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Crisis Aftermath: Image Reinvention in Restoring Corporate Reputation and Regaining Stakeholder Confidence

Principal Investigator (PI): Assoc Prof Augustine Pang

Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI): Asst Prof Yeo Su Lin

Collaborators: Nil

Start Date: Nov 2014

End Date: On-going

Abstract: A good corporate image is important to organizations (Benoit & Pang, 2008). Maintaining a good image (Coombs, 1995) helps organizations to recover successfully from crises (Massey, 2004). Pang (2012) argued that thus far, much of the image management strategies offered have been symptomatic and episodic. Rather than reinventing a new image, strategies used have revolved around projecting a new image, softening an image, or boosting an image. Dominant crisis theories such as situational crisis communication theory and image repair theory have only focused on examining communication during crises. What is lacking is a framework to understand what one can do after crises.

Image reinvention is inspired by what Ulmer, Sellnow and Seeger (2007) described as the “new normal”, defined as “a change in an organization’s …approach and belief system for organizing or living” (p. 182). This is based on the idea that image reinvention needs to take place when maintaining status quo is no longer tenable.

Through interviews and instrumental cases analyses, this proposal aims to examine what constitutes image reinvention and how does it differ from image revamp; the exemplars of a successful image reinvention; the strategies used in image reinvention; the differences, if any, in the image reinvention of organizations, prominent individuals, as well as nations and governments; and lastly, the differences, if any, in the image reinvention efforts of Asian versus Western contexts. Through multiple case study designs, the cases are examined for their insights to theory (Stake, 1998), which Yin (1993) argued, is an appropriate initial attempt at theory testing, with the aim of building “analytic generalizations” (Yin, 2003, p. 33) to develop a new theory on how organizations can reinvent image after the crises. This researcher hopes to pioneer a new theory of image reinvention which is a major breakthrough in the field.