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Image Restoration Theory

William L. Benoit

Subject Communication Studies » Strategic Communication and PR

Key-Topics image

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Image restoration theory – referred to as “image repair theory” in recent literature, to imply that an image might be improved but not completely restored – addresses the question of what a person or organization can say when accused or suspected of wrongdoing. Our reputation is vital both for our self-esteem and because reputation influences how others will treat us. Ken Lay (Enron) and Congressman Gary Condit (who appeared uncooperative in the search for missing intern Chandra Levy) failed to repair their images. Tylenol, on the other hand, did repair its image after its capsules were poisoned. Countries also engage in image repair: Saudi Arabia placed a series of advertisements attempting to distance itself from the 9/11 tragedy (many of the terrorists were from Saudi Arabia, including Osama bin Laden). Clearly, a favorable →  Image is desirable, and tarnished images need repair. Image restoration theory begins by noting that accusations or suspicions have two components: responsibility (blame) and offensiveness. An image is at risk only when an offensive act has occurred and one is believed to be responsible for that act (→  Crisis Communication ). Those accused or suspected of wrongdoing have five general options, which are related to responsibility and offensiveness. Denial argues that the accused is not responsible for the offensive act. A second general option is to ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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