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Thomsen & Rawson's "Image Restoration Strategies"

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Thomsen & Rawson resort to various studies to show that Odwalla is not the first company that has been obliged to change its policies to save its reputation. For example, Thomsen & Rawson refer to Benoit’s case study on a retail company named Sears whose executives have been forced to change their customer services after they have been blamed for overcharging their customers by forcing them to do unnecessary repairs. Besides, another company that has been able to save its image was Johnson & Johnson who has been accused of serving poisoning pain killers drugs named Tylenol.

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Benoit uses the two examples to introduce and explain the “image restoration strategies” that are needed to save a company’s reputation. In fact, many scholars recommend various strategies that can be effective in restoring the public image of a company following a crisis. For example, Hearit suggests that companies should not indulge in a confrontation with the audience during a crisis. Instead, the company’s speech should focus on establishing a set of values that the public opinion can relate to. Hearit uses the term “apologia” and explains that it is different to a simple apology as it is meant to show that the company is ready to commit to and honor its moral obligations. Further, based on the works of many scholars, Benoit offers five different strategies that a company needs to apply when facing a crisis.

The first strategy that a company should resort to while facing a crisis is denial. In order to apply such strategy, the company should abide by two approaches. The first approach, which is also discussed by Ware & Linkugel, is to completely deny the occurrence of the act that the company is accused of. However, such approach does not apply on the Odwalla incident.

The second approach, which Benoit quotes from Burke, is to offer the public opinion a scapegoat. If the audience puts all the blame on that scapegoat the image of the company can be saved. Moreover, the second strategy discussed by Benoit, is the evasion of responsibility which is comprised of three main points. First, the company can claim that the act has been done as a response to the provocations of a competitor. Second, the company may declare that the accusations stem from a lack of information. Scott & Lyman term this stagey “defeasibility”.

Third, the spokesperson of the company can assert that what has happened is a simple accident and that the person who has done the mistake had good intentions. The third strategy that can be applied is reducing the offensiveness of the act.

One tactic that this strategy comprises of is “bolstering” which refers to the idea that the company should focus on identifying itself with the same values of the audience. Another tactic of reducing offensiveness, offered by Benoit, is “differentiation” which aims at changing the way the public opinion perceives the act of the company. By changing the view of the audience, the latter can see the act as excusable. “Transcendence” is the third tactic explained by Benoit which is applied when the company tries to redirect the context to abstract issues that aim at hiding the details of the act. For instance, the company can convince the audience that the problem is related to issues that face the whole industry. One last tactic is trying to compensate the victims by offering them money and free services.

The fourth strategy that is discussed by the authors whom Thomsen & Rawson use, is corrective action which includes promises given by the company to repair the damage of the act. For example, Benoit explains that following the Tylenol crisis, Johnson & Johnson decided to put the pain killers in containers that resist tampering. It should be noted that the company resorted to such strategy despite not admitting that it is responsible for the tampering incident. Benoit concludes that this strategy can be efficient because the image of the company improves once the audience sees that the company is trying to redeem its mistakes. In addition, the last strategy discussed in Thomsen & Rawson’s literature review is “mortification” which takes place once the accused company admits responsibility and issues a formal apology. Benoit insists that the company should make the apology as sincere as possible in order to convince the audience to forgive it.

Overall, Benoit concludes that the effectiveness of the strategies depends on the circumstances of the problem. For example, if the company is falsely accused, the denial strategy can be the most effective but if the accusations are legitimate mortification becomes the best choice for the company. Within the same context of recovering the image of a company following a crisis, Reierson et. al study the way Odwalla adopted a discourse of renewal to overcome the 1996 E. coli outbreak. In fact, the renewal discourse is fundamental for dealing with a crisis. Seeger also points out that the uniqueness of the renewal discourse stems from the fact that it offers hope to different parties including customers, publics and stakeholders.

When adopting a discourse of renewal, the first step to take, according to Seeger as well as Ulmer, is to show an eagerness for future commitment to stakeholders and community. Reierson et al. resort to various sources in order to explain its multiple implications of the renewal discourse. The first implication, according to Seeger & Ulmer, is to have a prospective vision which aims at focusing on the future. Such vision is opposed to a common retrospective attitude which only centers the company’s attention on the past. Second, a renewal discourse should target the declining parts of the company in an attempt to renovate them. Third, an effective discourse should shed the light on drawing positive conclusions from the crisis instead of being preoccupied with what is negative.

Finally, the last implication of renewal discourse is when the leaders of the company draw moral lessons from the crisis and enact them. Moreover, one key element in applying renewal is to show commitment on many different levels. In fact, Seeger explains that the company should show commitment to fix the problem, rebuild the organization, take step beyond the crisis and honor the previously established values. Ulmer Sellnow, and Seeger agree that the foundations of a renewal discourse should be established before the crisis takes place. Once these foundations are established, the opportunity to adopt the discourse will emerge. First of all, the company should establish a set of standard ethical values prior the crisis. Second, a strong relationship between the organization and the stakeholders should exist before the crisis as well. During a crisis, the company should not focus on looking for someone to blame but it should rather concentrate on moving beyond the crisis itself. In addition, renewal is most likely to be attained once the organization manages to communicate effectively with all the concerned parties.

Furthermore, Ulmer, Sellnow, and Seeger agree that the readiness of company to abide by a discourse of renewal is shown when the organization takes responsibility for the failures it has committed and tries to adapt to the new situation. Ayres also insists that a willingness to adapt is a necessary for the success of renewal. In the same context, Hsieh also points out that the success or failure of renewal is linked to what the organization has learnt from the crisis. In addition, Ulmer, Seeger, and Sellnow also identify four different “silent characteristics” that help organizations to establish a discourse of renewal. These characteristics are Provisional as opposed to strategic, prospective rather than retrospective, capitalizing on the opportunities embedded in the crisis and Renewal is a leader-based communication form.

Provisional as opposed to strategic refers to the idea of adopting strategies that provide stakeholders and communities with a natural and immediate response instead of using tactics that aim at avoiding accusations. Second, the company should adopt a prospective approach rather than a retrospective one which means that the organization should be concerned with what can be done to overcome the crisis and move beyond it rather than focusing on finding excuses or identifying someone to blame. Besides, the third silent characteristic refers to working on finding opportunities to overcome the crisis. Finally, the fourth silent characteristic refers to the ability of the company’s leader to adopt a communicative and ethical approach in order to guide his company out of the crisis. The strategies and tactics that have been explained in this literature review are going to be used as framework to evaluate the success of Odwalla to overcome the E. coli outbreak.Thomsen & Rawson resort to various studies to show that Odwalla is not the first company that has been obliged to change its policies to save its reputation. For example, Thomsen & Rawson refer to Benoit’s case study on a retail company named Sears whose executives have been forced to change their customer services after they have been blamed for overcharging their customers by forcing them to do unnecessary repairs. Besides, another company that has been able to save its image was Johnson & Johnson who has been accused of serving poisoning pain killers drugs named Tylenol.

Benoit uses the two examples to introduce and explain the “image restoration strategies” that are needed to save a company’s reputation. In fact, many scholars recommend various strategies that can be effective in restoring the public image of a company following a crisis. For example, Hearit suggests that companies should not indulge in a confrontation with the audience during a crisis. Instead, the company’s speech should focus on establishing a set of values that the public opinion can relate to. Hearit uses the term “apologia” and explains that it is different to a simple apology as it is meant to show that the company is ready to commit to and honor its moral obligations. Further, based on the works of many scholars, Benoit offers five different strategies that a company needs to apply when facing a crisis.

The first strategy that a company should resort to while facing a crisis is denial. In order to apply such strategy, the company should abide by two approaches. The first approach, which is also discussed by Ware & Linkugel, is to completely deny the occurrence of the act that the company is accused of. However, such approach does not apply on the Odwalla incident.

The second approach, which Benoit quotes from Burke, is to offer the public opinion a scapegoat. If the audience puts all the blame on that scapegoat the image of the company can be saved. Moreover, the second strategy discussed by Benoit, is the evasion of responsibility which is comprised of three main points. First, the company can claim that the act has been done as a response to the provocations of a competitor. Second, the company may declare that the accusations stem from a lack of information. Scott & Lyman term this stagey “defeasibility”.

Third, the spokesperson of the company can assert that what has happened is a simple accident and that the person who has done the mistake had good intentions. The third strategy that can be applied is reducing the offensiveness of the act.

One tactic that this strategy comprises of is “bolstering” which refers to the idea that the company should focus on identifying itself with the same values of the audience. Another tactic of reducing offensiveness, offered by Benoit, is “differentiation” which aims at changing the way the public opinion perceives the act of the company. By changing the view of the audience, the latter can see the act as excusable. “Transcendence” is the third tactic explained by Benoit which is applied when the company tries to redirect the context to abstract issues that aim at hiding the details of the act. For instance, the company can convince the audience that the problem is related to issues that face the whole industry. One last tactic is trying to compensate the victims by offering them money and free services.

The fourth strategy that is discussed by the authors whom Thomsen & Rawson use, is corrective action which includes promises given by the company to repair the damage of the act. For example, Benoit explains that following the Tylenol crisis, Johnson & Johnson decided to put the pain killers in containers that resist tampering. It should be noted that the company resorted to such strategy despite not admitting that it is responsible for the tampering incident. Benoit concludes that this strategy can be efficient because the image of the company improves once the audience sees that the company is trying to redeem its mistakes. In addition, the last strategy discussed in Thomsen & Rawson’s literature review is “mortification” which takes place once the accused company admits responsibility and issues a formal apology. Benoit insists that the company should make the apology as sincere as possible in order to convince the audience to forgive it.

Overall, Benoit concludes that the effectiveness of the strategies depends on the circumstances of the problem. For example, if the company is falsely accused, the denial strategy can be the most effective but if the accusations are legitimate mortification becomes the best choice for the company. Within the same context of recovering the image of a company following a crisis, Reierson et. al study the way Odwalla adopted a discourse of renewal to overcome the 1996 E. coli outbreak. In fact, the renewal discourse is fundamental for dealing with a crisis. Seeger also points out that the uniqueness of the renewal discourse stems from the fact that it offers hope to different parties including customers, publics and stakeholders.

When adopting a discourse of renewal, the first step to take, according to Seeger as well as Ulmer, is to show an eagerness for future commitment to stakeholders and community. Reierson et al. resort to various sources in order to explain its multiple implications of the renewal discourse. The first implication, according to Seeger & Ulmer, is to have a prospective vision which aims at focusing on the future. Such vision is opposed to a common retrospective attitude which only centers the company’s attention on the past. Second, a renewal discourse should target the declining parts of the company in an attempt to renovate them. Third, an effective discourse should shed the light on drawing positive conclusions from the crisis instead of being preoccupied with what is negative.

Finally, the last implication of renewal discourse is when the leaders of the company draw moral lessons from the crisis and enact them. Moreover, one key element in applying renewal is to show commitment on many different levels. In fact, Seeger explains that the company should show commitment to fix the problem, rebuild the organization, take step beyond the crisis and honor the previously established values. Ulmer Sellnow, and Seeger agree that the foundations of a renewal discourse should be established before the crisis takes place. Once these foundations are established, the opportunity to adopt the discourse will emerge. First of all, the company should establish a set of standard ethical values prior the crisis. Second, a strong relationship between the organization and the stakeholders should exist before the crisis as well. During a crisis, the company should not focus on looking for someone to blame but it should rather concentrate on moving beyond the crisis itself. In addition, renewal is most likely to be attained once the organization manages to communicate effectively with all the concerned parties.

Furthermore, Ulmer, Sellnow, and Seeger agree that the readiness of company to abide by a discourse of renewal is shown when the organization takes responsibility for the failures it has committed and tries to adapt to the new situation. Ayres also insists that a willingness to adapt is a necessary for the success of renewal. In the same context, Hsieh also points out that the success or failure of renewal is linked to what the organization has learnt from the crisis. In addition, Ulmer, Seeger, and Sellnow also identify four different “silent characteristics” that help organizations to establish a discourse of renewal. These characteristics are Provisional as opposed to strategic, prospective rather than retrospective, capitalizing on the opportunities embedded in the crisis and Renewal is a leader-based communication form.

Provisional as opposed to strategic refers to the idea of adopting strategies that provide stakeholders and communities with a natural and immediate response instead of using tactics that aim at avoiding accusations. Second, the company should adopt a prospective approach rather than a retrospective one which means that the organization should be concerned with what can be done to overcome the crisis and move beyond it rather than focusing on finding excuses or identifying someone to blame. Besides, the third silent characteristic refers to working on finding opportunities to overcome the crisis. Finally, the fourth silent characteristic refers to the ability of the company’s leader to adopt a communicative and ethical approach in order to guide his company out of the crisis. The strategies and tactics that have been explained in this literature review are going to be used as framework to evaluate the success of Odwalla to overcome the E. coli outbreak.

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