Scansis as a unique crisis type: theoretical and practical implications Academic Article uri icon


  • PurposeThe purpose of this paper, a set of two studies, is to elaborate on the concept of scansis and its effects upon crisis communication theory and practice. A scansis represents the intersection of a scandal and crisis, essentially when a crisis becomes a scandal. A new term was created due to the varied ways in which the term scandal is used and misused. The effects of scansis on crisis communication are examined through two studies. A scansis is unique because it creates moral outrage and is a function of a perception of injustice coupled with greed.Design/methodology/approachExperimental design is used in both studies to test for the effects of specific crisis response strategies used during a scansis. The crisis response strategies were manipulated to determine whether or not corrective action with moral recognition is more effective at helping organizations during a crisis than those crisis response strategies that do not contain a moral component.FindingsThe two studies found no short-term effect for crisis responses during scansis. This included no difference between corrective action with moral recognition and the other three response conditions for the short-term factors of organizational reputation, negative word-of-mouth intentions, purchase intentions and anger. However, Study 2 found that corrective action with moral recognition was perceived as the most empathetic response and created the lowest levels of moral outrage. The authors postulate that corrective action with moral recognition has a long-term effect after a scansis by creating a positive response that moves organizations away from being stigmatized.Research limitations/implicationsThe results raise questions about the current configuration of the intentional crisis cluster articulated in situational crisis communication theory (SCCT). When just consider assessments crisis responsibility, a scansis would be part of the preventable crisis cluster. However, the evaluation of justice and greed suggest a scansis may be a unique crisis type that does not fit within the intentional crisis cluster and the prescribed short-term effects of crisis response strategies recommend by SCCT. The scansis establishes a boundary condition for the limits of crisis response strategies on short-term effects such as reputation and purchase intention. These findings require us to rethink elements of current crisis communication theory.Practical implicationsThe lack of short-term benefits should not be an argument for abandoning accommodative crisis response strategies. Practitioners need to realize the limits of crisis response strategies for creating short-term benefits and think about the potential long-term benefits offered by crisis response strategies.Originality/valueScansis is a new concept for crisis communication and provides a link between the crisis communication and organizational stigma literatures. The two studies are the first attempts to empirically examine scansis and opens new avenues of thinking and research for crisis communication and organizational stigma researchers.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Communication Management

author list (cited authors)

  • Coombs, W. T., & Tachkova, E. R.

publication date

  • January 1, 2019 11:11 AM