Prescribing versus describing: Testing image restoration strategies in a crisis situation

Frank Dardis, Michel M. Haigh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Purpose - Image restoration theory has become a dominant paradigm for examining corporate communication in times of crises. However, much insight gleaned from scholarly research in this area remains descriptive - simply recounting how certain corporations or companies communicated during times of crisis - rather than prescriptive. Therefore, to provide more direct guidance to corporations and organizations, this paper offers the first empirical test of Benoit's five image restoration strategies vis-à-vis each other simultaneously within the context of a single crisis situation. Design/methodology/approach - An experimental investigation that measures consumers' reactions to differentially manipulated crisis-communication messages. Methods of data analysis include ANOVA and post hoc comparisons of means. Findings - Results indicate that the strategy of reducing the offensiveness of the event consistently led to higher reputation-related perceptions of a company than did the other four strategies - denial, evasion of responsibility, corrective action, and mortification - when implemented during a product-harm crisis situation. Practical implications - Findings have direct implications for corporate communicators and the organizations they represent in developing and implementing crisis-communication strategies. Originality/value - This paper offers an original test of all image restoration strategies within the context of a single crisis. In addition to providing clearer guidelines to practitioners, such inquiry also accelerates the transfer of image restoration theory from the realm of retrospection and description to that of prescription and inference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-118
Number of pages18
JournalCorporate Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Industrial relations
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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