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Avow or Avoid?: The Public Communication Strategies of Enron and WorldCom
Unformatted Document Text:  Avow or Avoid?: The public communication strategies of Enron and WorldCom Abstract Sixteen press releases from Enron and 16 releases from WorldCom representing the first three months of each organization’s financial crises were gathered from the organization’s web sites. The goal of this study was to determine whether the dominant public communication tactic of these companies was to avow or promote frankness, a traditional public relations stance, or to avoid or be evasive, a traditional legal stance. The releases were compared to 47 published accounts of the unfolding financial crises to determine whether the organizational messages remained intact. The findings show no dominant communication strategy in either company. Both professed openness but engaged in blame shifting. The combined message strategy suggests cooperation between legal and public relations counsel. The messages of both organizations were successfully transmitted via the mass media but were tempered by solid reporting. These findings suggest additional evidence that legal and public relations crisis communication strategies are starting to blur.

Authors: Reber, Bryan. and Gower, Karla.
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Avow or Avoid?:
The public communication strategies of Enron and WorldCom
Abstract

Sixteen press releases from Enron and 16 releases from WorldCom representing the first three
months of each organization’s financial crises were gathered from the organization’s web sites.
The goal of this study was to determine whether the dominant public communication tactic of
these companies was to avow or promote frankness, a traditional public relations stance, or to
avoid or be evasive, a traditional legal stance. The releases were compared to 47 published
accounts of the unfolding financial crises to determine whether the organizational messages
remained intact. The findings show no dominant communication strategy in either company.
Both professed openness but engaged in blame shifting. The combined message strategy
suggests cooperation between legal and public relations counsel. The messages of both
organizations were successfully transmitted via the mass media but were tempered by solid
reporting. These findings suggest additional evidence that legal and public relations crisis
communication strategies are starting to blur.


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