Amy O'Connor

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Keith M. Hearit

Second Advisor

Dr. Shirley Van Hoeven

Third Advisor

Dr. George Robeck

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This study examines the communication activities of two crises: the NASA Challenger and Exxon Valdez and investigates the effect of accommodative and defensive statements attributable to each crisis on organizational image. The survey design queried respondents about organization image with questions about trustworthiness, responsibility and willingness for future involvement with the organization, based on statements provided. Results indicated that when organizations issue accommodative statements during a crisis, participants rated overall organizational image more positively than when defensive statements were given. Research findings are discussed based on the symbolic approach to crisis communication and the investor response theory. The implications for future research using actual case studies are discussed.