Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Kelly Werder, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Scott Liu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kimberly Walker, Ph.D.


big pharma, crisis communication, millennials, situational crisis communication theory, trust


This study investigates how millennials view their relationship with the pharmaceutical industry and if that relationship changes when exposed to different crisis messaging strategies. The pharmaceutical industry is currently dealing with a preventable crisis because of companies in the industry, such as opioid companies, causing death, distrust, and lawsuits. Coombs suggests the rebuild message strategies will result in a stronger relationship between the industry and their publics. This study will test that theory. The millennial participants that contributed to this study were all born between 1980-1996. Their relationships were measured through the variables of trust, satisfaction, control mutuality, commitment, communal relationships, and exchange relationships. The experiment was conducted online through Qualtrics and distributed participants into four groups, each with a different crisis response strategy in place. Those strategies were denial, apology, silence, and a control group. The experiment yielded results that the crisis messaging strategies did not affect how participants viewed their relationship with the industry. The result enforced that within the millennial generation, their relationship with the pharmaceutical industry is deeply rooted in their beliefs and cannot be influenced by a single message. This study also reinforced the accuracy in measuring a relationship and showed there is still much to learn about millennials and the pharmaceutical industry.

Included in

Communication Commons