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Publication Date



UM campus only

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Communication (Communication)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Don W. Stacks

Second Committee Member

Weiting Tao

Third Committee Member

Michael J. Betty

Fourth Committee Member

Alyse Renee Lancaster


To understand the influence of visuals on social media in crisis communication, this dissertation examined the effects of images on social media messages on publics’ perceptional and reputational outcomes. By employing Coombs’ Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) and concepts from multiple disciplines, this study presented three hypotheses and examined three research questions. Specifically, main effects of message and image strategies as well as an interaction effect between the message and image strategies were investigated in the study. To examine the hypotheses and research questions, a 3 (crisis message: attack accuser, excuse, and apology) x 4 (image: no visual, product, CEO/Founder’s visual without the company’s characteristic, CEO/Founder’s visual with the company’s characteristic) between-subject online experiment was conducted with 296 participants in the U.S. The findings indicate that both social media message and image strategies in corporate crisis communication have significant main effects on stakeholders’ emotion, perceptions, and an organization’s reputation. More importantly, an interaction effect of message and image strategies was found. Based on the findings, this study provides theoretical contribution and practical implications in the public relations field. Future research directions and limitations are discussed in the study.


Public Relations; Crisis Communication; Visuals; Social Media