Social Media Keep Buzzing! A Test of The Contingency Theory in China’s Red Cross Credibility Crisis
Based on current literature on crisis management and contingency theory, this study explored how the Red Cross, China’s biggest charity, practices public relations in a low-trust society and how contingent factors influence organizational stances in the “Guo Meimei incident,” which initially erupted in 2011 as a personal issue, but quickly destroyed the reputation of the Red Cross, and continuously evolved over three years. By analyzing 1,300 public posts on social media, 576 news articles, and public relation materials of the Red Cross Society of China, I identified several unique contingent variables in the Chinese context such as the powerful public-led agenda, heavily censored media landscape, and low trust of the society as a whole. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.