Organisational crises represent a reputational and financial threat to companies which requires organisations to take action and respond. Due to the increasing popularity of social media platforms, organisational crises, especially paracrises, happen more frequently. In current research on crisis communication, there are several existing guidelines on how organisations can appropriately respond to a crisis, emphasising different crisis types and crisis response strategies. Despite these recommended courses of action, organisations struggle to implement an appropriate crisis response suitable for their individual crisis type. Even though humour usually is not the proposed strategy, some companies implement a humorous crisis response as their communication strategy. This research seeks to explore how companies within the European context implement humour as a crisis response strategy on social media and how the public reacts to it. Accordingly, the following research question has been defined: How do companies within the food and hygiene industry in Germany and the UK incorporate humour in crisis response strategies on social media and how do social media users react to it? In order to answer this question, this research was approached through a qualitative content analysis. The study took two perspectives into account: the corporate communication and the public reactions. The data consisted of three corporate responses posted on either Facebook, Twitter or YouTube by the companies True Fruits, Bodyform and McDonald’s as well as 450 related comments. The analysis of the corporate communication resulted in seven themes describing the factors constituting a humorous crisis response. These factors entail that the companies’ responses followed an open and direct communication, reinforced their corporate narrative, included some sort of argumentation and justification for their behaviour as well as reacted with a form of counterreaction. Naturally, the companies also integrated specific types of humour, namely sarcasm or irony, jokes, word plays, mockery of the accuser or self-defeating humour. The analysis of the comments resulted in seven patterns describing the way social media users reacted. Although users also reacted negatively or neutrally towards the response, a positive emotion was the predominant sentiment. Furthermore, users passed on some personal, or alleged background knowledge, shared their comment or the response by the act of tagging and linguistically framed their comments in a particular way by using a certain choice of words or emojis. Remarkably, the users also made use of humour in the course of their reaction to the humorous response by the organisation.

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Dr. Yijing Wang
Media & Business
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Christine Heemsoth. (2023, February 28). The use of humour as a crisis response strategy The implementation of humour in crisis communication and the public’s reactions. Media & Business. Retrieved from