Smith article analyzes MSU’s post-Nassar Facebook strategy
An article co-authored by assistant professor Lauren Smith analyzes Michigan State University’s use of Facebook to repair its image following the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal.
“An Examination of Michigan State University’s Image Repair via Facebook and the Public Response Following the Larry Nassar Scandal,” by Evan Frederick, Ann Pegoraro and Smith, appears in the latest issue of Communication & Sport.
The study found that the Facebook account employed four established image-repair tactics during the sentencing of its team physician, who was found guilty on seven counts of criminal sexual assault: bolstering (highlighting unrelated, positive stories), corrective action (announcing measures being taken to prevent the incident from recurring), rallying (encouraging the public to unite and move past the scandal) and mortification (admitting guilt and apologizing).
While the authors acknowledged that the Nassar scandal was a communication crisis so severe that there is likely no ideal response, they found that MSU’s most engaged-with posts were ones that employed mortification and corrective action tactics.
They concluded that in situations where an organization will be criticized no matter what strategy it uses, appearing apologetic, expressing a willingness to change the organizational culture and rallying current fans to unite are more effective image-repair tactics than denial, evasion of responsibility and reducing offensiveness.