The Gulf Coast Oil Spill: Extending the Theory of Image Restoration Discourse to the Realm of Social Media and Beyond Petroleum

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Mass Communication and Journalism


The explosion of Transocean's Deepwater Horizon, an oil-rig licensed to BP, set in motion a chain of unfortunate events that led to BP's ruptured oil well disgorging millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Since the spill, the corporate image of BP has been severely challenged. The company has used many strategies to preserve and restore the corporate image, and has sought means to mitigate the intensity of the ongoing threat to individuals, businesses, and a delicate ecosystem. Among these means are interacting with individuals and interest groups through social media channels. Benoit's (1995) theory of image restoration discourse posits various strategies corporations use to restore their image during a crisis. The BP crisis presents an opportunity to extend the theories of image restoration to the realm of social media. Results of a content analysis showed that corrective action was the dominant image restoration strategy employed by BP in their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr pages. A high presence of negative emotions revealed that corrective action was not an effective means of swaying public opinion in favor of BP's efforts. Dominant themes in all four social media channels and audience comments in terms of dominant issues and emotions on Facebook and YouTube were also analyzed. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Public Relations Review





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