A Contrastive Study of Image Repair Strategies Between Chinese and English Corporate Apologies

Zhanghong Xu, Shuyu Lin


In the era of globalization, social media have become important communication tools for enterprises in crisis. Corporate apologies are issued via social media to repair the tarnished corporate image, which might affect their survival. However, the way of apologizing varies from language/culture to language/culture. This study aims to investigate how Chinese and English corporate apologies are linguistically presented and to explore how damaged corporate image in different culture is repaired respectively. Under the framework of Benoit’s image repair strategies and CCSARP, and based on quantitative and qualitative analysis of the collected data, this paper makes a contrastive study of Chinese and English corporate apologies. The results show that Chinese and English corporate apologies share great similarities in using the strategies of mortification and corrective actions, while they are different in terms of other specific tactics such as bolstering, good intentions, defeasibility and minimization. It is also found that the denial is the least used strategy by both Chinese and English corporations to repair their tarnished image. Furthermore, they are quite t similar in using IFIDs, while intensifiers and hedges are more frequently employed in Chinese corporate apologies.

Full Text:



Bergman, M. L. & G. Kasper. (1993). Perception and performance in native and nonnative apology. In G. Kasper & S. Blum-Kulka. Interlanguage Pragmatics. New York: Oxford University Press, 82-87

Benoit, W.L. (1995). Accounts, excuses, and apologies. Albany NY: State University of New York Press.

Benoit, W.L. (1997). Image restoration discourse and crisis communication. Public Relations Review, 23, 177-186.

Benoit, W.L.,& Drew, S. (1997). Appropriateness and effectiveness of image repair strategies. Communication Reports, 10(2),153-163.

Benoit, W.L. (2006). Image repair in President Bush’s April 2004 news conferences. Public Relations Review, 32,137-143.

Benoit, W.L. (2014). President Barack Obama’s image repair on HealthCare.gov. Public Relations Review, 40,733-738.

Blum-Kulka, Shoshana, House, Juliane, Kasper, Gabriele, (1989). Cross Cultural Pragmatics: Requests and Apologies: A Cross-Cultural Study of Speech Act Realization Patterns (CCSARP). Ablex Publishing Corporation, Norwood, NJ.

Bradford,J.L.& Garrett,D.E. (1995). The effectiveness of corporate communicative responses to accusations of unethical behaviour. Journal of Business Ethics, 14(11),875-892.

Brazeal,L.M. (2008). The image repair strategies of Terrell Owens. Public Relations Review, 34,145-150.

Brown, P. & Levinson, S. C. (1987). Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Burke, K., (1973). The Philosophy of Literary Form. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Chen, J. (2015). A pragmatic study of Chinese corporate apologies posted on Weibo. Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, China.

Coombs, W.T., & Hollady, S.J. (1996). Communication and attributions in a crisis: An experimental study in crisis communication. Journal of Public Relations Research, 8, 279-295.

Coombs, W.T. (2007). Protecting organization reputations during a crisis: The development and situational crisis communication theory. Corporate Reputation Review, 10(3),163-176.

Coombs, W.T., & Hollady, S.J. (2008). Comparing apology to equivalent crisis response strategies: Clarifying apology’s role and value in crisis communication. Public Relations Review, 34(3), 252-257.

Dai,L.Y. (2016).Genre Features and Negotiation Strategies of Business Letters of Apology on Sina Weibo. Central China Normal University Journal of Postgraduates.23(04):87-93+115

Fisher Liu,B. (2007). President Bush’s major post-Katrina speeches: enhancing image repair discourse theory applied to the public sector. Public Relations Review, 33, 40-48.

Fan,Z.M.(2018).A contrastive study of genre analysis of Chinese and American corporate apologies. Shanxi University of Finance & Economics,China.

Glantz,M. (2010). The Floyd Landis doping scandal: implications for image repair. Public Relations Review, 36, 157-163.

Greenberg, J., & Elliott, C. (2009). A cold cut crisis: Listeriosis, Maple Leaf Foods, and the politics of apology. Canadian Journal of Communication, 34, 189-204.

Hall, E.T.(1976). Beyond culture. Garden City, New York: Anchor.

Hargie, O., Stapleton, K.,& Tourish, D. (2010). Interpretations of CEO public apologies for the banking crisis: attributions of blame and avoidance of responsibility. Organization, 17(6),721-742.

Harlow, W.F.,Brantley,B.C.,& Martin Harlow, R. (2011). BP initial image repair strategies after the Deepwater Horizon spill. Public Relations Review,37, 80-83.

Harris, Sandra, Grainger, Karen, Mullany, Louise, (2006). The pragmatics of political apologies. Discourse and Society, 17(6), 715-713.

He, Q.J. (2012). A cross-cultural analysis of American and Chinese corporate apologies. Fudan University,China.

Jiang,F.& Li,F.(2010). Corporate apology strategy: based on stakeholder theory. Management studies of Sun Yat-Sen University,5(04):54-71

Kampf, Z. (2009). Public (non-) apologies: The discourse of minimizing responsibility. Journal of Pragmatics, 41, 2257-2270

Ki, E.J.,& Nekmat, E. (2014). Situational crisis communication and interactivity: Usage and effectiveness of Facebook for crisis management by Fortune 500 companies. Computersin Human Behavior, 35,140-147.

King,G.III. (2006). Image restoration: an examination of the response strategies used by Brown and Williamson after allegation of wrongdoing. Public Relations Review,32,131-136.

Li Songqing. (2017). Apology as a crisis response strategy: a genre-based analysis of intercultural corporate apologies. International Journal of Linguistics and Communication, 5(1), 73-83.

Lin Zhu, Deepa Anagondahalli, Ai Zhang. (2017). Social media and culture in crisis communication: McDonald’s and KFC crises management in China. Public Relations Review, 43, 487-492.

Scott,M.H.,& Lyman, S.M. (1968). Accounts. American Sociological Review, 33,46-62.

Page,R. (2013). Saying “sorry”: Corporate apologies posted on Twitter. Journal of Pragmatics, 62, 30-45.

So Young Lee, Lucy Atkinson. (2019). Never easy to say “sorry”: Exploring the interplay of crisis involvement, brand image, and message appeal in developing effective corporate apologies. Public Relations Review, 45,178-188.

Samuel L. Clarke, Eric S. Rhodes. (2019). Entrepreneurial apologies: The mediating role of forgiveness on future cooperation. Journal of Business Venturing Insights, 13.

Spencer-Oatey, Helen. (2008). Face, impoliteness and rapport. In: Spencer-Oatey, H.(Ed), Culturally Speaking: Culture, Communication and Politeness Theory. London, 11-47.

Suman, L. & Surin, C. (2012). Corporate apology and crisis communication: The effect of responsibility admittance and sympathetic expression on public’s anger relief. Public Relations Review, 38, 932-934

Ulmer, R.R.,Sellnow, T.L.,& Seeger, M.W. (2007). Effective crisis communication: Moving from crisis to opportunity. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Xu,C.H.& Han,Y.Q. (2018).A study on apology strategies of Chinese enterprise: Based on company apology statements.Advertising Panorama,4,77-86

Ware, B. L., & Linkugel, W. A., (1973). The spoke in defense of themselves: On the generic criticism of apologia. Quarterly Journal of Speech ,59, 273-283.

Wang, M. (2013). Power and Solidarity in Apology: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Apologetic Announcement. Journal of Social Sciences, 32-35.

Wang,X.(2015). The Genre Study of English Corporate Apology Letter.Journal of Hubei University of science and technology,35(07):10-12

Zhang Q. (2018). An analysis of enterprise response strategy based on image repair theory--case analysis of the “rat incident”of Haidilao. Journal of News Research, 9(10):44-45+93.

Zhao,Y.(2013). An analysis of the use of person and the international meaning in apology letter. Journal of Chongqing Three Gorges University,5(29),121-124

Zheng, C.H. (2015). A corpus-based genre analysis of corporate apologies. Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, China

Zhou, R.Q.(2001). Pragmatic analysis of apology strategy in business activity. Foreign Language Education,04,91-94.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.11114/ijecs.v3i1.4817


  • There are currently no refbacks.

International Journal of English and Cultural Studies 

ISSN  (2575-811X)  E-ISSN  (2575-8101)

Copyright © Redfame Publishing Inc.

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the 'redfame.com' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.