Image repair on the political front: an experiment testing effects of communication strategy and performance history in a political faux pas
Sheldon, Catherine Adelle
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A three by two factorial experiment was conducted to test the effects of crisis communication strategy (mortification, bolstering, and corrective action) and performance history (positive and negative) in conjunction with a politician’s faux pas involving racial remarks. Benoit’s image repair theory and Coombs’ dependent measures provided the theoretical and methodological framework for the experiment. In evaluations of a politician’s behavior following racial remarks, strategy and performance history had main effects for several dependent variables, but these effects were independent of one another. Contrary to previous research, performance history was not always a factor in achieving favorable evaluations, and sometimes the communication strategy of bolstering was as effective as mortification. Generally, the corrective action strategy was the least effective. Politicians’ selection of effective crisis response strategies should be based on their specific situations.