Crisis communications : an examination of public relations strategies in media coverage of the Missouri drug dilution case
There have been a number of studies that examine how public relations professionals respond during a crisis including use of traditional legal response and traditional public relations response strategies. The degree of use of either can be influenced by the relationship between legal and public relations professionals. Thus, a pre-crisis relationship between the two groups is important for successful crisis communications. The purpose of this study was to examine media coverage of the Missouri drug dilution case to determine how many of Eli Lilly and Company's public relations messages were carried by the three major media outlets covering the crisis, if there was a difference among the outlets, and whether there was a significant difference in response strategy messages were reported.A content analysis of articles during the crisis period from the Indianapolis Star, the Kansas City Star, and The Associated Press were obtained through a Factiva search and were used to gather responses made by spokespersons. The search yielded 64 usable articles and 254 sentences from company spokespersons.Coders were trained to identify the response strategies defined as traditional public relations strategy, traditional legal strategy, mixed strategy and diversionary strategy. A chi-square test was used to test the hypotheses.The first hypothesis which stated "the number of sentences attributed to Lilly spokespersons in The Indianapolis Star, The Kansas City Star, and the Associated Press in the Missouri drug dilution case will differ significantly" was supported. The second hypothesis which stated "there will be a significant difference in response strategy sentences as defined by Fitzpatrick and Rubin and attributed to Lilly spokespersons in The Indianapolis Star, The Kansas City Star, and the Associated Press during different time periods of the case" was also supported.