's Orwellian nightmare: exploring apology in an online environment Academic Article uri icon


  • PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to contribute to understanding of crisis communication application and theory by analyzing online reactions of discussion board participants to assess the effectiveness of an apology issued online.Design/methodology/approachThis paper uses a content analysis of naturallyoccurring online reactions to an apology issued as a crisis response strategy. The JanisFadner Coefficient of Imbalance was used to quantify the magnitude of negative and positive reactions to the apology.FindingsMost posts indicated acceptance of the apology and positive purchase intentions, thus confirming its effectiveness in managing the crisis as prescribed in Situational Crisis Communication Theory. Analysis of rejection reactions provided insights into additional actions crisis managers might take in this situation and how organisations might make their crisis communication more interactive in an online environment.Research limitations/implicationsThe study is limited by the focus on people responding to the apology online. It does show the potential value of online responses as a data source for crisis communication research.Practical implicationsThe paper demonstrates the utility of the research method for future studies designed to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of crisis communication strategies. Real time monitoring may signal if the response strategy is effective and, if not, reveal stakeholder concerns that should be addressed in followup responses.Originality/valueThe paper provides insight into how online comments can be used to evaluate reactions to apologies used in a crisis. The method can be helpful when crisis managers have access to online reactions to their crisis communication.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Communication Management

altmetric score

  • 1.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J.

citation count

  • 74

complete list of authors

  • Coombs, W Timothy||Holladay, Sherry J

publication date

  • January 2012