Beliebing in Repair


Just over four years ago Justin Bieber began his swift decline. A decline that included DUI, assault and indecency charges coupled with intense media backlash. The teen heartthrob’s quick fame had lead him to riches but this new lifestyle came with consequences.


My research team decided to look at Bieber’s decline from multiple angles. His assault on a limousine driver, his DUI arrest and his obscene behavior of peeing in a bucket.


While no other studies have included all of the image repair crisis’ that we decided to cover, other research has been done on celebrities and athlete’s image repair strategies and their effectiveness.


Other celebrities such as David Letterman, Kate Gosselin, Michael Phelps and Ricky Gervais all faced image crisis’ throughout their fame. David Letterman took heat for comments made toward Sara Palin’s 14-year-old daughter. His initial response attempted to handle the situation through comical denial, but only lead to more backlash from the media. It wasn’t until his second attempt that Letterman applied mortification. His attempt was much more successful than the first but Letterman still had a way to go in repairing his image fully (Compton Miller, 2011).


Similar to Letterman, Ricky Gervais faced negative media responses after his performance hosting the 2011 Golden Globes. Gervais took the performance too far, making jabs and rude comments toward the guests, winners and nominees. The media responded by claiming that his performance overshadowed the rest and not for good reason (Kauffman, 2012, p. 3). He claimed his performance was in response to not taking it far enough the year before, utilizing evasion of responsibility. In an interview with Pier’s Morgan Tonight Gervais used strategies of denial, evasion of responsibility, minimization and lastly mortification. His strategies were not as effective as he had hoped as many didn’t feel his apology was sincere. Since Gervais did not try another attempt with new strategies his image was never fully recovered.


The announcement of her divorce to her husband, Jon Gosselin lead Kate Gosselin into a media spotlight like never before. Their divorce meant their livelihood was in jeopardy, their main income came from their family’s TLC show, Jon & Kate Plus 8. At first Kate presented herself as disheartened and solemn mother just trying to do what is best for her children. Her strategies of evasion or responsibility, attack on the accuser (Jon) and reduction of offensiveness worked to win over the media and painted Kate as the victim. The year following the divorce Kate changed her image repair strategies from victim to a mom seeking fame. Kate’s physical appearance and attitude changed, making it appear that she had put her family on the back burner. This new strategy was met with lots of back lash from the media, unlike her initial response (Moody 2011).


Unlike celebrities Letterman and Gosselin, athlete Michael Phelps responded to negative media coverage regarding marijuana usage with immediate mortification. After a newspaper photo was published showing Phelps smoking marijuana the media attacked Phelps for his poor judgement and character. However, Phelps’s and his sponsors responded with remorse and mortification. Phelps’s sponsors argued that his behavior was due to his age and since it was so out of character they continued to support him (Murphy, 2009). Phelps was able to turn the negative coverage around quickly by admitting he was wrong and promising it would never happen again.


While Benoit’s theory of image repair discourse theory covers a large variety of image repair strategies. Benoit’s strategies include: denial, reduction of offensiveness, evasion of responsibility, corrective action and mortification (Benoit, 1997). Our research showed that many celebrities utilize strategies of denial, reduction of offensiveness and evasion of responsibility. These strategies were often met with similar backlash to the offenses themselves and led most to implementing some form of mortification strategies.


In our study of Justin Bieber we used our previous research of celebrity image repair strategies and Bieber’s social media responses to answer the questions:

  • What strategies did Justin Bieber use to respond to his image repair crisis’ in 2013-2104?
  • How effective were Justin Bieber’s strategies in repairing his image crisis’ in 2013-2014?


To successfully answer our research questions we analyzed and coded Justin’s media responses as well as media coverage of the three incidents. Our academic study analyzed Bieber’s social media presence following the assault charges, from Dec. 29, 2013 – Nov. 2014, which includes two tweets from his manager Scooter Braun, one tweet from Justin, three Instagram posts: two from Justin and one from his father, a video from TMZ, an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, and articles from TMZ, CNN, NY Daily news, The Guardian, People, Huffington Post and ABC News. These three instances were key components of Bieber’s damaged image. Thus our study covered Bieber’s social media responses following the individual instances as well as the news coverage of each instance.


We chose this sample by finding the responses and articles that were closest in time to the incidents. Our group coded and cross coded these samples to ensure that personal bias was not included in the coding of each of our findings. The coding included Justin Bieber’s image repair strategies and examples in addition to media coverage tone and response.


Having been some time past the incidents we can see that Justin has grown to success again. However, we wanted to discover how Justin responded to these particular incidents and if his responses were effective.


We found that Justin and his family’s responses were mainly denial, reduction of offensiveness, evasion of responsibility or not responding at all. Justin’s manager Scooter Braun responded to his limousine assault incident with the following tweet:



Braun’s responses used denial and evasion of responsibility. Similarly, Justin’s Dad responded with an Instagram post that subtly denied the incident by turning the focus on the safety and home life of his son. He posted a picture of Bieber napping next to his younger brother saying Safe and Sound #HomeSweetHome.




Overall Justin’s responses and the responses of his family were separated as follows:


Strategy Tally Percent
Denial 3 18.7%
Evasion 3 18.7%
Reduction 10 62.5%
Corrective Action 0 0%
Mortification 0 0%


Media responses to these incidents varied in tone and amount of coverage but were largely neutral. Many responses criticized Bieber for his continuous run in with the law but attributed it to the amount of fame and fortune that Bieber gained so quickly. Many claimed that these were normal responses of a teen.


Article Tone Percentage
Positive 0%
Neutral 62.5%
Negative 37.5%


Overall the negative coverage combined with Bieber’s tactics of evading responsibility, reducing offensiveness and denial left Bieber with a very negative image. While his image was largely attributed to his young age and fame, many stopped believing that Bieber would recover.


After an examination of all of Bieber’s social media accounts, as well as, those of his manager and family, it can be determined that he mainly used reduction to solve his crisis during the timeframe of our study. This research means that Bieber did not use any corrective action or mortification strategies. This demonstrates that he did not feel, or did not want to admit that he felt, in any way in the wrong for his actions. He wanted the issue to mostly just go away and for people to focus on other things. He used denial and evasion each 18.7 percent of the times and then reduction the remainder of the time at 62.5 percent. These results mean that Bieber and his team did not initially take responsibility for the situations that occurred and they were expecting people to simply look past the occurrences.


While his strategies could have been more effective, Bieber’s strengths were found in slightly reducing the offensiveness of his actions by subtly denying and refocusing his audience’s attention elsewhere. Justin’s weakness’ however include not responding immediately, not taking responsibility for his actions and not being viewed in a positive light in any news outlet. These further perpetuated his damaged image.


To make these responses more effective it would have been better for Justin to respond immediately to each crisis and do so in a way that expressed mortification, whether true or not. By hoping his fans would simply overlook his bad behavior his negative image lasted a lot longer. Justin’s social media presence left him very apathetic toward others and presented a selfish famous teen just doing as he pleased.


Our findings correlate with our previous research in the sense that the initial responses by most of the celebrities that we studied was denial or evasion and once those responses were met with negative feedback were they changed to include mortification. It is odd to see how Justin waited so long to apologize of his poor behavior while most other celebrities immediately responded or used mortification rather quickly. While there are not exactly ways to determine the why behind his behavior this study could help other celebrities to know what not to do in an image crisis. Since Bieber is a global star this study could help celebrities around the world.


It is important to consider that we do not have the viewpoint of everyone in our study. We were not able to get every response from the media or everyone tied to Justin. We were unable to get a large sample size due to our time constraints and research abilities.


It would have been helpful to study Justin’s fan’s responses to the events at the time they occurred and later, as many of them are very loyal “belibers.” Further research and surveys could be conducted as far as fan reaction to Bieber’s actions and the implication of these actions for a fan.


Overall, Justin faced the harsh reality of getting rich quick. A sharp increase in fame and fortune is often followed by a quick decline for many celebrities. His lack of immediate response to his actions and incidents with the law led many to wonder if he was actually remorseful for his actions or completely careless.


While we can see that his initial responses were ineffective at repairing his image with time he was able to come back stronger than ever. His purpose album and hit single sorry were received positively for their creative musical talent and for finally responding to his past actions. While his audiences may have shifted over time, Bieber has still grown to be a huge success. Not all celebrities have been able to come back in the same fashion as Justin Bieber. Many have been forever tainted by their poor decision making.


Our research and conclusions about Bieber revealed that the best strategies for quick image repair include mortification, bolstering and reduction of effectiveness. Through these many celebrities have been able to recover their lost reputations.


Ever situation and incident is unique and perceived differently by the audience of celebrities and athletes and for that reason it is hard to fully conclude what is the best strategy for everyone. Benoit’s 30 years of research align with our research in concluding that mortification, bolstering and reduction of offensiveness are all helpful in repairing the damaged image of celebrities and athletes alike.


“Beliebing” in a Comeback

By: Sarah Lindstrom


23-year-old singer and songwriter Justin Bieber, quickly escalated to fame and fortune after his discovery in 2008. His 2009 debut album, My World, led him to a quick riches; however, this quick fame was followed by a quick decline. 2013 was filled with assault, rumors, drugs, parties and a DUI. Justin hit rock bottom.


In July 2013 a viral video hit the internet, showing the pop star peeing in a bucket and yelling obscenities. This video spread like wild fire, and was just the of his run ins with the law.


His behavior outbreaks continued throughout the year. While on tour, marijuana and other prescription drugs were found in his tour bus. Which, Bieber later admitted to abusing these substances.


He was charged with vandalism later that year while on tour in Brazil. Bieber spray painted the side of a hotel in Rio de Janeiro. A few weeks later he was charged with assault after striking a Canadian limousine driver. The assault and vandalism charges continued in to 2013 after two similar instances of Biebers bad behavior came to light.


In January 2014, Justin was arrested after drag racing while under the influence. He faced charges for driving under the influence and resisting arrest.


The teen’s foolish behavior led him to lose a great deal of respect from fans and stars alike. His reckless behavior even led his agent to fear for the teens life. People started to question if Justin could ever repair his image after being in the news almost monthly for poor behavior.


However, in time the teen heartthrob was able to win back the hearts of many and gain a great fan base. 2016 was met with unmatched success for Bieber. He set eight Guinness records, released a new album “Purpose” and has seemed to stay out of the media for foolish behavior.


The question remains, how did he repair his image after such a rock bottom low? The question my team will be trying to answer as we analyze his image repair tactics and the impacts that they made. Sarah Scales and Amanda Wright will be joining me as we try to uncover what made beliebers believe in Bieber again.

Meals and Wheels: Goals & Objectives


By: Sarah Lindstrom



Meeting with Meals and Wheels Waco’s nutrition director, Debbie King, and volunteer director, Laura Ziemer, revealed to our team a need for volunteers.


After assessing Meals and Wheels strengths and areas for improvements we agreed upon a goal to increase and maintain volunteers.


While our goal is rather broad we had to begin with a general idea and then narrow down our goal into smaller more measurable, timely and achievable objectives.


To reach our goal we hope to meet the following objectives:


  1. Increase volunteer rate and retention by 15% by the end of the 2017 calendar year.
  2. Increase the number of Baylor Student volunteers by the end of the 2017 calendar year.
  3. Develop a relationship with Baylor Academic departments to guarantee volunteers for Summer 2017.
  4. Utilize social media to share information about volunteer opportunities and reach younger demographics.
  5. To create greater awareness of what Meals and Wheels Waco offers to the local community through church visits, social media and advertising.


Our objectives are specific and time oriented because we want to be able to measure our effectiveness as well show our achievements over time.


With an increase in clients there also comes a need for increase in volunteers, with the increase in clients being about 15% we would like our volunteer numbers to increase by the same amount in the 2017 calendar year.


Meals and Wheels Waco volunteers tend to be around the same age as their current clients. Many retired individuals like to volunteer in their newfound free time.


While Meals and Wheels Waco loves their volunteers we feel they are missing out on reaching a younger demographic, Baylor University students. Some Baylor students even take classes that require service ours, hours they could be fulfilling through Meals on Wheels.


Unfortunately, many students go home for summer vacation leaving yet another gap in the volunteer to client ratio. However, pairing with the individual departments at Baylor and utilizing professors who live in Waco year round would help to fill in that gap.


Social media is a wonderful way to reach younger demographics and help facilitate interactions with the Baylor and greater Waco community.



Increasing awareness in the Waco community will be another tool to help increase volunteers. Meals and Wheels Waco used to frequent churches in search for volunteers. We want to increase these visits and utilize social media and advertising in the community to booster awareness even more.

Overall, our goals are targeted at gaining a new volunteer demographic while striving to maintain current volunteers.

Dr. Neil’s Study – Millennials Ethical Dilemmas in the Workplace

By: Sarah Lindstrom


Tuesday, Feb. 7, Dr. Marlene Neil shared her recent study with Dr. Bates’ Media Programming class. As a member of PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards Dr. Neil conducted a study find out if millennials felt prepared to face and offer counsel regarding ethical dilemmas in the workplace.


Dr. Neil prefaced her findings from the study by sharing a few previous studies about academic integrity and questionable decisions. One study she shared stated that 80 percent of students had cheated at some point in their academic career and that the PRSA code of ethics did not greatly impact them. Two other studies said that millennials, even with and understanding of PRSA’s ethical standards, don’t feel fully comfortable speaking out against unethical decisions.


Neil’s study was focused on millennials perception and response to ethical challenges in their workplaces. Research for the study conducted through an email survey. Surveys were distributed to 800 young PR professionals, PR professionals with under five years of experience in the workplace and born within the Generation Y.


Those who responded were asked questions like:

  • What ethical issues PR practitioners would most likely face in their jobs?
  • What ethical issues have you faced in your career thus far?
  • How likely are you to reach out for counsel when facing ethical issues?
  • Do you feel you could provide ethical counsel?
  • Have you been provided any kind of ethical training?


The results were surprising to Dr. Neil, as a study she performed last year said that 90 percent  of PR practitioners had faced ethical issues in their careers and this study revealed that only 41 percent of millennials thought they would face ethical challenges. Dr. Neil was also fascinated that many of the young PR individuals had faced ethical issues but claimed they didn’t expect to face any.


What was not as surprising was she concluded that millennials felt more comfortable questioning ethical decisions in the workplace when they were familiar with the PRSA code of ethics, had previous training by the employer or in school and when they had a mentor within or outside of work.


Personally I felt the results were pretty similar to how I would feel starting a job in Public Relations. While I do expect to face ethical decisions I would not necessarily feel confident going to a boss I have only been working with for a short time and voicing that opinion. While I don’t believe it is right to present false information to your publics I know in the moment many young PR professionals may be fearful of commenting on the subject. I can see how having a mentor would help to diminish those feelings and help you to feel more confident in the workplace because you have someone with more experience to reach out to. Overall, I enjoyed the findings of Dr. Neil’s study and look forward to hearing more about her new study.

Meals and Wheel Waco: A Nonprofit PR Campaign

By: Sarah Lindstrom

To begin the spring 2017 semester, my team will be helping Meals and Wheels Waco develop a strategic public relations campaign.

After speaking with Meals on Wheels Waco’s Nutrition Director, Debbie King, and Direct of Client Services, Laura Ziemer, we decided to focus our campaign on gaining and maintaining more consistent volunteers.

Waco has a strong community of nonprofit and service organizations, Meals and Wheels Waco is one of many organizations that benefits from the many servant-hearted people in Waco.


Being located in a community that is spiritually and service centered will be a great benefit to developing and implementing a successful campaign to gain more volunteers.

The combination of a 15 percent increase in clients, due to the retiring baby boomer generation, and lack of advertising in the community has created a shortage of volunteers.

In order to implement a successful PR campaign to gain more volunteers we first had to conduct and evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of Meals and Wheels Waco.


Meals on Wheels has both a nationally and locally recognizable name, they been committed to serving the Waco community nutritious meals to older adults for the last 50 years.

While Meals on Wheels has strengths behind its name and funding it lacks consistent volunteers for a number of reasons. Delivery times are from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. making it difficult for working people to volunteer. Volunteers are often seasonal, only coming during the school year. In addition, some volunteers don’t have access to vehicles to transport meals even when they have a desire to serve.

Externally, Meals and Wheels Waco face threats from potential government policies and other local nonprofit organizations that people may want to volunteer for instead of Meals and Wheels. One of the biggest threats Meals and Wheels Waco faces is the baby boomer generation, as more and more individuals from their generation require care the tighter budgets and volunteer needs become.

While there are always areas of improvement in any organization there are many opportunities for Meals and Wheels to capitalize on. The national Meals on Wheels organization is launching a new campaign and rebranding effort that the Waco organization will also be a part of. There are various ways in which Meals and Wheels Waco can get involved with both the Baylor University community and social media platforms. Becoming involved with both the local student and faculty population can be facilitated through the use of social media.

Meals on Wheels America rebranding

Overall, using the opportunities uncovered by our initial research we believe that we can help to solve volunteer problem as well as raise awareness about Meals and Wheels Waco.