Public Reactions to the Qantas Grounding Crisis

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Despite a growing number of studies on crisis communication, there is very little research that examines corporate crises from a consumer perspective, particularly for crisis case studies within Australia. Using Yin’s (2002) framework for case study research methods, this research group conducted a qualitative content analysis of 1121 audience comments attached to three news articles on the 2011 Qantas grounding crisis. Using Weiner’s Attribution Theory (1986, 1995) and the qualitative content analysis software; Leximancer, we used these comments to deconstruct audience perceptions of the Qantas crisis and isolate different emotional, attitudinal and behavioural responses. Our first major finding indicated that the majority of audience members attributed the cause of the Qantas crisis to managerial decisions or union action. Working Conditions and Government policy was also found to be secondary factors to the crisis cause. We also found these four causal factors to be strongly associated with audience’s responsibility judgments. The four key responsible stakeholder groups that emerged from our analysis were Alan Joyce (Qantas Management), Unions, Employees and the Labor Government. Another important focus of this study examined audience’s crisis emotions. Anger was found to be the predominant emotion that emerged from our analysis and was largely directed towards management and union stakeholders. Sympathy also emerged as a secondary emotion but was largely directed towards employees and management. Our final research finding uncovered a number of behavioural intentions within the audience comments. While the majority of these behavioural intentions centre around avoidance and negative purchase intentions, a few increased investment intentions also emerged. Although our Leximancer analysis was restricted by a number of technical limitations, these research findings indicate that Weiner’s Attribution Theory can be successfully applied to a real life crisis case study. Despite a growing number of studies on crisis communication, there is very little research that examines corporate crises from a consumer perspective, particularly for crisis case studies within Australia. Using Yin’s (2002) framework for case study research methods, this research group conducted a qualitative content analysis of 1121 audience comments attached to three news articles on the 2011 Qantas grounding crisis. Using Weiner’s Attribution Theory (1986, 1995) and the qualitative content analysis software; Leximancer, we used these comments to deconstruct audience perceptions of the Qantas crisis and isolate different emotional, attitudinal and behavioural responses. Our first major finding indicated that the majority of audience members attributed the cause of the Qantas crisis to managerial decisions or union action. Working Conditions and Government policy was also found to be secondary factors to the crisis cause. We also found these four causal factors to be strongly associated with audience’s responsibility judgments. The four key responsible stakeholder groups that emerged from our analysis were Alan Joyce (Qantas Management), Unions, Employees and the Labor Government. Another important focus of this study examined audience’s crisis emotions. Anger was found to be the predominant emotion that emerged from our analysis and was largely directed towards management and union stakeholders. Sympathy also emerged as a secondary emotion but was largely directed towards employees and management. Our final research finding uncovered a number of behavioural intentions within the audience comments. While the majority of these behavioural intentions centre around avoidance and negative purchase intentions, a few increased investment intentions also emerged. Although our Leximancer analysis was restricted by a number of technical limitations, these research findings indicate that Weiner’s Attribution Theory can be successfully applied to a real life crisis...
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