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Roberts, Glen F.
Image restoration theory :
b an empirical study of corporate apology tactics employed by the U.S. Air Force Academy
h [electronic resource] /
by Glen F. Roberts.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: Adverse relationships between an individual or corporation and its publics can destroy credibility, relationships, marketability, and economic welfare. As such, a genre of discourse is needed to help individuals and organizations respond to charges of wrongdoing. Therefore, the study of image restoration is worthwhile because it provides insight into an important function of our lives. For this thesis study, a content analysis was conducted of media releases and stories produced by the U.S. Air Force regarding a series of sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy in 2002. The purpose of the study is two-fold. First, it determines the image restoration strategies employed by the U.S. Air Force during a crisis situation. Its second -- and primary -- objective is to advance (or reinforce) current image restoration theory by determining whether specific image restoration tactics encourage a positive or negative reporting trend from independent newspapers, and measuring the effectiveness of tactics comprising Benoit's Image Restoration Theory as applied in this particular situation by the U.S. Air Force. Combined, these analyses will demonstrate that Benoit's Image Restoration Theory can be prescriptive rather than simply descriptive (as noted in the review of literature) with the ultimate intent of the study being a determination of how independent media reacts to the image restoration tactics employed by the U.S. Air Force.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2006.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
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Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 87 pages.
Adviser: Derina Holtzhausen, Ph.D.
x Mass Communications
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Image Restoration Theory: An Empirical Study of Corporate Apology Tactics Employed by the U.S. Air Force Academy by Glen F. Roberts A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts School of Mass Communications College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Derina Holtzhausen, D. Lit. et Phil. Kenneth C. Killebrew, Jr., Ph.D. Kelly Page Werder, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 10, 2006 Keywords: Public Relations, Corporate Image, Corporate Apologia, Message Strategies, Crisis Communication Copyright 2006, Glen F. Roberts
ii Dedication This thesis is dedicated with respect to my step-father, James R. Allen Jr., who passed away at far too young an age on Apr il 8, 2004. He taught me as a young child the value of hard-work, tenacity, public service, and standing up for what you believe in. It was only through the life lessons he shared that I was able to complete this project. He is sadly missed, and deeply appreciated.
iii Acknowledgments Thanks and gratitude are owed to many people who have contributed to the completion of this work. I would like to fi rst thank my parents, James and Susan Allen, who have helped to keep me motivated and inspired even when it seemed this would never be complete. I would be remiss to not acknowledge the kindness and support of my extended family and the best group of in-laws a man could ask for Â– the Bowler Family of Chicopee, MA. Of course, I have to thank the entire car eer field of U.S. Air Force Public Affairs professionals who are doing worthy work, se rving invisibly in hotspots all around the globe at this very moment. I know the ba ttles you fight Thanks for your service. Col. (Dr.) Jay DeFrank, USAF, gave me this opportunity, and encouraged me to Â“be fearless and honestÂ” with the thesis content. Fe llow USF grad students Coby OÂ’Brien and Marcia Watson were always availa ble to help with coding, offer excellent advice, or just listen. IÂ’m grateful to know all of you. Of course, I owe a huge thanks to the professors who taught and mentored me along the way. Dr. Ken Killebrew and Dr. Ke lly Werder both were generous with time and advice Â– thank you for serving on my commi ttee. Very special thanks must go to Dr. Derina Holtzhausen, my thesis chair, who dedicated many long hours in ushering this study to completion. She never stopped believing Â– even when I did. Most importantly, I need to acknowledge the greatest wife in the world Â– Susan Roberts. Her unconditional love and suppor t opened up a whole new world to me, and IÂ’m eternally grateful.
Table of Contents List of Tables iii Abstract iv Chapter One: Introduction 1 Chapter Two: Review of Literature 6 Rhetorical Approaches 7 RosenfieldÂ’s Analog 9 Ware and LinkugelÂ’s Apologia 10 Burke, on Purification 11 RyanÂ’s Theory of Kategoria 12 Other Rhetorical Criticisms 13 Rhetorical Conclusion 14 Social Science Approaches and Accounts 15 Sykes and MatzaÂ’s Typology of Accounts 15 Scott and LymanÂ’s Analysis of Accounts 16 GoffmanÂ’s Research Contribution 17 SchonbachÂ’s Taxonomy 18 SchlenkerÂ’s Version of Accounts 19 Other Social Science Contributors 19 BenoitÂ’s Image Restoration Theory 21 Audiences 22 Research Questions 24 Chapter Three: Methodology 26 Purpose 26 Method of Study 27 Universe of Study 31 Newspaper Selection 34 Sampling Methodology 36 Article Selection 37 Unit of Analysis 38 Analysis Methodology 38 Coder Selection 39 Inter-Coder Reliability 40 Data Collection 41 i
ii Chapter Four: Results of Data Analysis 43 Descriptive Statistics 44 Volume of Stories 44 Length of Story 45 Placement 46 Source 47 Balance 49 Quote Sources 49 Stance 50 Subject of Attack 51 Image Restoration Tact ics used by Military 52 Image Restoration Tactics in Newspaper Stories 54 Chi Square Correlations 55 Relationship between Story Ba lance and Type of Attack 55 Relationship between Story Balance and Stance 56 Relationship between Story Balance and Issue Stage 57 Relationship between Story Balance and Source of Quote 57 Relationship between Story Balance and Newspaper Placement 59 Relationship between Story Balance and Strategies 59 Relationship between Story Balance and Tactics 60 Chapter Five: Discussion 61 Research Questions and Findings 61 Chapter Six: Conclusions 70 Implications for Public Relations 70 Study Limitations 75 References 78 Appendices 83 Appendix A: Coding Sheet 84
iii List of Tables Table 1 Image Restoration Tactics 22 Table 2 Top Ten Newspapers in th e US by Weekday Distribution 35 Table 3 Newspapers Included in St udy, by Weekday Daily Circulation 36 Table 4 Inter-Coder Statistics 39 Table 5 Source of Coding Materials 44 Table 6 Frequencies of Production Month 45 Table 7 Frequencies of Story Lengths 45 Table 8 Frequencies of Newspaper Sources 48 Table 9 Frequencies of Balance and Sources 49 Table 10 Frequencies of Quote Sources 50 Table 11 Frequencies of Stance 51 Table 12 Frequencies of Subject of Attack 51 Table 13 Image Restoration Tact ics Used by the Military 53 Table 14 Image Restoration Tactics in Newspaper Stories 54 Table 15 Statistical Correlations between Balance and Attack 55 Table 16 Statistical Correlations between Balance and Reaction 56 Table 17 Statistical Correlations be tween Balance and Issues Phase 57 Table 18 Tactics Found in Newspaper Stories, Descending Order 68
iv Image Restoration Study: An Empirical Study of Corporate Apology Tactics Employed by the U.S. Air Force Academy Glen F. Roberts ABSTRACT Adverse relationships between an indi vidual or corporation and its publics can destroy credibility, relationships, marketabil ity, and economic welfare. As such, a genre of discourse is needed to help individuals and organiza tions respond to charges of wrongdoing. Therefore, the study of image restor ation is worthwhile because it provides insight into an important function of our lives. For this thesis study, a c ontent analysis was conducte d of media releases and stories produced by the U.S. Air Force regard ing a series of sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy in 2002. The purpose of the study is two-fold. First, it determines the image restoration strategies employed by the U.S. Air Force during a crisis situation. Its second Â– and primary Â– objective is to advance (or reinforce) current image restoration theory by determining whether sp ecific image restoration tactics encourage a positive or negative reporting trend from i ndependent newspapers, and measuring the effectiveness of tactics comprising BenoitÂ’s Im age Restoration Theory as applied in this particular situation by the U.S. Air Force. Co mbined, these analyses will demonstrate that BenoitÂ’s Image Restoration Theory can be pres criptive rather than simply descriptive (as noted in the review of literature) with the ultimate intent of the study being a determination of how independent media react s to the image restoration tactics employed by the U.S. Air Force.
Chapter One: Introduction In todayÂ’s society, the importan ce of image cannot be overstated. Organizations and individuals alike desire to achieve and maintain a positive public image because doing so has value and worth on several different levels. According to Benoit (1995, p. vii), Â“Human bei ngs possess a basic instinct to engage in recurrent patterns of communicative behavior designed to reduce, redress, or avoid damage to their reputation (or face or imag e) from perceived wrong-doing. Complaints are routinely leveled at people in all walks of life for all sorts of alleged misbehavior; accordingly, we are repeatedly faced with situat ions that impel us to explain or justify our behavior, to offer excuses or apologies, for those aspects of our behavior that offend and provoke reproach from those around us. Our f ace, image, or reputation is valuable.Â” Therefore, when a reputation is threat ened, individuals and organizations are motivated to present an image defense: expl anations, justifications, rationalizations, apologies, or excuses for behavior. According to Benoit and Hanczor (1994), image may be defined as Â“the perceptions of the source held by the audi ence, shaped by the words and deeds of the source, as well as by the actions of other re levant actorsÂ” (p. 3) Brinson and Benoit (1996) define image as Â“the perceptions of th e rhetor held by the a udience, shaped by the words and deeds of that rhetor, as well as th e actions of others.Â” Moffitt, (1994) defined image as a single impression shared by an audience. 1
2 Since the early 1990Â’s, according to Be noit and Brinson (1994), organizations Â“have become more aware of their responsibil ity for contributing to society in economic, social, environmental and political waysÂ” (p. 76). More than a decade ago, Brody (1991) stated Â“Organizations are being held to ne w standards of accountability.Â” One can argue, in the aftermath of such massive scandals as Enron and Worldcom, that this mantra has become even truer today. When accused of objectionable behavior, reputations can be damaged (Benoit 1995). Brown and Levinson (1978) observe that Â“people can be expected to defend their faces if threatenedÂ” (P. 66). Goffman (1967) explains that Â“when a face has been threatened, face-work must be doneÂ” (P. 27) Similarly, Schlenker (1980) writes that Â“predicaments can damage his or her identit yÂ…adversely affecting re lationships with the audienceÂ” (p. 131). Adverse relationships between an indivi dual or corporation and its publics can damage or destroy credibility, relationships marketability, and economic welfare. As such, a genre of discourse is needed to he lp individuals and organizations respond to charges of wrongdoing. Therefore, the study of image and image restoration is worthwhile because it provides insight in to an important function of our lives. To understand image restoration, we must define what damages image Â– that is, what constitutes an attack, crisis, or thr eat. According to Beno it (1995) Â“an attack on oneÂ’s image, face, or reputation is comprised of two components: 1.) an act occurred which is undesirable, and 2.) you are responsible for that ac tÂ” (p. 71). Both of these conditions must be believed to be true by th e salient audience for a reputation to be at risk. Whether or not either of the statements actually is true is irrelevant; perception by
3 the audience is all that is needed to damage a reputation. Benoit is also careful to point out that there is a proportional relationsh ip between how much a reputation will be damaged and the extent to which the orga nization or person is held responsible. For this thesis study, a cont ent analysis was conducte d of media releases and stories produced by the U.S. Air Force regard ing a series of sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy in 2002. The Air Force Academy is a public, federally-funded educational institution charged with pr oducing commissioned military officers since 1955. In 1976, the first women cadets were admitted to the Academy, and, as of May 2004, women comprise 17 percent of th e cadet wing. (Air Force Academy Demographics, 2004). In January 2003, female cadets began contacting members of Congress with complaints of sexual assault and indifferen ce from commanders. Such complaints, plus inquiries from local congression al leaders, instigated seve ral investigatio ns by the Air Force, the Pentagon, and eventually, Congress itself. The probes documented 142 allegations of sexual assault since 1993. That number, officials concede, may actually be low, as the Air ForceÂ’s general counsel workin g group reported that th e fear of retribution prevented some cadets from reporting sexual a ssault and other offenses at the hands of fellow cadets. As with any unit in the Air Force, clim ate surveys are conducted annually at the Academy, and recent surveys included cadet comments that showed not just a sexual assault problem, but deeper problems as well. According to the latest 2003 academy survey, 22 percent of male cadets still be lieve women do not belong at the academy.
4 Meanwhile, an independent advisory commission known as The Fowler Commission, (headed by former U.S. Congressw oman Tillie Fowler of Florida), formed to study the academy sexual assault issue, found that this tolerance of sexual abuse was bred over a period of time. In March 2003, the Secretary of the Air Force, a civilian appointed by the President of the United Stat es and charged with ove rsight of the entire U.S. Air Force, and the Chief of Staff, the serviceÂ’s highest ranking military officer, replaced the four top academy leaders and drew up new institutional policies. They called it the Â“Agenda for Change,Â” and it addresse d leadership, cadet life and the broader academy climate. (Air Force News Service, March 20, 2003). A very high level of media interest and Congressional ove rsight continued at the Academy throughout the year, and the media con tinued to scrutinize events there related to this story even as late as May 2004. As such, this study attempts to identify the specific image restoration strate gies in media releases and external newswire stories as created and distributed by the U.S. Air Force relating to a series of sexual assaults in 2002 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, as de fined in the context of BenoitÂ’s image restoration theory. The purpose of the study is two-fold. Firs t, it will determine the image restoration strategies employed by the U.S. Air Force during a crisis situation Â– specifically, a finite period of time in which sexual assaults against female cadets enrolled at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., were alleged to have been committed, and in which senior Air Force leaders were removed from co mmand and the service itself for failure to Â“exercise the degree of leadership in this s ituation that is expected of commandersÂ” (Air Force Print News, July 11, 2003).
5 Its second Â–and primary Â– objective is to advance (or reinforce) current image restoration theory by determining whether sp ecific image restoration tactics encourage a positive or negative reporting trend from independent newspapers, and determining the effectiveness of tactics comprising BenoitÂ’s im age restoration theory as applied in this particular situation by the U.S. Air For ce. Combined, these analyses hoped to demonstrate that BenoitÂ’s image restoration th eory could be prescriptive rather than simply descriptive with the ultimate intent of the study being a determination of how independent media reacts to the image restor ation strategies empl oyed Â– proactively or reactively Â– by the U.S. Air Force. One factor that must be considered is wh ether or not the products being released by the Air Force are proactive or reactive. This study does not assume that the Air Force is the proactive source one hundred percent of the time. In many cases, the Air Force proactively produces a news release and distri butes it to independent news sources, where the sources react to it in a pa rticular way Â– positively or negatively. In other cases, the opposite may be the case Â– a story may run in a newspaper, and the Air Force responds to that story with a release of its own. In those cases, image rest oration tactics are reactive. Chapter Two will discuss the appropriate l iterature related to the problem just described. Chapter Three will describe and discuss the research methodology selected to analyze the data. Chapter Four will presen t and analyze the data collected using the methodology described in Chapter Three. The study continues with Chapter Five, which explicates the findings of the data from Ch apter Four. Chapter Six completes the study with a summary of conclusions drawn from the data, along with limitations of the study, implications for Public Relations, and recommendations for future research.
6 Chapter Two: Review of Literature Image restoration discourse has wide application for both individuals and organizations. Benoit, as author of the defi nitive Image Restoration Theory (1995), has written or co-authored several image restoration studies on a diverse group of subjects. Corporations, organizations, governments, religious figures, celebrities, athletes, politicians, products, high-profile criminals, a nd even intellectual property (copyrights for things such as the Â“Atkins Diet,Â” for instance) have all been analyzed at various times by differing researchers. Each subject has, of course, experienced varying degrees of success with their image restoration strategi es, but BenoitÂ’s research has shown that certain combinations of tactics from the disc ourse are more effective than others for a given specific condition. BenoitÂ’s theory is based in large part on the works of theorists who have previously attempted to address the concep t of image restoration. Several approaches have been developed for explai ning verbal self-defense, some developed in the fields of communication/rhetoric and some in soci ology. Rosenfield (1968), Ware and Linkugel (1973), Burke (1970), and Ryan (1982) presen t several verbal rhetoric-based image restoration strategies, but each theory include s options neglected by the others. The social science-based work of Scott and Lyman (1968) and Kruse (1981) regarding accounts also contributed to BenoitÂ’s theory.
7 Rhetorical Approaches An important form of rhetoric attempts to restore oneÂ’s image, face, or reputation following accusations or suspicions of wr ongdoing. With roots firmly embedded in the rhetorical field, image restora tion strategy, as applied to the field of public relations, is framed in the concept of crisis communicat ion. The research of Marcus and Goodman (1991) and Coombs (1995) created similar contex ts that substantively describe situations likely to require apologetic discourse. The four contexts Â– acci dents, scandals and illegalities, product safety incidents, and soci al irresponsibility Â– al l are likely to face criticism from a stakeholding public. According to Seeger, Sellnow and Ulmer (2001), most current work argues that crisis is a natural phase of an organizationÂ’ s development. They note that crisis Â– as much as Â“business as usualÂ” Â– is a fundamental part of a businessÂ’ life cycle, and as such, will affect virtually every enterprise at one time or another. Therefore, crisis communication and management are essential skills for leaders at all levels to master, or at least be well-versed in. By extension, image restor ation theory is also ba sed on risk communication. According to Palenchar and Heath (2002), risk communication Â“a ddresses scientific evaluations of risk, the per ceptions lay people have of them, and actions that are warranted in light of the degr ee of risk and peopleÂ’s tolera nce of themÂ” (p. 127). Otway (1992) noted Â“The main product of risk commun ication is not information, but the quality of the social relationship it supports. Risk co mmunication is not an e nd itself; it is an enabling agent to facilitate the continual evolution of relationships (p. 227).Â” It is for exactly this reason that image restorati on lends itself to the concept of risk
8 communication so easily Â– image repair efforts are really post-crisis attempts to salvage or repair damaged relationships. Coombs (1999) noted that the crisis res ponse is viewed as a symbolic resource that can be used to protect an organizationÂ’s reputation and to affect stakeholdersÂ’ future interactions with the organization by sh aping perceptions of the crisis and the organization itself. Such responses align th emselves perfectly with the goals of image restoration strategy. Yet another public relations concept enco mpassing image restoration is that of issues management. According to Heath (1997, p. 6), issues management includes identifying, communicating, and influencing a set of organizationa lly relevant public perceptions and attitudes. This, Heath notes, includes cont estable claims about facts, values, or policy Â– all aspects of image restoration strategy. Expanding on the topic, the theoretical work s of Bormann (1985) also give rise to corporate apologia and image restoration in th e form of symbolic convergence theory. The theory postulates that, Â“Through their conversations and by attending to messages they encounter, people build a symbolic reality that furnishes meaning, emotion, and motive for actionÂ” (Bormann, 1985). Such a stat ement aptly describes the desired effect of image restoration Â– a favorable symbolic realit y, and a motive for action. Although many theorists focus primarily on individuals, Benoit and Brinson (1994) believe that organizations must maintain an image as well. Because image is such a central concept to the field of public rela tions, firms and organizations may take both preventive and restorative approaches to image problems (Heath and Nelson, 1986).
9 This study, however, focuses solely on the re storative aspects of public relations Â– primarily BenoitÂ’s image restoration theory. The following works provide the rhetorical foundations on which BenoitÂ’ s theory is based. RosenfieldÂ’s Analog In 1968, Rosenfield performed an analysis on two separate political speeches Â– NixonÂ’s famous Â“CheckersÂ” speech (1952), given as Dwight D. EisenhowerÂ’s running mate, and a speech by Harry S. Truman while President (Benoit, 1995, p. 10). NixonÂ’s speech was primarily a defense from charges that he maintained a campaign Â“slushÂ” fund. Rosenfield wrote that there were Â“four sim ilarities in the two discourses which I take, at this time, to repr esent constants in the apologetic equationÂ” (1968, p. 449). According to Benoit (1995, p. 11) RosenfieldÂ’s four characteristics of apologetic discourse are: Â“a brief, intens e controversy; attacks on the opponent; a concentration of data in the middle third of the speech, and a recycli ng of arguments from past speeches.Â” Benoit and other scholars criticized the theory, noting that, while useful as a beginning, the first factor Â“descr ibes the scene more than th e discourse, and the third and fourth factors give us no idea wh at sort of claims or rhetori cal strategies are developed by the data lumped in the middle or by the recycled argumentsÂ” (1995, p. 11). Multiple scholars and theorists extended RosenfieldÂ’s work, and all were critical. Evidence was challenged, and Campbell (1983) questioned the attempt to develop a genre on the basis of an analog of only two in stances. Regardless of the reason, the theory
10 was eventually shelved in favor of the mo re extensive theory of Ware and Linkugel (1973). Ware and LinkugelÂ’s Apologia Ware and Linkugel, in what is perhaps th e most well-known ar ticle on the subject of message strategies (1973), espoused four broad venues of self-defense which could be used to recover public image (also known as apologia): denial, bolst ering, differentiation, and transcendence. Denial is the most straightforward (and self -explanatory) strategy. Simply put, an individual or corporation may simply deny having committed the act of which it was accused. If the act did not occur, or if the accused did not commit the act, then the accused reputation (image) should not be damaged. Bolstering is a strategy in which the accused tries to build a rapport and identify with the audience. In other words, the accuse d tries to reinforce positive things done in the past in order to minimize the negative fe elings towards the most recent act of wrongdoing. The actor tries to Â“i dentify himself with someth ing viewed favorably by the audienceÂ” (Ware and Linkugel, p. 277). The ne gative feelings regarding the most recent aspects will remain the same, but goodwill from past deeds will produce a certain amount of positive effect towards the actor, negating some of the recent negative effect. Differentiation is a redefinition strategy that di vides a singular context into two separate meanings (Hearit, 2001). This is the most frequently-used tactic in image restoration. In essence, an or ganization may try to disassociat e itself from a negative act by blaming an individual worker or a subcontractor. This is an attempt at Â“separating
11 some fact, sentiment, object, or relationshi p from some larger context in which the audience presently views th at attributeÂ” (p. 278). Ware and LinkugelÂ’s final strategy of self-defense is transcendence This act Â“joins some fact, sentiment, obj ect, or relationship with some larger context within which the audience does not presently view that attributeÂ” (p. 280). For example, gang members who justify breaking laws or social norms by arguing that their loyalty to the gang is more important than the law would be one ex ample of transcendence, according to Benoit (1995, Sears, p. 91). The audience may view loya lty as a positive attribute; thus, think of the gang members and the negative act in a more positive light. Ware and LinkugelÂ’s four strategies of self-defense, which were founded on the work of social psychologist Abelson (1959), can be formed into pairs to form four postures of self-defense. The four postu res, as articulated by Benoit (1995, p. 13): Absolutive: Denial and Differentiation Vindictive: Denial and Transcendence Explanative: Bolstering and Differentiation Justificative: Bolstering and Transcendence. Ware and Linkugel point out that a rebutta l may contain more than two of these four strategies, and they contend that Â“the speeches of self-defen se usually rely most heavily for their persuasive impact upon two of the factorsÂ” (1973, p. 282). Burke, on Purification The third approach used by Benoit to deve lop his discourse on image restoration arises from Kenneth BurkeÂ’s work regardi ng purification (1970). According to Benoit, (1995, p. 17) guilt is the primary motive in Bu rkeÂ’s theory of dramatism. Burke, Benoit
12 says, interprets guilt as Â“a representation of an undesirable state of affairs, an unpleasant feeling, which occurs when expectations c oncerning behavior are violated, as they inevitably areÂ” (1995, p. 18). Thus, attacks on a reputation, which implies that behavior has been negative, motivates individuals to remove or reduce guilt thereby helping to restore image. Burke cites two processes for expunging guilt and restoring reputation: victimage (also known as scapegoating) and mortific ation (admission of guilt and request for forgiveness). BurkeÂ’s work was applied by various rese archers to many different situations, almost all in the political realm of the 1960Â’ s and 70Â’s. Analysis of Senator Edward KennedyÂ’s Chappaquiddick address, US Repres entative George HansenÂ’s felony fraud conviction, President NixonÂ’s Watergate sp eech, and San Francisco Mayor Joseph AliotoÂ’s response to a serial killer in his ci ty were all evaluated for effectiveness with varying results. According to Benoit ( 1995, p. 18), one study of BurkeÂ’s discourse extended to corporate rhetoric though most studies involve political rhetoric. Together, these studies demonstrate how this approach aids in understanding the reduction of guilt through discourse. RyanÂ’s Theory of Kategoria The fourth stage in BenoitÂ’s image restor ation discourse is gleaned from RyanÂ’s 1982 work, which maintains that Â“one must car efully consider the defense (apologia) in light of the specific attack (kategoria)Â” (B enoit, 1995, p. 20). Essentially, Ryan argues that the most valuable assessment can be ma de by comparing the two phases Â– attack and
13 defense Â– and gauging the effectiv eness of both sides. The critic, then, must evaluate both phases in order to make a judgment on effectiveness. Ryan edited a book in 1988 which contains 17 applications of this approach by various authors. As with Burke, almost al l of the applications are from the political realm, although other studies in the book in clude a corporation, a religious figure, a scientist, and a key legal trial. RyanÂ’s work is important to BenoitÂ’s theo ry because it was the first to actively advocate and justify the importance of examin ing the defense in light of the attack (Benoit, 1995, p. 26). Other Rhetorical Criticisms While the works of Rosenfield, Ware and Linkugel, Burke, and Ryan were the four main cornerstones of BenoitÂ’s theory, se veral other studies c ontributed significantly to the development of the theo ry, according to Benoit (1995, p. 26). Several studies, he says, do not fall neatly into the four categories, yet still wield important contributions to th e discussion. Some of the most notable ones involved strategy. In 1982, Benoit himself analyzed Pr esident Richard NixonÂ’s discourse in the Watergate Scandal, and identified the following strategies that emerged from that study: emphasis on investigation; shifting of blame; refocusing of attention; indicting his main accuser; emphasizing confidentiality, manda te and cooperation; using executive privilege; and quoting from the transcripts ( p. 26). Benoit reasoned that NixonÂ’s defense was ineffective in part because he shifted th e blame to his own subordinates, meaning he was still ultimately responsible for Watergate.
14 BensonÂ’s 1988 study of Johnson & Johnson Co rporationÂ’s defensive strategies after the second Tylenol poisoning episode concluded th at it successfully used key elements of flexibility (tentative language strategic ambiguity, tr ial balloons, portraying actions positively) and pro-action (co mmunicating frequently, using viable spokespersons, and portraying motives positively) (p. 27). Rowland and Rademacher ( 1990) reported on President R onald ReaganÂ’s rhetoric on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ) and its Â“SuperfundÂ” controversy. They concluded that Reagan successfully employe d three main strategies: emphasizing his general commitment to positive values rather than advocating specific policies, blaming subordinates, and taking action that was symbolic to end th e crisis (Benoit, 1995, p. 27). However, when studying ReaganÂ’s attempt to use similar strategies to combat the Iran-Contra Tower Commission Report, Benoit found that Â“Reagan was not as successfulÂ” (1995, p. 27). Benoit attributed this to ReaganÂ’s Â“passive styleÂ” of leadership being Â“much less appropriate in important pol icy questions Â– like arms sales to Iran Â– than in day-to-day details of running the EPAÂ” (1995, p. 27). In other words, a correlation exists between salien cy (how important, or rather how much direct impact a negative act has) and the abil ity to restore oneÂ’s image w ith the affected audience. Rhetorical Conclusion According to Benoit, these rhetorical appr oaches provide the basis for two claims about image restoration discourse First, these works are la rgely independent of another (1995, p. 28). While each work may have comparable subject matter, advocate the employment of similar tactics, and describe analogous factors in th eir various outcomes,
15 no single rhetorical discourse t hus far discussed has been ex haustive. No overlap exists among them. Each has missed at least one aspect that has been covered elsewhere, and in most cases, each has espoused a unique factor not found in another area. BenoitÂ’s theory is largely a composite of such rhetorical works, expanding on the various discourses, integrating them, and making them more complete. The second claim Benoit makes, which is supported by the review of rhetorical approaches, is that these theories are Â“mor e descriptive than prescriptiveÂ” (1995, p. 29). Ware and LinkugelÂ’s theory of apologia and BurkeÂ’s two means of purification present available options but do not o ffer advice about using these alternatives. Hence, according to Benoit, Â“rhetorical theories are descriptive, not prescriptive.Â” Thus, the second area of BenoitÂ’s focus Â– accounts Â– will offer more helpful suggestions concerning when to use which strategy. Social Science Approaches and Accounts In addition to the aforementioned rhetori cal influences on BenoitÂ’s theory, it is also important to examine the other major theo retical area on which it is based Â– that of the social sciences. Major contributing t ypologies in establishing BenoitÂ’s theory are Sykes and Matza (1957), Scott and Lyman (1968), Goffman (1971), Schonbach (1980), and Schlenker (1980). Sykes and MatzaÂ’s Typology of Accounts According to Benoit (1995, p. 33), Sykes and Matza developed the Â“first typology of accounts.Â” The two researchers, in a ttempting to understand juvenile delinquency,
16 proscribed five Â“techniques of neutralizati onÂ” used to legitimize delinquent behavior, including: denial of responsib ility; denial of inju ry; denial of victim; counterattack and condemnation; and lastly, an appeal to highe r loyalties. Benoit claims that Sykes and MatzaÂ’s argument about these five techni ques legitimizing delinquent behavior is Â“somewhat unusualÂ” (1995, p. 33) because most view these uttera nces Â“as occurring after, rather than before, the offensive beha vior.Â” This typology pr ovided a clear basis for Scott and LymanÂ’s work a decade later. Scott and LymanÂ’s Analysis of Accounts Scott and LymanÂ’s analysis of accounts (1968) was groundbreaking work and is recognized as the leading approach in the field of image restoration. The authors developed their approach by first defining an account (p. 46) as Â“a statement made by a social actor to explain unantic ipated or untoward behavior.Â” The researchers specifically defined two separate types of accounts Â– excu ses and justification. They define excuses as Â“accounts in which one admits that the ac t in question is bad, wrong, or inappropriate, but denies full responsibility,Â” while justification was defined as an account in which Â“one accepts responsibility for the act in question, but denies the pejorative quality associated with itÂ” (p. 47). The researchers take care to furthe r subdivide each account Â– excuse and justification Â– and it is in these subdivisions that one can most clearly see the basis for BenoitÂ’s image restoration theory. Scott and Lyman (1968) subdivided excuse s into four categories: accidents, defeasibility, biological drives, and provocat ion (also known as scapegoating). In his
17 1995 work, Benoit points out that Scott and LymanÂ’s category of defeasibility is comparable to Sykes and MatzaÂ’s (1957) denial of responsibility. Further drawing on Sykes and MatzaÂ’s 1957 work, Scott and Lyman described six subsets of justification: deni al of injury, denial of vict im, condemning the condemners, appeal to loyalty, sad tales, and self-fulfillment. The first four arise directly from Sykes and Matza, while the last two ar e Scott and LymanÂ’s own additions. GoffmanÂ’s Research Contribution In GoffmanÂ’s 1971 work, he described several conversational responses to possible negative-image incidents. They are, in no particular order; denial that the act occurred or that the actor is guilty of it; re define the act as non-offensive, [which Benoit (1995, p. 35) compares to Scott and LymanÂ’s ( 1967) strategy of justification]; admit guilt but argue that negative consequences were not reasonably foreseeable; admit the act but claim reduced competence [which Benoit agai n compares to Scott and LymanÂ’s (1967) notion of excuses], and finally, admit carele ssness in performing th e act or ignorance of the undesirable consequences. Goffman argues that admitting carelessness is the least effective strategy, but is careful to point out that it is differe nt from his third response of arguing that negative consequences were unfor eseeable, because in that strategy, no one could have foreseen the negative outcome. Goffman also advocates apologizing. He notes that an apology consists of essentially splitting oneself in to two halves Â– a bad half and a good half. The bad half commits the negative act, and the good half depl ores it. He indicates that a complete apology consists of five basic elements: expression of regret; acknowledgement of
18 expected behavior; repudiation of the behavior and the self for committing it; a promise to behave correctly in the future; and atonement and/or compensation. A last, notable point made by Goffman is that of requests as remedial moves. Benoit (1995, p. 35) interprets Goffman to mean that requests (usually for forgiveness or excusal) are offered before an offensive event, i.e Â“Do you mind if I squeeze past you?Â” whereas accounts and apologies are typically offered up af ter the wrongful behavior. Requests, Benoit says, Â“function to reduce th e ill feeling that mi ght be generated by untoward behaviorÂ” (1995, p. 35). SchonbachÂ’s Taxonomy Another researcher whose work was influential to Benoit was Schonbach. Benoit notes that, in a short essay by Schonbach ( 1980), he Â“presented a new taxonomy based both on the previous literature and on accounts elicited from subjects who were asked to imagine themselves in a failure eventÂ” (B enoit, 1995, p. 36). Schonbach defined Â“failure eventÂ” to include Â“both deviant acts co mmitted and obligations omittedÂ” (Schonbach, 1980, p. 195). Therefore, Schonbach recognized that images may be damaged not only by what has been done, but also by what has no t. The new taxonomy Benoit refers to is essentially an expansion of Scott and Lyman (1968) and Sykes and Matza (1957). SchonbachÂ’s taxonomy includes two new cate gories of image repair tactics Â– coordinate with excuses; and justifications, labeled conce ssions, and refusals. In 1990, Schonbach completed further research into acco unts, and prepared Â“an extensive list of fourteen concessions, twenty seven excuse s, and forty-two refusalsÂ” (Benoit, 1995, p.
19 36), which eventually was used by Benoit as a foundation for his own image restoration theory. SchlenkerÂ’s Versions of Accounts SchlenkerÂ’s work (1980) contains three di fferent versions of accounts that were not explicated by previous researchers, although they are similar in nature. They are, in order of presentation: defenses of in nocence; excuses; and justifications. The Â“defense of innocenceÂ” account claims that the negative event was not the fault of the actor at all. According to Benoit (1995, p. 37), it is akin to SchonbachÂ’s strategy of claiming (denying) that th e negative event did not happen. The second account excuses Â– seeks to di minish the role (and responsibility) of the actor for the negative action. As a furthe r subset of the Â“excusesÂ” account, Schlenker specifically mentions Â“scapegoating,Â” i.e. passing the blame to someone else, and diffusion of responsibility ta king some blame but also spre ading it across a larger group to lessen the impact. Schlenker notes that bo th of these variants are extensions of Scott and LymanÂ’s 1968 work. SchlenkerÂ’s third and final account, justific ation, is exactly that Â– rationalizing the action to lessen the negative impact on the actorÂ’s image. Other Social Science Contributors Although the above-mentioned researcher s made the most profound impact on BenoitÂ’s work, many other scholars made si gnificant contributions as well. In 1981, researchers Tedeschi and Reiss refined a nd expanded the work of Scott and Lyman
20 (1968). According to Benoit (1995, p. 38), Tede schi and Reiss Â“added new excuses, such as Â‘distraction by other events,Â’ Â‘lack of time for deliberation (crisis),Â’ Â‘dr ugs,Â’ Â‘coercion by others,Â’ Â‘hypnotized,Â’ and Â‘brainwashed.Â’Â” Additionally, Tedeschi and Reiss revised certain aspects of Scott and LymanÂ’s typology, Benoit noted (1995). The researchers offered, for example, Â“six specific new types of self-fulfillmentÂ” (Benoit, 1995, p. 38), and also presented additional detailed justifications, such as different forms of app eal to higher authoritie s (.i.e. God, Satan, and government), reputation building, appeal to norms of justice, and appe al to humanistic values (Benoit, 1995, p. 38). Additionally, Benoit cites (1995) the work of Semin and Manstead (1983) as an influence of image restoration theory. Se min and Manstead reviewed most of the literature previously described in the social sciences section of this writing, and from that developed a detailed tactical lis t of image restoration strategies. Their approaches may be broken down to include two main sets of theori es Â– one for excuses a nd justifications, and one for denials, refusals, clai ms of innocence, and apologies. Essentially, the work of these seven sets of researchers, along with the four previously discussed in the rhetorical appro aches section, are the mo st influential in the development of a defining im age restoration theory. From these scholars, rhetorical and social science approaches laid the foundation of what was to become BenoitÂ’s image restoration theory.
21 BenoitÂ’s Image Restoration Theory According to Benoit himself, his theory is founded on two key assumptions. The first assumption, he notes, Â“i s that communication is a goa l-directed activityÂ” (1995, p. 63). The second is that Â“maintaining a positiv e reputation is one of the central goals of communication.Â” As briefly mentioned in the introduction of this paper, Benoit not es that Â“an attack on oneÂ’s image, face, or reputation is compri sed of two components: 1.) an act occurred which is undesirable, and 2.) you are responsible for that ac tÂ” (p. 71). Both of these conditions must be believed to be true by th e salient audience for a reputation to be at risk. Recognizing this, Benoit had a desire to Â“offer a typology that is more complete than those found in the rhetor ical literature while avoidi ng the extreme detail found in some descriptions of accountsÂ…Â” which lead to the list of strategies in this typology of image restoration (1995, p. 74). Benoit further notes that Â“those who desi re extremely detailed lists of these strategies can consult Sc honbach (1990), who lists almost one hundred and fifty categories and subcategoriesÂ” (p. 93). He notes that he finds it more useful to list image restoration strategies at Â“a hi gher level of abstractionÂ” (p. 93). By this, Benoit means that his more concise list is exhaustive a nd less wieldy, as well as being easier to conceptualize. Benoit organized his typology into five di stinct categories, th ree of which have variants or subcategories: denial, evad ing responsibility, reducing offensiveness, corrective action, and mortification.
22 Table 1. Image Restoration Strategies. Denial Simple denial Â– did not perform the act Shifting the blame Â– act performed by another Evading of Responsibility Provocation Â– responded to act or action of another Defeasibility Â– lack of information or ability Accident Â– act was unintentional mishap Good Intentions Â– mean t well in doing the act Reducing Offensiveness of Event Bolstering Â– stress good traits Minimization Â– act not very serious Differentiation Â– act is less offensive than it appears Transcendence Â– act is negative, but other vital considerations at stake Attack accuser Â– reduce credibility of accuser Compensation Â– reimburse victims and affected persons Corrective Action Â– plan in place to so lve and prevent action from reoccurring Mortification_take responsibility and apologize for action Source: Benoit, 1995, p.95 Audiences Benoit points out that there are three types of audiences that the rhetor (accused) will sometimes face. First, th e actor faces the external audience, e.g. those who are the
23 primary people with whom the rhetor hopes to rebuild his/her image. Second, the rhetor tries to establish positive reputation or image with the secondary audience, i.e. Jane yells at John in front of co-workers, and John seek s to save face in front of all concerned. Lastly, Benoit describes the third-party audience. One example is if the actor attempts to save image from corporate stockholders but no t caring what the impact is on the media who spread the negative perception in the first place.An additional distinction made by Benoit (1995) is that there exist two types of attacks on image Â– attacks on policy, and attack on character. In fact, the author not es that sometimes, th ere is no clear accusation at all. Â“The accusation may arise generally in the media, for example, rather than from a rhetorÂ’s explicit kategoria ,Â” he says (p. 85). In such cases, the attack, while still important, becomes more difficult to analyze. Athletes, both professional and amateur, have long been subjects of image restoration studies. Benoit, along with Ha nczor, published one such study in 1994 regarding the tarnished image of Tonya Harding, the figure sk ater who was better known for an attack against Nancy Kerrigan, her chief rival, than for her Olympic skating performance. Earlier, in 1984, Nelson had completed another such study analyzing the defensive discourse of womenÂ’s tennis star Bil lie Jean King for her affair with her former female secretary. The most influential study in this ar ena was completed by Kruse (1981). Kruse determined that, for a situation to be consider ed apologetic, it must meet three criteria. First, it must feature an ethical charge of wrongdoing. Second, it requires the cleansing of reputation to be the primary motive for re sponse. Lastly, it must be delivered by the self, in defense of self. (Heath, 2001, p. 102).
24 Kruse, in her examination of defens e of team sport, concluded that apologia of sports figures do not differ strategically from the other character defenses (Benoit and Hanczor, 1994, p. 416). According to Benoit and Hanczor, KruseÂ’s identification of bolstering and expressions of re gret or remorse are recurrent themes in the analysis of sports figures and apologia. This is a rele vant point in this study because, although not focused on athletes, the study does involve the restoration of images for organizations and individuals alike. In summary, this review of literature ha s had five purposes. First, it placed the topic of image restoration in a histori cal context. Additionally, it assessed and demonstrated the value of previous studies it justified this research on the topic by demonstrating that image restoration has been more descriptive than prescriptive, and it provided a thorough theoretical fr amework for the study, rooted in rhetorical approaches and social sciences. Lastly, through examina tion of previous studies, the researcher was aided in the selection and de sign of the methodological proce dures which are discussed in detail in Chapter Three. Research Questions Because there has been a dearth of resear ch conducted in the area of prescriptive image restoration tactics, research questions are most appropriate for this study. From the above review of literature, the following arose: RQ1: In dealing with the Air Force Academ y sexual assault scandal, did the Air Force employ any image restoration tactics es poused by Benoit? If so, which specific tactics were employed?
25 RQ2: Is a proactive or reactive approach by the Air Force more effective in securing a positive or balanced news story? RQ3: What is the relationship between story balance and issue stage? RQ4: What were the most effective sources used by the Air Force to garner positive images in independent news stories? R5: Which tactics, or combination of tac tics, were most successful in securing a positive image of the Air Force in the media during the crisis? RQ6 : Which factors affect story balance?
26 Chapter Three: Methodology This study identifies the specific image restor ation strategies in media releases as created and distributed by the U.S. Air Force relating to a series of sexual assaults in 2002 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, as de fined in the context of BenoitÂ’s Image Restoration Theory. Purpose The purpose of the study is two-fold. First, it will determine which image restoration strategies, if any, were employe d by the U.S. Air Force during a particular crisis situation Â– specifically, a period of time in which sexual assaults against female cadets enrolled at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., were alleged to have been committed, and in which senior Air Force leaders were removed from command and ultimately the service itself for failu re to Â“exercise the degree of leadership in this situation that is expected of comm andersÂ” (Air Force Print News, July 11, 2003). Its second Â–and primary Â– objective is to es tablish whether specific image restoration tactics were effective in encouraging positive reporting trends and discouraging negative ones in independent newspapers. Additionally, a secondary research goal is to analyze independent media coverage of the scandal Â– more specifically, stories appearing in large metropolitan daily newspapers. This analysis will determine whether the independent media coverage casts the Air Force Academy and its leadership in a positive or negative light Â– essentially
27 measuring the effectiveness of tactics compri sing BenoitÂ’s Image Restoration Theory as applied in this particular situation by the U. S. Air Force. Combined, these analyses will demonstrate that BenoitÂ’s Image Restoration Theory can be prescriptive rather than simply descriptive (as opposed to what was noted in the review of literature) with the ultimate intent of the study being a determination of how independent media reacts to the image restoration strategies employed proact ively or reactively by the U.S. Air Force. The study scientifically demonstrates whic h tactics worked best for the Air Force in this specific situation, a nd which were not effective. Su ch information establishes a baseline of effective tactics which may be used by public relations practitioners in assessing which tactics are appropriate for a given situation and which ones will likely be ineffective. Method of Study Given the scarcity of research examining a prescriptive rather than descriptive nature of image restoration theory, a formal descriptive method was most appropriate for this study. The nature of a research situ ation such as this lends itself to a limited selection of methodology which may be used to successfully complete the study. Thus, this research will use content analysis methodology to examine news releases composed by the U.S. Air Force regarding the 2002-2003 sexual assault scandal at its Air Force Academy, as well as resulting st ories as printed in major lo cal and national newspapers independently covering the events as they unf olded. The Air ForceÂ’s news releases and articles will be coded for recurring themes, and patterns from the various texts will be identified.
28 Content analysis is not only a research method, but also a research concept, with varying definitions of the subjects. While St empel (2003) noted that content analysis is a quantitative technique that seeks to draw c onclusions from observations of content, Walizer and Wienir (1978) defined it as a sy stematic procedure devised to examine the content of recorded information. Krippendorf (1980), who successfully justifie d the importance of descriptive aims in content analysis studies, defines content analysis as a research technique for making replicable and valid references from data to their context, and Ke rlinger (2000) defined it as a method of studying and analyzing comm unication in a systematic, objective and quantitative manner for the purpose of measuri ng variables. Finally, Stacks (2002) called it Â“a systematic, objective, a nd quantitative method for resear ching messagesÂ” (p. 107). The method is Â“viewed as an objective a nd neutral way of obt aining a quantitative description of the content of various fo rms of communications: thus, counting the mention of specific items was importantÂ” (Marshall & Rossman, 1999, p. 117). Clearly, these researchers definitively place content an alysis on the side of quantitative methods. Although widely recognized as a quantita tive research method, some researchers note that content analysis also encompasses aspects of qualitative research. This study takes both a quantitative and qualitative appro ach to content analysis, with nominal level data and subjective data required for the analysis. Content analysis is Â“a quantitatively-o riented technique by which standardized measurements are applied to metrically define d units and these are used to characterize and compare documentsÂ” (Denzin & Lincoln, 19 94, p. 464). Stacks (2002) noted that Â“it is an informal method in that the data it operates on are basically qualitative-deriving,
29 from responses to open-ended questions or from observing certain messages in the mediaÂ” (p. 107). Continuing, he noted that conten t analysis allows the researcher to Â“look at qualitative data in a quantitative manner.Â” Researchers can use less formal methods to gather and evaluate data, which is then categorized and quantifie d, allowing for qualita tive interpretation, and thus may be considered both qualita tive and quantitative. To demonstrate this concept, a content analysis may be conducted by analyzing two distinct types of content latent or manifest. Stacks de fines manifest content as the more quantitative of the types; in fact, it is Â“what one actually sees and countsÂ” (Stacks, 2002, p. 109). He continues to define manife st content as Â“the actual word, phrase, character, item, or space or time measure counted.Â” Latent content, on the other hand, is more qualitative. Stacks notes that latent content Â“deals with the underlying or deeper meanings of the messageÂ” (Stacks, 2002, p. 109). By its very nature, latent content is th ematic, and therefore less quantifiable. Wilke (2003) posited that, Â“while manifest conten t deals with meaning found on the surface, latent analysis runs deeper into the thema tic realmÂ” (P. 54). Stacks notes that Â“these themes become what is measured; but because they are attitudinal in nature, they are typically more difficult to count and must be measured via some scale or other measurement systemÂ” (Stacks, 2002, p. 109). Although latent content does provide insigh t into Â“the value of the communication or message under study,Â” (Stacks, 2002, p. 109), content of this type remains open to criticism of validity because it is largely subj ective and susceptible to researcher bias. In
30 this study, both latent and manifest content are analyzed in order to lend credibility to its findings. As Marshall and Rossman (1999) note, c ontent analysis is viewed by social science researchers as a method for describing and interpreting Â“the artifacts of a society of social groupÂ” (p. 117). As a unique branch of the military, with its own language, traditions, customs, and rank structure, the U.S. Air Force qualifies in terms of this research as a distinct social group. Further, as Marshall a nd Rossman (1999) state that material for a content anal ysis can be Â“any form of communication, usually written materialsÂ” (p. 117), content analysis remains the most appropriate method to conduct this research, and the coding in this study encompasses both ma nifest and latent content Â– quantitative and qualitative. There are several excellent reasons why content anal ysis is the appropriate research method for this study. First, its popularity among researchers and students can be attributed to its versatility, as it can be used to analyze any type of media, including news releases, newspapers, magazines, internet sites, radio broadcas ts, and video content Â– virtually any form of communication. Additionally, according to Wilke (2002), Â“One of the greatest strengths of content analysis is that it is non-r eactive and unobtrusive,Â” (p. 52). Th us, data is collected with no disruption to the subject, while other research variables such as timeframe are left to the discretion of the researcher with no impact to the study. Lastly, the procedure may be described clearly, and it results eas ily replicated and verifiable. Conversely, content analysis also entails researcher in terpretation, which, as noted earlier, exposes it to criticism of possible re searcher bias. Additionally, this method of
31 research is also subject to errors in data interpretation; incorrect sampling; generalization; and inter-coder reliability, calling its validity into question. Denzin and Lincoln note that certain ideas may only be conveyed Â“in the text ual arrangement of narrative, descriptions, and tropesÂ” (1994, p. 267), which explains how a content analysis may be Â“unable to capture the context within which a written text has meaningÂ” (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994, p. 464). However, the application of sound scien tific research methods such as measuring inter-coder reliability with HolstiÂ’s (1969) formula, and establishing valid, sufficient sample sizes effectively dispels such criticisms. Universe of Study To maintain validity, this research requires a well-defined universe from which to select its content. For the first analysis, ne ws releases from the U.S. Air Force itself regarding the events are deemed by the resear cher as most appropriate. News releases about the sexual assaults and their impact on th e military that were written solely by U.S. Air Force or Department of Defense personne l are displayed on the Air ForceÂ’s internet newswire service, AFLINK (www.af.mil ), and are appropriate research material, as AFLINK is the main source of non-queried info rmation for journalists and the public. A finite number of news releases will be gather ed from this site for the first phase of the analysis. The timeframe for material selec tion from AFLINK for inclusion in the study will exactly match the timeframe for material selection for the independently-produced newspaper stories: February Â– May 2003. The events at the Air Force Academy o ccurred in the fall of 2002, but did not become public news until early in 2003, when the story was first broken by a Colorado
32 Springs television news aff iliate. The story was immedi ately picked up by local newspapers such as the Denver Post and the Colorado Springs Gazette Immediately, the story grew and garn ered more national media attention, culminating with the dismissal of several se nior leaders from the Academy in the spring, and U.S. Senate hearings in the summer. Because interest in the story waxed and waned through various time periods (spring was much busier than summer, when school was not in session) and venues, (local and nationa l television, national ma gazines, local and national newspapers all covered the story to varying degrees) it would be difficult to make a valid comparison and analysis of the material had the researcher chosen to include all available material. As such, the time period that the research er chose for inclusion of materials for the study was the initial first four months of the scandal Â– February, March, April and May 2003. These four months were by far th e busiest timeframe of the scandal, and included the initial breaking of the story, responses from the President of the United States, members of Congress, Air Force and Ac ademy leaders, cadets, relatives, alumni, faculty and staff, civilian a ssault/rape counselors, local la w enforcement, and Colorado civic leaders. Additionall y, the corrective actions take n by the organization and the removal of the AcademyÂ’s four senior leader s garnered more media attention that any other timeframe for the scandal. Accordingly, it is appropriate that all media releases produced by the Air Force and posted to the site during this timeframe w ill be gathered for inclusion in the study. Additionally, the universe for this study will include newspaper articles researched and written by independent reporters from large daily metropolitan
33 newspapers during the same timeframe (Feb ruary Â– May 2003). The researcher chose this medium for several reasons. First, there is a large, sufficient amount of articles about the subject available to be analyzed. Second, the printed medium is readily available for analysis and remains a more tangible public re cord than a broadcast or spoken word. Though it may be possible to secure tr anscripts of the various electronic newscasts, there would be vi rtually no way to account fo r how many stories had been produced because accountability of broadcasting archives are poorer than accountability of newspapers, which have excellent archiv es and morgues. Also, when dealing with electronic media, it is very difficult to ascer tain the size of the viewing audience, which varies much more than the average daily readership of a large metropolitan newspaper. Newspaper readership, on the other ha nd, has a well-established census. Further, since most newspapers adhere to a particular standa rd of reporting known as Â“Associated Press Style,Â” the stories le nd themselves easily to comparison. The format is nearly identical in each, whereas in broadcast journalism, a less-formal format is in evidence at the local television news affiliate level. Different broadcasting formats and reporting styles do not lend themselves to comparison as well as printed newspaper stories. Lastly, the newspaper format allows for easy transmittal to national wire services such as Associated Press, Knight-Ridder, or Reuters, and can be run world-wide, whereas broadcast stories that get pi cked up tend to be rewritten and rebroadcast at a national level by national-level anchors and reporters. In other words, newspaper reporters tend to maintain a constant Â“beatÂ” a nd act as the single voice fo r their publication, following a story through its progression, while televi sion news formats often switch reporters,
34 changing to more senior broa dcasters as the story beco mes larger and gains more exposure. In general, individual broadcasters do not follow specific stories as long as their newspaper counterparts. It is factual and well-recognized that electronic newscasts are not as consistent as newspapers with matc hing and maintaining indi vidual reporters for specific stories. As such, newspapers stories were the chosen format for analysis of this research. To maintain consistency, the newspapers considered for this research were all metropolitan daily newspapers. Newspaper Selection Because the Air Force Academy is such a large institution, comprised of more than 4,000 cadets representing all 50 U.S. States, more than 1,500 faculty and staff members, and a large budget of federal tax dollars, the story ha s national news appeal. It is easy to determine that local newspapers be included in the universe of this study particularly the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Denver Post which have covered the story more than most other media and are the largest metropolit an daily newspapers geographically-located nearest the Academy its elf. The six newspaper sources for the 208 media stories were the Denver Post Rocky Mountain News Colorado Springs Gazette New York Times Washington Post and USA Today Initially, the researcher intended to us e only stories from the top ten daily metropolitan newspapers according to circulation as defined by Editor and Publisher.
35 Table 2. Top Ten Newspapers in the US by Weekday Daily Circulation. 1. USA Today 2,616,824 2. Wall Street Journal 2,091,062 3. New York Times 1,676,885 4. Los Angeles Times 1,379,258 5. Washington Post 1,029,966 6. Chicago Tribune 1,002,166 7. New York Daily News 805,350 8. Dallas Morning News 785,876 9. Philadelphia Inquirer 749,793 10. Houston Chronicle 747,404 Source Editor and Publisher February 2006 While most of the top 10 major metropolit an newspapers did cover the story, the vast majority of the printed stories in th ese newspapers were wire service stories reprinted from wire services such as Associat ed Press, Reuters, and Knight-Ridder. Thus the researchers determined that the six newspa pers were better suited to be included in the study because they were by far the news papers which covered the scandal most extensively and allowed the greatest amount of material to be collected for the most thorough analysis. As could be reasonably expected, the majo r Colorado daily newspapers by far had the most coverage of the scandal. The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Colorado Springs Gazette all had numerous stories on th e subject during the selected timeframe. Exact frequencies ar e shown in Chapter Four. Additionally, USA Today proved to be a valuable s ource for stories, as did the Washington Post which had a beat reporte r specifically dedicate d to the story, and the
36 New York Times which reported each development and also had a team of beat reporters consistently covering the story. Table 3. Newspapers included in st udy, by weekday daily circulation. 1. USA Today 2,616,824 2. New York Times 1,676,885 3. Washington Post 1,029,966 4. Denver Post 286,197 5. Rocky Mountain News 286,004 6. Colorado Springs Gazette 102,036 Source Editor and Publisher February 2006 Sampling Methodology The LexisNexis search engine database (http://lexis-nexis.com ) was the sole source used to gather news stories. LexisNex is was chosen as the search engine because this database is renowned th roughout the academic world as reliable, extensive, up-todate, and technologically-capable of provi ding multiple sources of news and media coverage. This guided news search in LexisNexis requ ired five distinct steps. To compile the sample, all five steps were separately completed. Step one was to select the news categor y Â– of the several distinct categories available, U.S. News was most appropriate, and it was selected. Next, the news sources had to be selected by state, so the appropriate home states of the six selected newspapers were chosen for each instance. New York was chosen for the New York Times Virginia for USA Today Colorado for the Denver Post Colorado Springs Gazette and Rocky
37 Mountain News and D.C. for The Washington Post Step three consisted of choosing a specific news source from each state, i.e. one search was conducted in the Colorado section for the Denver Post a second individual search c onducted in the same section for the Rocky Mountain News and a third separate search wa s accomplished for articles from the Colorado Springs Gazette Step four was the listing of th e search terms. For this, the researcher limited the search to articles c ontaining the words Â“Air Force Academy Sexual Assault Scandal.Â” Lastly, step five was identi fying the date range: February Â– May 2003. To maintain research integrity, certain types of newspaper stories which were found by the search engine were omitted, includ ing editorials, letters to the editor, and stories very loosely related which contained no more than a single passing reference to the Air Force scandal. For example, a se xual assault scandal which broke at nearby University of Colorado generated many news rele ases that also made reference to the Air Force Academy assaults, but the Academy wa s clearly not the focus of the story, nor were assaults which occurred there. If the st ory made only a mention or reference to the Academy situation, it was not included. Article Selection The study included every available news ar ticle in which the focus of the story was the Air Force Academy Sexual Assault Sc andal from a given source for the given timeframe, with the exceptions listed above. In all, 208 stor ies from six different major metropolitan daily newspapers were found meeting this criteria.
38 Thus, the total amount of stories coded was 208 which had value for the analysis, and 20 Air Force-produced news stories were analyzed. In total, 228 products were coded. Unit of Analysis Each single, complete news release or stor y served as the unit of analysis for this study. Each product was analyzed and nomi nal level data collected in multiple categories: military or media product, month of publication, length of story in words, placement of story (front page, metro secti on, etc), sources of quotes, and whether the story was proactive or reactive. A complete copy of the code sheet can be found at Appendix A. Analysis Methodology Along with the nominal data, each Air Force product was analyzed by trained coders to determine which image restoration tactic was employed by the Air Force in the specific release or story. Table 2 in Appendix A contains the definitions of the five major image restoration strategies, including the 12 various subcategories. Although not considered mutually exclusive, Table 2 is exhaustive and reliable. The Air Force may employ more than one tactic Â– therefore, it cannot be mutually exclusive. The list is exhaustive in that it incl udes all categories as currently defined by BenoitÂ’s Image Restoration Strategy (Benoit, 1995). Lastl y, the taxonomy is reliable and supported by prior research (Rosenfield (1968), Ware & Linkugel (1973), Burke (1982), and Ryan (1982).
39 Additionally, each independent news release was examined by trained coders to determine its thematic interpretation Â– positive, negative, or balanced. Table 3 in Appendix A contains the definitions coders will use to classify a story as positive, negative or balanced. Coder Selection As a guard against personal bias of a code r, two coders were used. Coder One (the researcher) reviewed all stories and releases in the study. Each arti cle was analyzed and coded independently. Appendix A is a copy of the code sheet used. Additionally, to eliminate pe rsonal bias and to ensure validity of the coding, a second trained coder was utilized for this research. The second coder analyzed 22.36 percent of the independently-produced ne wspaper stories for each phase, and 33.3 percent of the news releases Â– th e Air Force-produced material. Table 4. Inter-Coder Statistics. Coder Number Releases Coded Percent Releases Coded Number Stories Coded Percent of Stories Coded Coder One 20 100 208 100 Coder Two 6 33.3 45 22.36 The number of Air Force-produced releases that were coded by the second coder was 6 out of twenty Â– a 30% rate. A dditionally, the second coder analyzed 45 independent media stories Â– a 21.6% rate. T ogether, Coder Two an alyzed 22.36% of all products in the study. As each news release/st ory/article is numbered in ascending order,
40 the products analyzed by the second coder we re selected by a third, independent person through a random number selection, one thr ough 20 for Air Force produced stories, and 21 through 228 for independent media stories. Both coders were graduate students; one specialized in public relations while the other specialized in advertising. Both were fully conversant with public relations academic lite rature. The results are described fully in Chapter Four. Inter-Coder Reliability To further ensure the reliability of coding analysis and inter-coder reliability, HolstiÂ’s formula (1969) was used to produce a coefficient of reliability of .88. Although the resulting coefficient is within acceptable scientific levels, (>.80), HolstiÂ’s method is sometimes criticized because the possibility exists that coder agreement may occur Â“by chance Â– an amount that is a function of th e number of categories in the analysisÂ” (p. 157). As such, ScottÂ’s (1955) Pi could be applied in this instance as a second method of addressing inter-coder reliability. However, the researcher determined that with the high number of choices required from the coders in analyzing th e subjective data, a calculation of Pi is not necessary or prudent. This is because coders were asked to identify which of 15 tactics, if any, were present in the release/story. Coders could ha ve identified the use of all 15 tactics in a given story, or none, or any combination of the 15 available tac tics. Essentially, thousands of combinations of tactics exist in each analysis. Therefore, with thousands of possibilities to choose from, the likelihood of coder agreement strictly by chance is minimal. As such, HolstiÂ’s formula is sufficient in determining inter-coder reliability.
41 Disagreement among the work of the two coders did initially exist. When HolstiÂ’s formula was first applied, a low coe fficient was produced which indicated poor reliability between the two coders. However, after analysis of the data by an independent third party, it was found that th e two coders had each define d a key variable differently (yet each consistently,) resulting in the low coefficient. After disc ussion and clarification among the coders, it was determined that a particular tactic provocation had been consistently defined and coded differently by each coder. The traits which one defined as Â“provocationÂ” were defined by the other as Â“corrective action.Â” Once the definition was clarified between the two coders, the differen ces were reconciled and the coefficient of agreement rose substantially to a scientifically-acceptable level of .88. Data Collection Once the coding of all 228 products was co mplete, the data was transferred to a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel Descriptive statistics (frequencies) were utilized to tabulate results of closedended, nominal data. Cross-tabulations were used to analyze the remaining data. The Excel spreadsheet was analyzed by the computer program SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences), which perf ormed frequencies and cross-tabulations in the following areas: military or media product; month of publication; length of story; placement of story in newspaper; newspaper source; whether the story reflected the Air Force positively, negatively, or in a balanced light; sources c ited in the story; whether Air Force was proactive or reactiv e with the story, determine ma in subject of criticism or attack for the story; identify which tactics were used by the Air Force in their own
42 products; and identify which tactics were used by the Air Force to defend themselves in newspaper stories. The results of the analyses are explicated in Chapter Four in narrative form, with tables illustrating categorical comparisons.
43 Chapter Four: Results of Data Analysis The purpose of this study has been to advance (or reinforce) current Image Restoration Theory by determining whether spec ific image restoration tactics encourage a positive or negative reporting trend from independent newspapers, and to determine the effectiveness of tactics comprising BenoitÂ’s Im age Restoration Theory as applied in this particular situation by the U.S. Air Force. The following research questions were tested: RQ1: In dealing with the Air Force Academ y sexual assault scandal, did the Air Force employ any image restoration tactics es poused by Benoit? If so, which specific tactics were employed? RQ2: Is a proactive or reactive approach by the Air Force more effective in securing a positive or balanced news story? RQ3: What is the relationship between story balance and issue stage? RQ4: What were the most effective sources used by the Air Force to garner positive images in independent news stories? RQ5: Which tactics, or combination of tac tics, were most successful in securing a positive image of the Air Force in the media during the crisis? RQ6 : Which factors affect story balance? This chapter initially offers demographics and frequencies, and will then expand to include cross-tabulations to demonstrate the relationships between each individual variable.
44 Descriptive Statistics In total, 228 products were coded and an alyzed. The first 20 products analyzed were news releases produced directly by the Air Force, with the remaining 208 being newspaper stories as described in Chapter Three. The Air ForceÂ’s products equaled 8.8 per cent of the study, while the independent newspaper stories accounted for 91.2 percent. Table 5 Â– Source of Coding Materials. Source NumberPercent Military Releases 20 8.8 Newspaper Stories208 91.2 Volume of Stories The second frequency examined was the num ber of stories produced in each of four months Â– February, March, April and Ma y of 2003. The data showed that the month of March produced the most stories, with April being the second busiest production month.
45 Table 6 Â– Frequencies of Production Month. Month NumberPercent February36 15.8 March 97 42.5 April 61 26.8 May 34 14.9 This pattern demonstrates that in this particular sustained crisis, the majority of media stories arrived mid-crisis a fact useful in answering RQ 4 -In which phase of a sustained crisis Â– early, middle, or late Â– is it best for an organization to communicate to its target audience? Length of Story The third frequency analyzed was length of story. Table 7. Frequencies of Story Lengths. No. of Words No. of Stories Percent of Stories Below 500 81 35.5 500-1000 94 41.2 More than 1000 53 23.2 Of the 228 stories analyzed, 81, or 35.5 pe rcent, contained less than 500 words, according to Lexis-Nexis, which contains an actual word count for each story. By-lines,
46 datelines, and head lines are not included in these statistics. Accounting for more than 40 percent of total stories an alyzed were stories containi ng 500 to 1000 words. Lastly, less than a quarter of items in the study cont ained more than 1000 words. Thus, stories on this particular subject were of differing lengths, though most often of intermediate size Â– between 500 and 1000 words. Alone, this information is not in itself co mpelling. However, its usefulness stems from the opportunities it provides for cross-tabul ations with other measurements, such as balance of the story as compared to length, or length of story as compared to month of publication, which may indicate whether stor ies got longer or shorter throughout the crisis. Such cross-tabulations were completed and analyzed, and will be discussed later in this chapter. Placement The role of placement of a story in a partic ular newspaper is directly related to its visibility. The front page of a newspaper is analogous to the lead story of a television news broadcast Â– placement there is directly relative to the level of importance the story has as decided by the news editor (or producer ). There are some differences, however. With newspapers, more than a single stor y may be presented on one page, and most front-page stories are not complete, but Â“jumpÂ” to an interior page for continuation and completion. Also, because many major metropolitan news papers are not tabloid format, they have multiple front pages Â– one for each se ction. Typically, there is a world news section, followed by the local news section, w ith varying subsets such as business, arts
47 and leisure, and sports. Each section pr ovides another opportunity for a story to get Â“front pageÂ” exposure. In terms of garnering vi sibility, it is better for a story to be placed on the front page of an interior section th an to be placed inside the front section, according to the Poynter Institute ( Eyes on the News Poynter,1991). Lastly, according to the same Poynter study, stories placed Â“above the foldÂ” on page one occupy the prime space in any newspaper. As such, placement of the story is impor tant in message delivery and reception. Placement plays a pivotal role in how many people will actually read the story and receive the messages. Once the freque ncies of placement are accomplished, crosstabulations may be performed with other fre quencies such as source of story, balance of story, source of quotes, and actions taken by the Academy, to aid in interpreting the results. The results of such tabulation ma y aid future public relations practitioners by arming them with the knowledge of how deeply their messages are penetrating a particular market. Such knowledge serves to help practitioners determine the effectiveness of their messages, enabling them to make adjustments to their tactics and strategies. Source For this portion of the study, seven sources were used from which stories were collected. These sources were chosen in accordance with the sampling methodology explained in Chapter Three.
48 The following table shows the sources of the stories, the number of stories originating from each source, and their numbers expressed as a percentage of the overall total number of stories collected for the study. Table 8. Frequencies of Newspaper Sources. Newspaper Source Number/Stories Percent Denver Post 73 35.1 Rocky Mountain News 44 21.2 Colorado Springs Gazette 49 23.6 New York Times 23 11.1 Washington Post 11 5.3 USA Today 8 3.8 These figures, when gathered and crosstabulated with othe r values from the study, could help a researcher define biases and tendencies on the part of the source Â– valuable information a public relations pract itioner could use in choosing and applying image restoration tactics. A dditionally, when cross-tabulated with other variables such as balance of story, (positive, negative, or neutral,) the data can indicate which image restoration strategies are eff ective, based on whether the tone of the stories for a given source have become more positive in response to applied tactics. This information is extremely useful to public re lations practitioners, because it can help shape the message, refine the target audien ce, and gauge effects.
49 Table 9. Frequencies of Balance and Sources. Newspaper Source Positive Negative Balanced Denver Post 21.9 34.2 43.8 Rocky Mountain News 15.9 27.3 56.8 Colorado Springs Gazette 28.6 28.6 42.9 New York Times 13.0 60.9 26.1 Washington Post 0 54.5 45.5 USA Today 12.5 37.5 50.0 Balance The sixth demographic examined was balance. Coders examined all 208 nonmilitary stories, assigning each one an overall attribute of positive, negative, or balanced. All stories produced by the Air Force were assigned a code of Â“99Â” for the SPSS spreadsheet. Though assigning a characteristic attribute to a particular story may seem like a simple step, for the purpose of accurate research it is the most critical. For this research to remain valid, coders must exerci se great care and consistency throughout this phase, and inter-coder reliability (described late r this chapter) is critical for legitimacy of the research. Quote Sources In this section, the coders indicated whic h sources the authors of each story cited. Here, it is important to note that only one category could be used per person. For example, the Chief of Staff of the Air For ce is a General Officer, a senior Air Force leader, parent of an Academy graduate, a nd Air Force Academy alumnus. Only one box could be selected by the coder to categorize this speakerÂ– coders were instructed to select the single box that best repr esented the primary role the speaker was in at the time.
50 Coders decided the primary role the speaker was in while quoted, and coded accordingly. Every quote from every story was analyzed. The data tabulations for this se ction were broken down as follows: Table 10: Frequencies of Quote Sources Source of Quotes Freq % Air Force Public Affairs Spokesperson 74 31.9 Air Force Senior Leader (Colonel, General, AF Secretary) 122 52.6 Assault Victim 28 12.1 Other Air Force Member 46 19.9 Current/Former Legislators (Sen ator, Congressmen, etc.) 104 44.8 Sexual Assault Counselors/Advocates 37 15.9 Civilian (Friend, Relative, Academy Alumni, etc) 45 19.4 This information shows that most of the dialogue for the story consists of quotes between senior Air Force leaders and Congre ssional legislators, pr imarily members of Congress from Colorado, as well as members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. Victims and sexual assault counselor s were the groups least quoted. Stance If the product was a newspaper story, code rs were asked to indicate whether the story was proactive (initiated by the military ) or reactive (military reply/response to media inquiry). Additionally, coders could choose Â“undetermined.Â” This information provides valuable insight s to the researcher Â– it demonstrates how frequently the Air Force finds itself in a reactive position, and, once cross-tabulated with quote sources (as shown late r in this chapter), it yields valuable information on the correlated rates of success for pro active versus reactive stances.
51 The results of the Stance fr equency are presented below: Table 11. Stance. Stance Number Percent Proactive 86 42.1 Reactive 63 30.9 Undetermined 55 27.0 In this instance, coder agreement was again paramount for study legitimacy. Inter-coder reliability was within the parameters set by the researcher. Subject of Attack For each given article, coders were asked to identify the main subject of criticism by the author. Even the positive newspaper stories tended to attack either policy, individuals (usually senior leadership) or the organization (the Academy itself). Coders identified only the main subject of attack, thus there could be only one subject per article. Table 12. Subject of Attack. Subject of Attack Frequency Percent Individual 49 24.1 Policy 50 24.6 Organization 46 22.7 None 58 28.6 Coder agreement was again paramount for study legitimacy. Inter-coder reliability was within the para meters set by the researcher.
52 Image restoration tactics used by military For the purposes of including all data in one data set for comparative purposes all stories, i.e. news releases and media coverage, were submitted to the same code sheet. In the case of Table 13, all news stories were c oded as missing data in order to account for them despite the fact that they were not analyzed for image restoration tactics. As mentioned before of the total of 228 storie s submitted for coding, 208 (91.2%) were news coverage of the issue and 20 (8.8%) were releases produced by the military. As a result Table 13 excludes news coverage and only reports only on the news releases issued by the military (n=20).
53 Table 13: Image Restoration Tactics Employed by Military. Variable Yes (%) No (%) 16. Simple denial Â– did not perform the act 1 (5) 19 (95) 17. Shifting the blame Â– act performed by another 2 (10) 18 (90) 18. Provocation Â– responded to act or action of another 1 (5) 19 (95) 19. Defeasibility Â– lack of information or ability 8 (40) 12 (60) 20. Accident Â–act was uninten tional mishap 0 (0) 20 (100) 21. Good intentions Â– meant well in doing the act 0 (0) 20 (100) 22. Bolstering Â– stress good traits 13 (65) 7 (35) 23. Minimization Â– act is not very serious 0 (0) 20 (100) 24. Differentiation Â– act is less offensive than it appears 0 (0) 20 (100) 25. Transcendence Â– act is negative, but other vital consideration at stake 1 (5) 19 (95) 26. Attack accuser Â– reduce credibility of accuser 0 (0) 20 (100) 27. Compensation Â– reim burse victims and affected persons 0 (0) 20 (100) 28. Corrective action Â– plan in place to solve and prevent reoccurrence 15 (75) 5 (25) 29. Mortification Â– take responsibility and apologize for action 4 (20) 16 (18) 30. No tactic 0 (0) 20 (100) The results indicated that the most preval ent image restoration tactics the military used were corrected action (75%), bols tering (65%), defeasibility (40%), and mortification (20%). The tactics least used were shifting the blame (10%), denial (5%), provocation (5%), and transcendence (5%). Ta ctics not employed at all were accident, good intention, minimization, differentiation, attacking accuser, and compensation.
54 Image restoration tactic s in newspaper stories Table 14 shows which image restoration tact ics appears in newspaper stories. In this table all military news releases were treated as missing data. Table 14. Image Restoration Tactics in Newspaper Stories. Variable Yes (%) No (%) 31. Simple denial Â– did not perform the act 12 (5.8) 196 (94.2) 32. Shifting the blame Â– act perfor med by another 28 (13.5) 180 (86.5) 33. Provocation Â– responded to ac tion of another 0 (0) 208 (100) 34. Defeasibility Â– lack of information or ability 47 (22.6) 161 (77.4) 35. Accident Â–act was uninten tional mishap 1 (0.5) 207 (99.5) 36. Good intentions Â– meant well in doing the act 0 (0) 208 (100) 37. Bolstering Â– stress good traits 44 (21.2) 164 (78.8) 38. Minimization Â– act is not very serious 5 (2.4) 203 (97.6) 39. Differentiation Â– act is less offensive than appears 1 (.5) 207 (99.5) 40. Transcendence Â– act is negative, but other vital consideration at stake 12 (5.8) 196 (94.2) 41. Attack accuser Â– reduce credibility of accuser 4 (1.9) 204 (98.1) 42. Compensation Â– reimburse victims and affected persons 2 (1.0) 206 (99) 43. Corrective action Â– plan in place to solve and prevent reoccurrence 81 (38.9) 127 (61.1) 44. Mortification Â– take re sponsibility and apologize for action 24 (11.5) 184 (88.5) 45. No tactic (no military comment) 63 (30.3) 145 (69.7) The results indicated that the most preval ent image restoration tactics found in the newspaper stories were corrective action (38.9%), defeasibility (22.6%), bolstering (21.2%), shifting the blame (13.5%) and mortif ication (11.5%). The tactics least used were accident (.05%), differentiation (.05%), compensation (1.0%), attack the accuser (1.9%), and minimization (2.4%), transcende nce (5.8%) and simple denial (5.8%) Two tactics not mentioned at all were provocation and good intentions. In 30.3% of news stories, no military comment or tactic was recorded.
55 Chi Square Correlations Relationship between story balance and type of attack To determine the effect of a type of atta ck on story balance, Variable 6 (Balance) was cross-tabulated with Variable 15 (Attack ). The correlation produced a statistically significant relationship betw een the two variables ( 2 df=6 =70.848,p<.001). To determine where the statistical significan ce was, the expected count for each cell was examined. If a cell offered a count larger than the expected co unt, the results from that cell were deemed significant. In the case of positive stories the actual count was lower than the expected count in every case, indicating a lack of significan t correlation. In 40% of negative stories an individual would be attacked. In 34.3% of negative stories the organization would be attacked. There was not a statistically signi ficant correlation between negative stories and attacks on policy because the expected count was higher than the actual count. The only statistical significance between balanced st ories and attacks were when policy was attacked (30.4%). Table 15. Statistically Significant Corre lations between Balance and Attack. Type of Attack Story Balance % of occurrences where individual, was attacked % of occurrences where policy was attacked % of occurrences where an organization was attacked Positive ---Negative 40.0 -34.3 Balanced -30.4 -
56 Relationship between story balance and stance To determine the effect of a proactive or reactive approach by the Air Force on story balance, Variable 6 (Bal ance) was cross-tabulated with Variable 14 (Stance). The correlation produced a statistically significan t relationship between the two variables ( 2 df=4 =79.722,p<.001). To determine where the stat istical significance was, the expected count for each cell was examined. If a cell offe red a count larger than the expected count, the results from that cell were deemed significant. In the case of positive stories the actual count was higher than the expected count in the case of a proactive reaction by the military, indicating a significant correlation. In 90% (n=36) of cases, proactive action yielded a positive story. In 61.1% (n=44) of cases a reactive stance would yield a negative story. Balanced stories were evident in 42.4% (n=39) of proactive actions. In 38.0%(n=35) of cases where no reactive strategy could be determined, stories were also balanced. Table 16. Statistically Significant Corre lations between Balance and Reaction. Type of Reaction Story Balance % of Proactive Cases % of Reactive Cases % of Undetermined Cases Positive 90 --Negative -61.1 -Balanced 42.4 -38.0
57 Relationship between story balance and issue stage To determine the effect of the stage of crisis had on story balance, Variable 6 (Balance) was cross-tabulated with Variab le 2 (Month). The correlation produced a statistically significant relations hip between the two variables ( 2 df=6 =20.978,p<.01). February and March, the first two months of the crisis, yielded negative stories. Of the stories yielded in February, 20.3% (n=15) were negative. In March, 55.4% (n=41), were negative. In c ontrast, the only statistically si gnificant results in April and May were between positive story balance a nd crisis stage with 48.8% (n=20) positive stories in April and 14.6% (n=6) positive storie s in May. In April, 28% (n=26) and in May 18.3% (n=17) of the storie s appearing were balanced. Table 17: Significant Correlations between Balance and Issues Phase. Phase Story Balance Feb % of cases (n) March % of cases (n) April % of cases (n) May % of cases (n) Positive --48.8 (20) 14.6 (6) Negative 20.3 (15) 55.4 (41) --Balanced --28.0 (26) 18.3 (17) Relationship between story balance and sour ce of quote (PA, Senior leader, etc) To determine the effect that the source of quotes had on story balance, Variable 6 (Balance) was cross-tabulated with several va riables relating to type of spokesperson. There was a statistically significant relati onship between story balance and when the victim of assault was quoted. The correla tion produced a statistically significant
58 relationship between the two variables ( 2 df=2 =19.952,p<.001). The expected cell count indicated that in 71.4 % of cases (n=20) when the vi ctim was quoted, the story was negative. The story was positive in 22.8% (n=41) and balanced in 47.2% (n=85) of cases when the victim was not quoted. There was a statistically significant rela tionship between story balance and when an Air Force member was quoted. The correl ation produced a stat istically significant relationship between the two variables ( 2 df=2 =6.306,p<.05). To determine where the statistical significance was, the expected count for each cell was examined. If a cell offered a count larger than the expected count the results from that cell were deemed significant. In 32.6% (n=14) of cases when an Air Force member was quoted, the story was positive. The story was negative in 35.4% (n=58) and balanced in 48.2% (n=79) of cases when an Air Force member was not quoted. There was a statistically significant rela tionship between story balance and when a legislator was quoted. The co rrelation produced a statistica lly significant relationship between the two variables ( 2 df=2 =20.958,p<.001). In 42.2% (n=43) of cases when a legislator was quoted, the stor y was negative, and was balanc ed in 51.0% (n=52) of cases. The story was positive in 32.1% (n=34) of cases when a legislator was not quoted. There was a statistically significant rela tionship between story balance and when an advocate for the assaulted was quoted. Th e correlation produced a statistically significant relationship betw een the two variables ( 2 df=2 =6.972,p<.05). In 50.0% (n=18) of cases when an advocate was quoted, the story was negative. The story was positive in 22.7% (n=39) and balanced in 44.8% (n=77) of cases when an advocate was not quoted.
59 Relationship between story balance and newspaper placement There was a statistically significant relati onship between Variable 6 (Balance) and Variable 7 (Placement of the Story). The co rrelation produced a sta tistically significant relationship between the two variables ( 2 df=6 =13.660,p<.05). In 37.8% (n=28) and 40.5% (n=30) of cases a story was negative wh en it was placed on the front page or in section 1 of the newspaper, respectively. In 39.0% (n=16) and 41.5% (n=17) stories were positive when they were placed in section A or the local/metro sections, respectively. Stories were balanced in 38.7% (n=36) of cases when they were in the local/metro section. Relationship between story balance and strategies There was a statistically significant relati onship between Variable 6 (Balance) and variable 34 (Defeasibility) ( 2 df=2 =6.974,p<.031). In 48.9% (n=23) of cases, stories were negative when defeasibility was used as a strategy. There was a statistically significant relati onship between Variable 6 (Balance) and Variable 37 (Bolstering) ( 2 df=2 =23.757,p<.001). In 45.5% (n=20) of cases, stories were positive when bolstering was used as a stra tegy. In 38.9% (n=65) and 47.6% (n=78) of cases, stories were negative or balanced respectively when bolstering was not used. Additionally, a statis tically significant relationshi p was found between story balance and mortificat ion as a strategy ( 2 df=2 =9.107, p<.05). In this instance, mortification produced 25.0% (n=6) of positiv e stories and 58.3% (n=14) of negative stories. When mortification was not used, it produced a balanced story in 48.4% (n=89) of cases.
60 Another statistically signif icant relationship was found between story balance and no tactics as a strategy ( 2 df=2 =10.427, p<.01). In this inst ance, using no discernable tactic produced a balanced story in 60.3% (n=38) of cases. This indicates that strategy an organization being proactive in defens e of itself Â– does influence the outcome (balance) of newspaper stories. Relationship between story balance and tactics Cross-tabulation between Variable 6 (B alance) and Variables 16-30, all tactics employed by the Air Force in their news rele ases, revealed no statistically significant relationships. Due to the small amount of news releases produced by the Air Force for the universe of the study (n=20) a correlation between the news releases and the news articles could not be run because there is no way to discern which releases resulted in which specific news reports. This is a limitation of the study that will be further explicated in Chapter Six.
61 Chapter Five: Discussion The purpose of this study was to determine the image restoration strategies employed by the U.S. Air Force during a crisis situation. The crisis related to a time in which sexual assaults against female cadet s enrolled at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., were alleged to have been committed. As a result, senior Air Force leaders were removed from their comm and and the service itself for failure to Â“exercise the degree of leadership in this s ituation that is expected of commandersÂ” (Air Force Print News, July 11, 2003). The second objective of this study was to advance current image restoration theory by determining whether specific image restoration tactics encourage a positive or negative reporting trend from independent ne wspapers, thus determining the outcomes of tactics proposed in BenoitÂ’s Image Restorati on Theory as applied in this particular situation. The study also aimed to determine whether independent media reacted positively or negatively to the image restoration stra tegies employed in a particular situation. Research Questions and Findings As mentioned, six research questions were posed. Each research question will be discussed in numerical order. It is important to note again that when th e researcher refers to positive, negative, or balanced outcomes and stories, it is in te rms of the perspective of the U.S. Air Force.
62 RQ1: In dealing with the Air Force Academ y sexual assault scandal, did the Air Force employ any image restoration tactics es poused by Benoit? If so, which specific tactics were employed? The research result indicated that the US Air Force employed several of the image restoration techniques found in BenoitÂ’s taxonomy. It specifically id entified those image restoration techniques which were used, how frequently each was used, and whether the effect was positive or negative. The most prevalent image restoration tactics the military used were: 75% corrective action (has a plan in place to solve and prevent action from reoccurring); 65% bolstering (stressing good tra its only); 40% defeasibility (lack of information or ability); and 20% mortifica tion (take full responsibility and apologize for action). The tactics least used were 10% shif ting the blame (act was performed by another, not us), 5% denial (did not perform the act at all), 5% provocation (responded to act or action of another,) a nd 5% transcendence (act is negative, and they did it, but vital considerations are at stake). Tactics not employed at all were accid ent Â– act was unintentional; good intention Â– meant well in doing the act; minimizati on Â– the act is not serious or wrong; differentiation Â– act is much less offensive than it appears; attacking accuser Â– reduce the credibility of the accuser; and compen sation Â– reimburse affected persons. Chi Square correlations between story ba lance and type of image restoration strategy yielded several statis tically significant relationships. There was a statistically significant relationship between Variable 6 (Balance) and Variable 34 (Defeasibility)
63 ( 2 df=2 =6.974,p<.031). In 48.9% of cases, stories were negative when defeasibility was used as a strategy. There was also a statistically signifi cant relationship between Variable 6 (Balance) and Variable 37 (Bolstering) ( 2 df=2 =23.757,p<.001). In 45.5% of cases, stories were positive when bolstering was used as a strategy. In 38.9% and 47.6% of cases, stories were negative or balanced, respectively, when bolstering was not used. Another statistically sign ificant relationship was found between Variable 6 (Balance) and Variable 44 (Mortification) as a strategy ( 2 df=2 =9.107, p<.05). In this instance, mortification produced 25.0% of positiv e stories and 58.3% of negative stories. When mortification was not used, it produced a balanced story in 48.4% of cases. Another statistically sign ificant relationship was found between Variable 6 (Balance) and Variable 45 (No tactics used) ( 2 df=2 =10.427, p<.01). In this instance, using no discernable tactic produced a balanced story in 60.3% of cases. RQ2: Is a proactive or reactive approach by the Air Force more effective in securing a positive or balanced news story? The study confirmed prior research (Beno it, 1995a) that indicated a proactive approach by an organization in employing imag e restoration tactics is more effective in securing a positive or balanced news story than a reactive approach. A Chi Square correlation was performed on two variables Â– Variable 6 (Balance) and Variable 14 (Stance). As defined earli er, stance indicates whether the organization acted proactively, reactively, or undetermined, as interpreted by trained coders. The correlation revealed that in 90.0 % of cases (n =36), when the organization was proactive, the story was positive. Cross-tabulation also revealed that in 61.1 % of cases (n=44), the
64 stories were negative when the organization was found to be reactive. Additionally, in 42.4 % of cases (n=39), the story was balanced when the organization was proactive. RQ3: What is the relationship between story balance and issue stage? Research in this study indicated a str ong correlation between story balance (found in news reports) and issue stag e. Issue stage, as it relates to this study, can be defined as the point in the crisis that a particular action is taken Â– earl y, middle, or late. As described earlier, the universe of this study is limited to the months of Febr uary, March, April and May of 2003. Frequencies demonstrated that at the earliest stage of the crisis, when very few image restoration technique s were being applied, the stor ies were mostly negative. Cross tabulations produced a statistically significant correlation between two variables Â– Variable 6 (Balance) was cros s-tabulated with Variable 2 (Month) ( 2 df=6 =20.978,p<.01). The earliest stage of the crisis yielded primarily negative stories, while later stages, after image restoration techniques were applied, yielded more positive and balanced news stories. February and March, the first two months of the crisis, yielded negative stories. Of the stories yielded in February, 20.3% (n=15) were negative. In March, 55.4% (n=41), were negative. In c ontrast, the statistically significant results in April and May were between positive story balance and crisis stage with 48.8% (n=20) positive stories in April and 14.6% (n=6) positive stories in May. In April, 28% (n=26) and in May 18.3% (n=17) of the stories ap pearing were balanced. Additionally, 57.3% of stories were produced in the first two months, February and March, the first half of th e crisis period. Only 41.7% of the total number of stories
65 from the defined universe were produced in the final two months (April and May), the last half of the crisis period. These statistics demonstrate the validity of timely application of image restoration techniques. For example, the Air Force was late to engage the media on this topic, thereby resulting in more negative stories at the beginning of the crisis. Once the Air Force did engage the media more actively, the crisis was already at a high point of media saturation, making it more difficu lt to get their key messages out into the media, or more importantly, to get their side in print and into the public Â’s mind for consideration. In the initial stages of the crisis (Feb ruary), the Air Force took little action to defend itself, thus, most of the stories were negative. As the st ory gained momentum (March and April), and more negative storie s appeared, the Air Force was prompted into action (response). Thus, stories became more balanced. As the story waned (May), the Air Force was able to get its message heard, and stories became more balanced, and even positive in some cases. Although specifically app licable only in this case, this data is generalizable to public relations practitio ners. It demonstrates that the earlier an organization rises to defend itself, the better ch ances it has in minimizing damage to its reputation. RQ4: What were the most effective sources used by the Air Force to garner positive images in independent news stories? This study yielded conclusive results regarding the most effective quoted sources to garner positive images in the news media. Chi Square correlations between story balance and source of quote were conducted, and a statistically significant correlation was found between several of those variables.
66 One such correlation was found between story balance and a victim of sexual assault being quoted. The corr elation showed that in 71.4% of cases when a victim of assault was quoted, the story was negative. The story was positive in 22.8% and balanced in 47.2% of cases when the victim was not quoted. Additionally, there was a statistically significant relationship between story balance and an Air Force member being quoted ( 2 df=2 =6.306,p<.05). In 32.6% of cases when an Air Force member was quoted, the story was positive. The story was negative in 35.4% and balanced in 48.2% of cases when an Air Force member was not quoted. Thus, from an Air Force perspective, it was signifi cantly better for the organization to be quoted by one of its own members than not in terms of positive or balanced news coverage. This demonstrates high le vels of involvement and accountability. There was also a statistically significant relationship between story balance and when an elected legislator was quoted ( 2 df=2 =20.958,p<.001). In 42.2% of cases when a legislator was quoted, the st ory was negative, and it was balanced in 51.0% of those cases. The story was positive in 32.1% of cases when an elected legislator was not quoted. Another statistically signif icant relationship was found between story balance and when an advocate for the assaulted was quoted ( 2 df=2 =6.972,p<.05). In 50.0% of cases when an advocate was quoted, the story was negative. The story was positive in 22.7% and balanced in 44.8% of cases when an advocate was not quoted. These statistically significant relationships demonstrate that it is overwhelmingly better to have someone from the organization in crisis speak than to have no speak at all, if the goal is to gain positiv e or balanced news coverage.
67 RQ5: Which tactics, or combination of tac tics, were most successful in securing a positive image of the Air Force in the media during the crisis? Despite no dearth of descriptive statis tics coded in the study, no statistically significant relationship were found between the variables of Air Force image restoration tactics and story balance. This was due to the finite number of releases produced by the Air Force in the universe of this study (n=20). There were simply too few releases in each category of image restoration techniques. It was also not possible to run a correlat ion between image restoration tactics used and image restoration tactics reported on b ecause it was impossible to determine what story coverage resulted from specific news rele ases. However, closer investigation of the frequencies show that 12 of the 14 image restoration tactics Benoit describes in his taxonomy do appear in the newspape r stories covering the crisis. The most prevalent image restoration tactics found in the newspaper stories were corrective action (38.9%), def easibility (22.6%), bolstering (21.2%), shifting the blame (13.5%) and mortification (11.5%). The tac tics least used were accident (.05%), differentiation (.05%), compensation (1.0%), at tack the accuser (1.9%), and minimization (2.4%), transcendence (5.8%) and simple denial (5.8%), while two tactics Â– good intentions and provocation Â– were not used at all.
68 Table 18. Tactics Found in Newspaper Stories, in Descending Order. Tactic n (%) Corrective action Â– plan in place to solve and prevent reoccurrence 81 (38.9) Defeasibility Â– lack of information or ability 47 (22.6) Bolstering Â– stress good traits 44 (21.2) Shifting the blame Â– act performed by another 28 (13.5) Mortification Â– take re sponsibility and apologi ze for action 24 (11.5) Simple denial Â– did not perform the act 12 (5.8) Transcendence Â– act is ne gative, but other vital considerations at stake 12 (5.8) Minimization Â– act is not very serious 5 (2.4) Attack accuser Â– reduce credibility of accuser 4 (1.9) Compensation Â– reimburse victims 2 (1.0) Differentiation Â– act is less offensive than appears 1 (.5) Accident Â–act was unintentional mishap 1 (.5) Provocation Â– responded to action of another 0 (0) Good intentions Â– meant we ll in doing the act 0 (0) RQ6 : Which factors affect story balance? Several factors have been shown through this study to affect story balance, including stance (proactive or reactive), source of message from organization (spokesperson, senior leader, member of orga nization), issue stage (how early in the crisis the organization responds), and tactics used by an organi zation in defense of itself. Other factors that were examined for co rrelations to story balance in this study include newspaper story placement (front page, in side, local section,); type of attack by newspaper, i.e. which source was attacked Â– an individual in the or ganization, a policy of the organization, or the overall organization itself; and length of story, as relating to word count per story. As discussed in Chapter Four, there was a statistically significant relationship
69 between Variable 6 (Balance) and Variable 7 (Story Placement). In 37.8% (n=28) and 40.5% (n=30) of cases, a story was negative when it was placed on the front page or in section 1 of the newspaper, respectively. In 39.0% (n=16) and 41.5% (n=17) stories were positive when they were placed in section A or the local/metro sections, respectively. Stories were balanced in 38.7% (n=36) of cases when they were in the local/metro section. In the case of positive stories the actual count was lower than the expected count in every case, indicating a lack of significant correlation. In 40% of negative stories an individual would be attacked. In 34.3% of negative stories the organization would be attacked. There was not a statistically si gnificant correlation betw een negative stories and attacks on policy because th e expected count was higher than the actual count. The only statistical signif icance between balanced stories a nd attacks were when policy was attacked (30.4%). Lastly, Chi Square correlations found no statistically signifi cant relationship between story balance and le ngth of story (word count.)
70 Chapter Six: Conclusions Image restoration theory is an important area of research with many implications for both mass communications and public re lations. As the economies of the world continue to globalize, and with world-wide communicati on happening in real time, companies and organizations realize that commun ication to a variety of publics is critical to thrive and survive. At no time is communication more important for an organization than in time of crisis. The subject of crisis communication is well-researched and plentiful Â– so much so that most public relations practitioners are well-versed in seeing exactly how an organizationÂ’s reputation can be damaged be fore it actually happens. Indeed, public relations managers can usually predict with great accuracy, very early in a developing crisis, how an organization will ultimately be impacted on several fronts by that very crisis. Each front, however, can in almost all cases lead back to a single issue Â– reputation. Implications for Public Relations In the review of literature for this st udy, researchers all agreed that corporate apologia was descriptive, but many argued whet her or not it could al so be prescriptive. Building on BenoitÂ’s image restoration th eory, this study attempted to further theory-driven public relations research by taking a methodological approach towards establishing prescriptive measur es for use by practitioners of image restoration. It is
71 important to note that while the results of this study are only ge neralizable to this specific case, the implications are broad for image re storation theory, and deserve further study. Six research questions were posed in this study. Each research question has been answered in chapters 4 and 5. From those que stions and their respec tive answers, five main findings arose. They are id entified and extrapolated below. First Finding: The Air Force did use several of BenoitÂ’s Image Restoration Tactics, including corrective action, bolstering, defeasibilit y, mortification, shifting the blame, denial, provocation and transcendence. Largely self-explanatory, this is important because it demonstrates a classic case of how an organization in cr isis reacts. Whether cognizan t or not, the U.S. Air Force applied not one, but several image restoration tactics Â– some more than others, and each at particular times. In fact, several seemed to be used in a type of Â“trial and errorÂ” method Â– particular tactics were applied, and for some reason did not work, which in turn lead to new tactics being applied. It also demonstrates that image restoration for organizations, like individuals, is instinctive. Second Finding: In an overwhelming number of in stances relating to this case, a proactive stance resulted in a positive stor y. Conversely, when the organization was reactive, a majority of the stories were also negative. This finding demonstrates the importan ce of having qualified public relations experts on the staff of almost any organiza tion that cares about its reputation. If an organization wants to impact the messages be ing sent about itself it must proactively seek to provide input to the sender of t hose messages, whether they be journalists, competitors, or dissenters. Failure to proactively shape a message results in a void which
72 another organization or person can exploit to their advantage at your organizations expense. Third Finding: The earlier that information can be released by an organization in defense of itself, the better the chances are that the story results will be balanced or positive in the perception of the organization in crisis. This is arguably the single most impo rtant finding in the study. Too often, organizations believe that if they simply do not react to bad news, the bad news will go away. This research supports the mantra of most public relations professionals Â– bad news does not get better with time Â– le ft alone, it usually gets worse. Fourth Finding: In times of crisis, readers of news stories are most likely to view an organization in a favorable or balanced lig ht when senior leader s of that organization speak on its behalf, as opposed to public relations personnel. Ho wever, it is s till better to have a public relations person or one of its me mbers speak than to have no one speak at all. This finding can have major implications on many organizations who would heed it. For any number of reasons, top leader s of some organizations sometimes fail to engage the media, the public, or their stakeholde rs in times of crisis. Instead, they issue a short press release with minimal detail a nd no opportunities for questions from those interested parties. This finding demonstrat es the importance of putting a human face on a crisis Â– preferably from top leadership itself, but at least from a spokesperson if no one else is available. Failure to engage at all with key publics in times of crisis is certain to be interpreted as guilt and may result in further crisis for an organization.
73 Finding Five: Several factors affect story balanc e, including stance (proactive or reactive), source of message from organizati on (spokesperson, senior leader, member of organization), issue stage (how early in the crisis the orga nization responds), and tactics used. Relating to this study, story balance is important because it correlates to how effectively the organization is mounting its defe nse. It is helpful to know with a degree of certainty which factors aff ect story balance so that pract itioners can then aim their efforts most effectively at those that will garn er results Â– especially when time is of the essence as it so often is during a crisis. One final, major implication of the st udy is that it aids practitioners in determining cause and effect as relating to im age restoration tactics. Practitioners who subscribe to the tactics espoused by Benoit can, through this study and many case studies like it, gain a reasonable e xpectation of what may happen when a particular topic is applied, or not applied. Taken wholly in context, this data comb ine to indicate exactly what the Air Force could have done to improve its chances of success in reaching its goal of garnering additional balanced or positive (from its own perspective) news stories. The data show that a perfect scenario for the Air Force woul d include the following: an early start on its own defense, meaning an immediate response (n ot waiting days or weeks after the attacks began to defend itself); a proactive approach by the Air Force to provide information; participation by senior leaders as spokespers ons, and when that is not possible, using public relations people to respond to questi ons and act as the or ganizationÂ’s primary spokesperson; and the appropr iate use of image restoration tactics by the Air Force,
74 including in this case mortification (in real ity, this tactic was used sparingly and much too late), corrective action and bolstering (bot h used with frequency and some success in this instance.) Continuing with the perfect case scenario, the result fo r the Air Force would be coverage inside the newspaper, and off of pa ge one, since the data show that front page coverage was most often negative, and the st ory would be longer than 1000 words, since the data show that longer stories tended to be more balanced than shorter stories. Also, in a perfect case, the defense would be mounted ag ainst an attack on policy versus an attack on an individual or the organiza tion itself, since the data show that in 30.4% of balanced stories, the attacks were against policies of th e institutions rather than against individuals or the institution itself. Las tly, if a victim or advocate of sexual assault was quoted, the data shows that the story was much more likel y to be negative from the perception of the Air Force. It is important to note, however, that while this study can be helpful to the practitioner in telling what to do in the midst of a crisis, it does not help at all in determining how to prevent the crisis in the fi rst place. Thus, helpful as it is, it is not a Â“magic bulletÂ” or cure all for any crisis that ma y arise. It is a usef ul tool with roots in risk communication, issues management, and crisis communication, but it cannot replace or repair problems caused by poor management While it may ease the Â“symptomsÂ” of a crisis, only sound organizational manage ment will actually Â“healÂ” the wound.
75 Study Limitations Although this study has several limitations, it does have broad implications and practicality for several differing fields of study: crisis communication, risk communication, public relations, mass communi cation, and social science. It is important to note that although the results that arise from this study are generalizable only in this particular case, the findings are important and will add voice and weight to both future studies of this subject as well as previous studies which bear similar results, including dozens of case studies conducted by Benoit and various researchers in the past. One significant limiting factor was that, due to the small amount of news releases prepared by the Air Force in it s defense within the parameters of the study (n=20), it was not possible to run a correlation between image restoration tactics used and image restoration tactics reported on in newspapers because it was impossible to determine what story coverage resulted from specific news releases. Additionally, the study is limited by its own parameters. Singular in scope, the study has a well-defined universe, which is a pos itive trait in research, but also leaves the study subject to criticism that different resu lts could arise if add itional variables were introduced. The study could be recreated with additional variables for future research, including different newspapers, a different taxonomy (perhaps Schonbach, who offers a more explicated list of tact ics) and a different organizati on type Â– possibly a business, a non-profit agency, or another bran ch of the U.S. Government. Demographic information gathered through this study remains important despite not producing a significant Chi Square anal ysis. Demographics regarding story placement (where in the newspaper the story appeared) show that in almost all cases,
76 front page news stories on this subject were negative, while stories inside the newspaper tended to be balanced or positive. Also, length of story was an important factor as well, with frequencies and demographi cs indicating that the longer a story was in word count, the more likely it was to be balanced or pos itive in the perspective of the Air Force. Further analysis is warranted on these topics in future studies. Another limitation of the study is that only one medium was studied Â– that of newspapers. In todayÂ’s world, with internet and on-line weblog access at an all-time high globally, communication is getti ng more and more complex. This bears future study to determine if these findings are applicable onl y to newspapers, or to define which media they apply. Studies could be accomplished on television news casts, weblogs, internet news stories, and even radio or podcasts. One important limitation of the study is th at it assumes that the organization has a reputation to begin with. In fact, many prominent public relations researchers argue against the value of reputation to an organi zation. Although some pr actitioners consider the concept of image, or reputation, as valu able, scholars such as Grunig argue against the value of reputation. (Grunig, 2000). For example, each year, a Harris Poll is conducted called Confidence in Major U.S. Institutions In eighteen of the past twenty years, the U.S. Military has led that poll as the U.S. institution that enjoys the great est amount of public confidence. Although the percentage of Americans who feel the military is very competent or competent varies widely from year to year, (ranging from percen tiles in the high 60s to mid 40s), through 2005 it remains highest on the list, above institutions such as clergy, academia, public
77 education, law enforcement, business, industr y, the Supreme Court, and legislators in national and local government. However, if an organization had no reput ation at all Â– and remained perfectly neutral Â– perhaps unknown Â– a similar study may have very different findings. In this case, if the first time that an organization is heard about publicly is during a time of crisis, the impact could be expected to be vastly different. Clearly, the role of existing reputation is one deserv ing of more study. Additionally, further research can be c onducted in this area to determine which tactics were used at which stage of the cris is. This could provide practitioners with valuable information that could be useful in helping them select which tactics are appropriate to use at which specific times. In conclusion, despite these limitations, this study succeeds in marrying theory and practice for the benefit of the practitioner. In todayÂ’s world of high speed electronic media, it is clearly important for an organiza tion to be able to e ffectively get its key messages to the proper target audiences Â– a ta sk that is becoming increasingly difficult with so many venues and messages competing fo r peopleÂ’s attention. A crisis can arise at any time, and these tactics have valuable us e for the practitioner w ho is cognizant of the full array of choices they have in arising to the defense of their organization. Thus, the theory is valid, and is clea rly deserving of further study.
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84 Appendix A: Code Book Code Book This codebook is designed to assist in the process of coding the attached news releases and stories. The releases and stories are to be coded in the precise manner as the codebook reads. Coding Instructions This study will examine news releases and stories regarding the sexual assault scandal at the U.S. Air Force A cademy as produced and distributed by the Department of Defense and/or the U.S. Ai r Force. Additionally, stories printed in various daily newspapers (as detailed in the methodology section of this research) will also be examined. When coding individual releases or stories, you should examine the content carefully. You may write di rectly on the hardcopies of the releases/stories, marking them with pen, pe ncil or a highlighter to identify image restoration tactics.
85 Code Sheet Part OneÂ—General (Nominal) Information To be filled out for each news release/story used for this study. 1.) Indicate if item is military product or independent media product: Military Product 1 Media Product 2 2.) Indicate Original Month of Publication: Month Value February 2003 1 March 2003 2 April 2003 3 May 2003 4 3.) Indicate Length of St ory/Release in Words: Length Value Below 500 words 1 500-1000 words 2 More than 1000 words 3 4.) If Product Is Newspape r Story, Indicate Placement: Front Page 1 Front Section (Section A)2 Local/Metro Section 3 Undetermined 4 5.) If Product Is Newspape r Story, Indicate Source: Denver Post 1 Rocky Mountain News 2 Colorado Springs Gazette3 New York Times 4 Washington Post 5 USA Today 6 Undetermined 7
86 6.) If product is newspaper story, indicate wh ether it casts the U.S. Air Force Academy and its leadership in an overall posit ive, negative, or balanced light: Positive 1 Negative 2 Balanced 3 7.) If product is newspaper story, indicate whic h sources the author cited in the story. Check all that apply, but use only one category per each person, i.e Chief of Staff of the Air Force is a General, yet is al so an Air Force member. You would check only the box for Senior Leader. Sexual A ssault counselor who happened to be an Air Force member would be categorized only as Sexual Assault Counselor, etc: Air Force Public Affairs Spokesperson 1 Air Force Senior Leader (Colonel, General, Secretary of AF) 2 Assault Victim 3 Other Air Force Member 4 Current or Former Legislators (Senator, Congressmen, etc.) 5 Sexual Assault Counselors/Advocates 6 Civilian (Friend, Relative, Academy Alumni, etc) 7 8.) If product is newspaper story, indicate wh ether the story was proactive (initiated by the military) or reactive (military reply/response to media inquiry): Proactive 1 Reactive 2 Undetermined 3 9.) For the given newspaper article, indicate th e MAIN subject of cr iticism or Â“attackÂ” by the author. Select only one: Individual(s) (Commandant, Superi ntendent, AF Secretary, etc) 1 Policy (Sexual harassment policy, etc.) 2 Organization, (DoD, Air Force, Academy, Commission, etc.) 3
87 Part Two Â– Qualitative Data In defining his Image Restoration Theor y, Benoit organized his typology into five distinct categories, three of which have variants or subcategories: denial, evading responsibility, reducing offensiveness, corrective action, and mortification. 9.) For each news release produced by the military indicate which of the following tactics may be found. Please check all that ap ply. Please note that you are checking only for an appearance of the tactics, not the number of times it appears. Simple denial Â– did not perform the act 1 Shifting the blame Â– act performed by another 2 Provocation Â– responded to act or action of another 3 Defeasibility Â– lack of information or ability 4 Accident Â– act was unintentional mishap 5 Good Intentions Â– meant well in doing the act 6 Bolstering Â– stress good traits 7 Minimization Â– act not very serious 8 Differentiation Â– act is less offensive than it appears 9 TranscendenceÂ–act is negative, but ot her vital considerations at stake 10 Attack accuser Â– reduce credibility of accuser 11 Compensation Â– reimburse victims and affected persons 12 Corrective Action plan in place to solve and prevent reoccurrence 13 Mortification take responsibil ity and apologize for action 14 10.) For each newspaper story, indicate whic h of the following tactics may be found. Please check all that apply. Pl ease note that you are checking only for an appearance of the tactics, not the number of times it appears. Simple denial Â– did not perform the act 1 Shifting the blame Â– act performed by another 2 Provocation Â– responded to act or action of another 3 Defeasibility Â– lack of information or ability 4 Accident Â– act was unintentional mishap 5 Good Intentions Â– meant well in doing the act 6 Bolstering Â– stress good traits 7 Minimization Â– act not very serious 8 Differentiation Â– act is less offensive than it appears 9 TranscendenceÂ–act is negative, but ot her vital considerations at stake 10 Attack accuser Â– reduce credibility of accuser 11 Compensation Â– reimburse victims and affected persons 12 Corrective Action plan in place to solve and prevent reoccurrence 13 Mortification take responsibil ity and apologize for action 14