In this major research paper (MRP), I analyzed the ways in which rhetorical strategies are used in the construction of corporate public apologies. Organizational reputation management has become increasingly important in the digital age. When companies are criticized or accused of wrongdoing, it is essential to issue a timely and effective response to salvage stakeholder relationships. Speaking from the Rhetorical Tradition, Aristotle demonstrated that the art of persuasion is largely built upon three rhetorical appeals: the appeal to pathos (emotion), ethos (character), and logos (logic). Through methods of coding and rhetorical analyses, I examined 7 corporate public apologies released by high profile companies between 2008 and 2012. I found that corporate public apologies tend to appeal to ethos more than any other means of persuasion. Reflecting good organizational character is therefore, germane to organizations in crisis. Employed the least was the appeal to logos, or logic. I found that this rhetorical strategy was used primarily to strengthen other persuasive appeals such as appeals to emotion or character. Logos, used in isolation, was rare and arguably ineffective.
It is in my opinion that the focus on rhetorical strategies is lacking in public relations literature. To conclude, I made several recommendations to organizations responding to criticisms or accusations of misconduct. These recommendations are to be taken with the understanding that their effectiveness was not considered for this project.