Sample Education Paper on Proactive and Reactive Responses

Proactive and Reactive Responses

            Crises are inevitable in modern companies. However, whenever crises occur, companies often respond swiftly to limit the damage that crises can inflict on an organization’s reputation. The crisis response and communication after an incident label how a company perceives its aftermath, and how well the crisis was handled. The response to crisis can be proactive or reactive. Reactive communication response is responding unexpectedly to an incident. The result is disorganized and often self-protective. Proactive response focuses on preventing problems occasioned by crises instead of immediate fixing of issues. Proactive communication is planned and delivers desired objectives after an event to prevent future backlash from an unforeseen event. Proactive communication response is productive because it strengthens brand image and prevents future crises.

Uber’s Reactive Response

Uber was one of the celebrated company brands in the world until in 2017 when it confronted a crisis involving the company’s chief executive officer (CEO). In 2017, it was revealed that the company’s CEO, Travis Kalanick was serving as a member of president Trump’s advisory committee (Prater, 2018). The revelation prompted criticisms that culminated into the creation of DeleteUber hashtag. The CEO responded in a reactive by communicating that he was stepping down from the council if it was concern. The hashtag was reactivated some months later when Uber continued operating at JFK International Airport despite other taxis protesting against Trump’s institution of immigrant restrictions (Prater, 2018). The hashtag further gained momentum few days later when a video of Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver regarding service payment emerged and afterwards went viral. In response through Uber’s website, the CEO claimed he needed to change as a leader while referred to the prior events that revolved around him. Despite the reactive response, the damage to the company’s image was hitherto done. Uber was unable to handle negative attention as the company kept on releasing conflicting statements concerning each incident. It is logical to say that the response created missteps that consistently pilled (Prater, 2018). The lack of transparency is, perhaps, one of the misdoings by the company in handling public interest during crisis. Thus, Uber is a notable example of a company where crisis has not been properly managed.

Pepsi’s Proactive Response

Pepsi proactively responded to a crisis caused by a controversial advertisement (ad) in 2017. Pepsi launched a commercial ad featuring Kendall Jenner and in the video, she was depicted handing a police officer a can of Pepsi drink (Prater, 2018). The ad was controversial and provoked condemnation from critics who claimed that Pepsi attempted to appropriate the nationwide protest movements following police shootings of African Americans (Prater, 2018). The world audience was treated to unique episode in which a model stepped out of her modeling job to join a conversation relating to police killings. The crisis response was immediate just like the case of Uber. The company started by defending the ad campaign by asserting it was a normal global campaign that involved broad spectrum of people from different cultures in the spirit of love and harmony (Prater, 2018). However, the company prevented a future backlash by pulling down from its website and pausing the ad from its global campaign in totality. This was proactive to prevent further conversations concerning the issue. Additionally, Pepsi acknowledged that they were attempting to project a global message of peace and unity but apologized for having elicited debates regarding the ongoing protests against police brutality (Prater, 2018). The admission by the company was a proactive move to positively transform the widespread sentiments concerning the company. The response gave the company more credibility with its consumers, unlike Uber.


Proactive response remains the most productive way of responding to crisis threatening to tarnish the image of a company. Per Mazaraki and Kasianova (2015), proactive response to a crisis allows managers to plan in advance on how to handle crises. This is exceptionally significant because proactive plans attempt to lessen future crisis linked to a previous backlash. As such, companies can develop valuable relationships with its customers anchored on honesty and transparency. Proactive crisis communication anticipates opportunities and risks built from the insights of an industry, audience and other stakeholders (Raithel & Hock, 2020). In this way, a company can avert subsequent risks but still pursue its brand awareness and establish undeniable positive connections with its customers.

Proactive response to crisis is productive because it strengthens a corporate image. As shown in the Pepsi’s case, proactive response prevents a company from apportioning blames elsewhere. This may seem defensive and misleading to the audience characteristic of reactive response (Singh & Chahal, 2015). Defensive and misleading response depicts a company as an entity unable to plan in advance and control conversations like in the case of Uber in which incidents kept on pilling one after the other. A company can proactively manage controversial conversation by apologizing whenever a campaign elicited mixed reactions. By admitting to have missed the point of an intended message, a company is capable of highlighting a brand positive message like the love, unity, and harmony that Pepsi attempted to communicate.


The understanding of reactive and proactive elements in the process of crisis management is essential as it helps inform how companies respond to crisis phenomena. Reactive crisis management aims to promptly address a crisis and restore the state to pre-crisis level like in the case of Uber’s response relating to the backlash created by the CEO’s conduct. Proactive response is more of preventive measure meant to predict and avoid a crisis state in a company like Pepsi’s apology and withdrawal of controversial ad campaign. Indeed, proactive response handling and communication is the most productive way of reinforcing a company’s image, as well as preventing future crisis and backlash.




Mazaraki, A., & Kasianova, A. (2015). Overview of proactive and reactive activities in corporate crisis management. Economics and Management of Enterprises, 3-4(1), 42-45.

Prater, M. (2018). Crisis management examples: Learn from these 5 brands. Brand Folder. Retrieved from

Raithel, S., & Hock, S. (2020). The crisis-response match: An empirical investigation. Strategic Management Journal, 1–15.

Singh, P., & Chahal, H. (2015). Reactive crisis management model. Journal of Research in Business, Economics and Management, 4(1), 249-254.