a crisis, more research in this issue is needed. This study focused on response strategies used during a racial discrimination lawsuit. The objectives of the study were to determine which strategies were used most often, and how the influence of legal staff and public relations staff determined the responses.A content analysis of newspapers found in a NexisLexis search, during the crisis period, was used to gather responses made by spokespersons. The search yielded twenty-seven usable newspaper articles and sixty-two responses from company spokespersons.Coders were trained to identify the response strategies that were defined as traditional public relations strategy, traditional legal strategy, mixed strategy and diversionary strategy. A chi-square test was used to test the hypothesis. The findings supported a balance between the use of traditional public relations strategy and traditional legal strategy.Further analysis identified a significant increase in the use of traditional public relations strategy when a public relations firm was retained to remedy the crisis situation. The study also supported a collaborative working relationship between public relations and legal counsel.