Tweets of Wrath: Assessing Social Media Influence in Organizational Crisis

Megan Kendall, Purdue University


For businesses and organizations, public perception is a critical factor in determining the effectiveness of crisis response strategies in mitigating reputational damage. However, current crisis literature offers little investigation into how public response found on social media can be measured and assessed. This case study seeks to better understand the role of online public perception in crisis and how social media are disrupting crisis communication strategies. On April 9th, 2017, United Airlines faced global outrage in an exceptional case that is both relevant and interesting in considering how online publics engaged with the crisis via social media after a video was shared on Twitter showing a passenger being forcibly removed from the plane. Utilizing Coombs' (2015b) situational crisis communication theory (SCCT) framework, tweets, corporate press releases and news articles are assessed to establish a crisis timeline and analyze how United and publics responded to the crisis. This case study suggests social media influence crisis communication, requiring a shift in crisis communication to more effectively interact with engaged online publics. While it's not clear if social media direct strategy change, the online platforms are undeniably a driving force in sending and receiving information surrounding a crisis and allow publics to participate in crisis in new ways. In considering public perception, organizations may be able to better anticipate and prepare more effective crisis strategies.




Smith, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Communication|Web Studies|Mass communications

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server