A Corpus-Based Study of Corporate Image Restoration via Public Apology

Zhanghong Xu, Xiaolin Liu


As one of the most effective measures for corporations to manage crises, public apology has received extensive attention from both practitioners and researchers. This paper attempts to conduct a corpus-based and interdisciplinary study on English public apologies issued by foreign corporations, and to explore how the corporations repair their images via public apology under the tentative theoretical framework adapted from Benoit’s image restoration discourse theory (IRDT) and Coombs & Holladay’s situational crisis communication theory (SCCT). Results show that three salient linguistic features are identified in corporate apology corpus: (a) highly frequent use of modal verbs “will” and “can”; (b) highly frequent use of personal pronouns “we” and “you”; (c) highly frequent use of demonstrative pronouns “this” and “that”. It is found that five pragmatic strategies (strategy of expressing apology, strategy of intensifying affection, strategy of mitigating responsibility, bolstering strategy, and rebuilding strategy) are most frequently employed to express mortification to the victims, to reduce the offensiveness of acts and to minimize or to evade responsibility. Furthermore, it is also found that corporate image is restored by means of weakening the negative impression and re-building a responsible and benevolent image. These findings would not only shed light on the corporate image restoration studies, but also offer implications for the practitioners in the business world. 

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijl.v12i4.17182

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