Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis open access



First Advisor

Jennifer Henderson

Second Advisor

Aaron Delwiche


In the summer of 2020, the intersection between crisis communication and social justice activism grew as companies responded to the murder of George Floyd, and the call for support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The goal of this project was to understand the new and unique role social media has played in the relationship between public relations and social justice, and how that presented itself in the Black Lives Matter Movement of June 2020. The contingency theory of public relations was the most applicable model to understand and represent the public relations response to the Black Lives Matter movement. To judge the model and see if the contingency continuum was still the best model for analyzing companies’ crisis communication plans, responses were collected from major American corporations, categorized by trends in the responses to the BLM protests, and then compared to the existing framework, the contingency continuum, in order to look for discrepancies. While some aspects of the original model seemed accurate, it did not fully describe the behavior presented in the data collected on company responses. The new dual-axis contingency continuum was created to both mitigate the problems with the continuum and better represent the communication environment and strategies present in the time period studied. Examples of company responses used in the project are highlighted at the end of the paper to exemplify how the new model categorizes them as compared to the old model.