Volume 13 Issue 4
Aug.  2022
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Gerrit Hirschfeld, Meinald T. Thielsch. Impact of Crisis Communication Strategies on People’s Attitudes toward Behavioral Guidelines Regarding COVID-19 and on Their Trust in Local Officials[J]. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 2022, 13(4): 495-506. doi: 10.1007/s13753-022-00424-3
Citation: Gerrit Hirschfeld, Meinald T. Thielsch. Impact of Crisis Communication Strategies on People’s Attitudes toward Behavioral Guidelines Regarding COVID-19 and on Their Trust in Local Officials[J]. International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 2022, 13(4): 495-506. doi: 10.1007/s13753-022-00424-3

Impact of Crisis Communication Strategies on People’s Attitudes toward Behavioral Guidelines Regarding COVID-19 and on Their Trust in Local Officials

doi: 10.1007/s13753-022-00424-3

We would like to thank Sabrina Hegner for helpful discussions in preparing this work, Christoph Lamers for feedback on the validity of the different mayoral responses, Johanna Bunk for her support in preparing the online supplements, and Celeste Brennecka for proofreading the manuscript.

  • Available Online: 2022-09-09
  • Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) guides responses of corporations in crises. We tested how COVID-19 related crisis communication strategies affect trust in mayors and the acceptance of behavioral measures. A total of 561 participants (53% female) with a mean age of 50 years took part in an online experiment in which we systematically manipulated the mayor’s crisis communication strategy (deny crisis, diminish role in crisis, rebuild relationship after taking responsibility, bolster reputation, no response) and pre-crisis reputation (good past crisis management, bad past crisis management). Age, gender, and education served as covariates. We also tested the predictive power of personal concern regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as internal and external control convictions. In our preregistered analysis, we found that crisis communication strategies had no significant effect on participants’ ratings of behavioral measures, but they affected participants’ trust in the mayor. The deny crisis strategy resulted in the most unfavorable ratings, while the effects of the other strategies were moderated by the mayor’s pre-crisis reputation. Additional exploratory analyses showed that individual concern and trust were important predictors for the acceptance of behavioral measures. Even though we did not find any effects of communication strategies on behavioral measures, our results support SCCT’s utility in guiding communication strategy during a pandemic.
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