ISSN 1016-1007 GPN2005600032
頁數:229﹣278 風險知覺影響組織聲譽的路徑初探: COVID-19疫情背景下之貫時研究 A Preliminary Study on the Path of Risk Perception Affecting Organizational Reputation: Form the Longitudinal Context of the COVID-19 Epidemic
Hui-Chung Yao, I-Ling Ling, Chih-Yi Liu
COVID-19 epidemic, fear, organizational reputation, panel study, risk perception
當公眾健康或安全遭受威脅且組織責任不明確情境下,危機責任可能不足以預測組織聲譽威脅,欲知公眾如何應對危機並評價涉事組織之聲譽可能需要另闢蹊徑。既有危機傳播文獻多以橫斷面資料探討相關問題,少有時間數列資料加以佐證。為彌補以上研究缺口,本研究基於認知評價理論,引入風險知覺概念並藉五次貫時資料,探討新冠肺炎疫情背景下,公眾感知、情緒與態度的變化,以及風險知覺影響防疫機構聲譽的可能路徑。主要的研究發現包括:(1) 疫情最高峰時,風險知覺同時透過情緒導向、認知導向,以及混合路徑影響防疫機構聲譽;知覺風險會直接影響責任知覺。(2) 在疫情低谷時,風險知覺只會透過情緒導向路徑影響組織聲譽;知覺風險需透過恐懼情緒影響責任知覺。(3) 疫情高峰過後,恐懼情緒直接影響組織聲譽;疫情再起時,恐懼會通過怒氣或責任知覺的中介影響組織聲譽。(4) 負面的恐懼情緒不僅直接影響怒氣,還會透過責任知覺進而影響怒氣。(5) 風險知覺對防疫機構聲譽的直接效果為正,然間接效果為負值且大於直接效果,因此風險知覺對防疫機構聲譽的淨效果呈現負向。本研究最後針對研究結果提出理論貢獻與管理意涵。
Responsibility attribution for a crisis is insufficient to explain organizational reputation threats (Ma & Zhan, 2016; Page, 2019), especially in crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which lacks intention, controllability, and clear responsibility attribution. Based on the cognition appraisal theory, this research reveals the perception of risk to situation analysis of the pandemic crisis and argues that the public tends to consider personal security-related threat perception more than the responsibility attribution of epidemic prevention agencies. Because a crisis is dynamic, variable, and inconsistent, as time passes, organizations may change their public rhetoric along with the crisis perception of stakeholders. Therefore, static crisis studies are unable to reflect this dynamic process. Some scholars emphasize the importance of dynamic crisis studies (McDonald, Sparks, & Glendon, 2010; Utz, Schultz, & Glocka, 2013), and crisis communication should start from understanding the public perception of a crisis (Kim, 2016). This research explores the changes in public perception, emotion, and attitude during the events of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide references for the policy development and reputational protection of epidemic prevention organizations.

The cognition appraisal theory posits that people’s evaluation of the environment or situation can explain different emotions, attitudes, and behavioral tendencies. According to the theory, two varying aspects of appraisals occur as responses when an individual feels the stress of an event: primary appraisals and secondary appraisals. In a primary appraisal, the individuals feel stress if the situation is interpreted as dangerous, threatening, or challenging to their motives. In a secondary appraisal, an individual evaluates the coping skills or resources available to handle the stress. As a corollary, the first perception provoked by the pandemic threat should be risk perception, for it directly involves individual interests and security. The perception of responsibility attribution is generated afterward, because it relates to how people cope with uncertainties. Due to the risk perception occurring ahead of the perception of responsibility attribution, this study focuses on the possible paths of risk perception to organizational reputation and whether the influencing paths vary with pandemic fluctuations in order to help administrations develop a proper crisis communication strategy.

Regarding the research design, we adopt the panel study method to collect data from May 2021 to May 2022, gathering the data every two to three months in Taiwan. There are five times of data collection in total: May 2021, August 2021, November 2021, January 2022, and May 2022. The final analysis covers 168 valid respondents and 840 valid questionnaires (168 × 5) collected.

Several key findings are as follows. First, the public’s perception of risk, fear, and anger has roughly changed in the same direction as the epidemic fluctuates. However, the perception of responsibility attribution and the reputational evaluation of the epidemic command center do not vary along with the pattern of the fluctuating pandemic, but rather rise and decline slowly over time. The public’s evaluation of the epidemic command center is generally rational.

Second, path analysis on the five surveys indicates the most stable path of risk perception to organizational reputation is path 5: risk perception → fear → anger → reputation. Third, regardless of how the epidemic develops, the emotion-oriented paths show a stronger influence than the recognition-oriented paths.
Third, when the pandemic is at its peak, the impact of risk perception on organizational reputation not only takes the emotion-oriented path, but also follows the recognition-oriented path and the mixed path. When the pandemic is mild, the impact mainly takes place by following the emotion-oriented path. In other words, risk perception and responsibility attribution are significant variables to explain organizational reputation when the pandemic is at its peak. Risk perception and negative emotions are significant variables in explaining organizational reputation when the pandemic is mild.

Fourth, when the pandemic is at its peak, risk perception has a direct effect on responsibility attribution and an indirect effect mediated by fear. Risk perception indirectly impacts responsibility attribution via fear when the pandemic is mild. Hence, the emotion of fear influences people’s assessment of responsibility attribution if the risk perception provokes fear. More importantly, the severity of the crisis not only influences the impact of responsibility attribution on organizational reputation, but also interferes with the impact of risk perception on organizational reputation. The result corroborates Zhou and Ki’s argument (2018) that crisis severity requires further study in SCCT (Situational Crisis Communication Theory). The emotion of fear mainly originates from risk perception, and the emotion of anger mainly comes from responsibility attribution.

Fifth, the findings show that fear provokes anger and enhances anger via responsibility attribution. The results also indicate that risk perception and organizational reputation are positively correlated, which runs contrary to normal instinct. The reason may be that the public tends to ask for more practical information and improve their understanding of the epidemic prevention institution when risk perception is vital. Such understanding probably shapes the positive attitude toward the epidemic prevention institution when the pandemic is mild. When the pandemic rises again, responsibility attribution has a stronger impact on organizational reputation than on risk perception. The reason may be that the public attributes the comeback of the pandemic to the incapability or lack of responses from administration departments.

This study contributes to the stream of research on crisis communication in the following ways. (1) It responds to the calls for dynamic research in the crisis research field by discussing changes in the public’s perception and emotions from a longitudinal study. (2) It introduces risk perception as a variable to discuss its relevance with the established variables in SCCT and enriches the connotation of SCCT. (3) With the comparison of perception impact paths constructed in different time nodes, this study should help deepen the crisis communication theory by observing public psychological changes as the pandemic fluctuates.

Our findings provide practical implications to epidemic prevention institutions as follows. (1) It is necessary to offer modest risk information to the public. Nevertheless, the provision of instructive information is also indispensable to increase public knowledge of epidemic prevention and to reduce the emotion of fear, for it triggers strong risk perception and affects the reputation of epidemic prevention institutions. (2) When the pandemic is at its peak, it is better to reduce public risk perception, as it directly affects responsibility attribution and harms organizational reputation via the perception of responsibility attribution. (3) Epidemic prevention institutions should monitor rumors on the Internet and provide instant clarification to prevent any negative impact on organizational reputation directly originating from the emotion of fear. (4) The emotion-oriented path is the dominant path regardless of how the pandemic fluctuates. Thus, epidemic prevention institutions should consider providing psychologically adaptive information to relieve public fear emotion. (5) Responsibility attribution and anger are direct variables influencing organizational reputation. Epidemic prevention institutions should take corrective actions to suppress the growth of public anger when the public regards the administration as incapable or failing in epidemic prevention.
2023/ 冬