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Fighting a smoky fire: an analysis of Philip Morris's CEO speeches according to image restoration strategies

Maria de Fatima Oliveira (PhD student on the Mass Media and Communication Program, Temple University, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 7 March 2008




This paper seeks to investigate Philip Morris's responses to a decade‐long crisis through the analysis of its CEO's speeches. It also aims to reveal the rich potential of corporate speeches as examples of crisis management strategies.


In total, 67 speeches of Philip Morris's CEO are analyzed using centering resonance analysis. The data are also cluster‐ and factor‐analyzed. Combining quantitative and qualitative examination of the dataset provides a broader understanding of the organization's rhetoric strategies.


Philip Morris's CEO crafted specific frames and image repair strategies to fit different stages of the crisis. The frames and restorations strategies used are, respectively: profitable multinational bolstering, minimization, and attack the accuser (1994‐1996); litigation target, transcendence (1997‐1998); and corporate good citizen, bolstering and transcendence (1999‐2001).

Research limitations/implications

The paper highlights the significance of corporate speeches as a fully controlled form of corporate discourse that reveals strategic frames and communication tactics. Future research should concentrate on comparing such messages with other important actors' discourse.

Practical implications

The paper draws attention to the role of lawyers and other actors in defining crisis management strategies as well as emphasizing that corporate values may not be accepted by the entire society, yet may meet the expectations of specific stakeholders.


This paper combines qualitative and quantitative analysis to investigate a rich source of corporate communication: top management speeches. The study underscores how rhetoric strategies can play for time during crisis, but are limited in changing inherently bad products into socially acceptable ones.



de Fatima Oliveira, M. (2008), "Fighting a smoky fire: an analysis of Philip Morris's CEO speeches according to image restoration strategies", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 4 No. 1/2, pp. 228-245.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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