Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Public Relations


Public Relations & Advertising


College of Communication & Creative Arts

First Advisor

Sparks-FitzGerald, Suzanne


Corporations--Public relations; Crisis management


Public Relations and Advertising


This purpose of this thesis was to study how CEO behavior during a crisis impacts the organization's lasting reputation.

A thorough review of relevant publications, as well as intercept surveys, content analyses and email surveys, was conducted to test the hypotheses.

Fifty intercept surveys were conducted over two weekends to discover opinions about the issue. Respondents appearing to be age 25 or older were randomly selected. A content analysis was conducted using articles from Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal to determine the media's tone on the CEOs of Odwalla, Jack in the Box, Dow Coming and Exxon. A total of ten articles, five from each publication, were coded for each company. An email survey was sent to Fortune 100 companies to ascertain whether or not they had crisis communication plans. Of 100, 26 companies responded.

It was concluded that: 1) the most successful American companies have crisis communication plans; 2) the CEO must receive positive media coverage during a crisis and 3) the public does not associate crises with company reputation over time.