Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
October 18, 2010

Coombs and Holladay Discuss the Kindle Crisis

Timothy Coombs and Sherry Holladay, both of the University of Central Florida, presented their case study content analysis of what they called the Kindle crisis from summer 2009.

Using a quantitative content analysis of postings published within an established Kindle community, the researchers looked at items published in the forum over a 2-day period that discussed the CEO’s very direct and unorthodox apology for their misstep.

The scholars classified each post as to whether the post noted the author owned a Kindle (indicated ownership, indicated was not an owner, did not mention ownership) and impact to behavioral intention (said the apology would change behavior, said apology would not change behavior, did not indicate any behavior change based on apology), among other variables.

They found:

  • Strong majority of posts in the Kindle community indicated that they accepted the apology (71.4%)
  • Some within Kindle community outright rejected apology (12.9%)
  • Apology didn’t appear to impact behavioral intentions overall (68.1%), but did have some impact on positive behavioral intention (21.4%) and negative behavioral intention (10.5%)
  • Self-identified Kindle owners were more accepting of the apology and indicated positive behavioral intention (result computed using Janis-Fadner Coefficient of Imbalance)

While this case study is limited to communication within the special Kindle community, admittedly to most likely be a polarized audience, it does shed light on how a low risk crisis (after all, no one died) can be impacted by apology.

This research, titled “The Kindle Crisis: Exploring Ways to Evaluate Online Crisis Communication,” was presented by the scholars during the Public Relations Research Showcase Presentations panel at the 2010 PRSA International Conference.

Dr. Kaye Sweetser, APR+M, associate professor, H.W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She is a practitioner, a scholar and had the great pleasure of advising the national champions in the 2010 PRSSA Bateman Case Study Competition. Dr. Sweetser is a member of the APR+M Council. Connect with Kaye on LinkedIn and on Twitter @kaye.

For more coverage on the PRSA 2010 International Conference: Powering PRogress, visit PRSA Intelligence, follow #prsa_ic and the Conference blog.

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