When Blame-Giving Crisis Communications are Persuasive: A Dual-Influence Model and Its Boundary Conditions

  • Paolo AntonettiEmail author
  • Ilaria Baghi
Original Paper


Companies faced with a crisis sometimes blame others in their communications, when they feel that responsibility for the negative event lies elsewhere. Research has argued that stakeholders often react negatively to this type of message, because they perceive them as an unfair attempt to deny responsibility. In four experiments, examining blame directed at an employee and a supplier, we complement existing research by demonstrating that blame-giving messages can be persuasive in certain circumstances. Blame-giving communications can improve perceptions of firm ethicality more than apologies or an absence of corporate communication. This effect, in turn, reduces negative word-of-mouth intentions. The study identifies several boundary conditions for this effect. For blame-giving to be effective, a credible third party needs to identify who is responsible for wrongdoing, and the company needs to use vivid communication with detailed information about the culprit. Furthermore, blame-giving can backfire: when stakeholders doubt the company’s honesty, this type of messaging is seen as manipulative. The study contributes to a developing research stream on the relative effectiveness of different types of crisis communications by demonstrating that, in certain circumstances, blame-giving messages are more persuasive than apologies. Moreover, our analysis offers guidelines on how to design these messages to make them acceptable to stakeholders.


Scapegoating Blame-giving Crisis communications Perceived ethicality Negative word of mouth 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in the studies presented were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee at the authors’ host institutions and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10551_2019_4370_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1023 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1022 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NEOMA Business School, FranceRouenFrance
  2. 2.University of Modena and Reggio EmiliaReggio EmiliaItaly

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