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Table 1 Crisis Response Analytical Framework Based on Hearit’s Corporate Apologia Theory [16, 21, 28, 29]

From: In defense of sugar: a critical analysis of rhetorical strategies used in The Sugar Association’s award-winning 1976 public relations campaign

Crisis Type Definition
Accidents • Due to an act of God or a failure of human interaction with technology • Causes harm to innocents or the environment • Accident victims quickly secure legal counsel to pursue compensation for harms
Product Safety Incidents • Product safety incidents tend to coalesce slowly as similar revelations from disparate sources begin to surface • Cause rooted in design flaws • Victims likely represented by legal counsel
Scandals and Illegalities • Controversial or illegal activities that are likely to bring social sanction
Social irresponsibility • An organization is accused of having committed acts that are incongruent with current social values
Crisis Response Type (Stance) Definition
Denial • An organization maintains that it has done nothing wrong. • A variant of this strategy is used by organizations that cannot deny committing but can deny intent.
Counterattack • An offshoot of denial, an organization seeks to deal with the problem of its guilt by first denying the act and then directly attacking its accuser, claiming that the charges are false or come from malicious intent • The use of such a strategy reverses the direction of the exchange is reversed in that the accused takes the moral high ground position of the accuser, and seeks to put the interrogator on the defensive
Differentiation • Organizations seek to distance themselves from their wrongdoing by attempting to redefine it, explain it, account for it, or justify it • The idea in doing so is that once key publics understand what happened, they will be less likely to condemn the organization and its actions. Such a strategy usually acknowledges some guilt, but often seeks to explain it away
Transference • Organizations seek to achieve absolution by transferring it to another – scapegoating • The company is able to locate guilt, not in the company as a company, but instead in the actions of a few individuals, thus repairing the company’s social persona
Apology / Corrective Action • Organizations deal with their misconduct by acknowledging it and confessing responsibility • Often coupled with a strategy of corrective action • Although some companies honestly and forthrightly issue a direct apology for their wrongdoing, most tend to release a statement of regret whereby they apologize for the harm that resulted but are careful not to assume responsibility
Legal • An organizations accused of wrongdoing says nothing publicly, but instead takes a private, legal strategy, whereby they seek legal absolution of their guilt and ignore public concerns
Dissociation Types Definition
Appearance / Reality • An institution argues that there “appears” to be a perception that it is guilty of the alleged transgression • Asserts that the “true facts” reveal that in reality the organization is a law-abiding company that is not guilty of the alleged wrongdoing
Knowledge / Opinion • Challenges the validity of the charges by redefining them as groundless • Asserts that critics’ claims are mere opinions and do not represent fact, thus bifurcating the previously unitary charge
Group / Individual • A division is made by which guilt is transferred from the many to the one
Act / Essence • Argue that although the act was committed, it was in no way representative of the essential quality of the company’s nature
Ethical Forms of Communication Definition
Truthfulness • An apologia should be characterized by a disclosure of useful information and not omit key facts that, when revealed, would fundamentally change how others view the apologist’s actions • An individual or an organization caught in a crisis should not engage in deception. If an apologist chooses to lie, such a choice should only be made as a last resort and then only for reasons that would survive public scrutiny—of which there are very few
Sincerity • An individual or an organization must demonstrate a good-faith effort to achieve reconciliation • Must be rooted not just in operational performance but also in communicative performance • Must show evidence of a true desire to reconcile with offended stakeholders, rather than acting in such a way that it is evident that the apologist’s only desire is to escape from the media glare
Timely • Performed as soon as the offender recognizes the offense
Voluntary • It must be performed without actual or anticipated coercion • Communicates a sincere desire to reconcile, rather than an opportunistic attempt at damage control
Addresses all stakeholders • Must speak to the concerns and interests of all parties who have been offended
Appropriate context • Concerns the appropriateness of the site, location, or medium chosen