How Emotions Can Enhance Crisis Communication: Theorizing Around Moral Outrage

W. Timothy Coombs, Elina R. Tachkova*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Research and practice have noted the existence of what have been termed sticky crises. Sticky crises are extraordinary because they create uniquely challenging situations for crisis managers (Reber, Yarbrough, Nowak & Jin, 2020). This paper uses the emotion of moral outrage to conceptualize one form of sticky crisis we term moral outrage inducing crises and to outline a research program designed to develop theory and to enhance the practice related to this variant of sticky crises. The first section reviews the nature of sticky crises and what makes them complicated and difficult to manage. The next section discusses how people assess crisis situations arguing this is done based on cognitions and emotions. We then explore how moral outrage affects critical crisis assessments and provide a series of propositions designed to advance theory and practice for crisis communication in moral outrage inducing crises. We argue that an emotion-driven approach to crisis communication coupled with a concern for morals will promote a better understanding and management of moral outrage inducing crises and potentially other sticky crises that evoke moral outrage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-22
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Public Relations Research
Issue number1
Early online date7 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration

User-Defined Keywords

  • crisis communication
  • emotion
  • extreme crisis
  • moral outrage


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