What consumers really feel about corporate apologies. A discourse analysis of reactions to apologies on economic and financial scandals in tweets


The economic, financial and environmental crises that have involved many international companies over the past twenty years have been the concern of various disciplines, e.g. Genre Studies (Rutherford 2005; Zanola 2010), Critical Discourse Analysis (Howcroft 2012) and Crisis Communication (Coombs and Holladay 2012). Interestingly, the number of studies carried out in these academic areas have paid attention to the linguistic and discursive strategies adopted by managers to persuade their audience to trust them. In particular, they have focused on apologia and apology as activities of trust-building, while neglecting the audience’s actual reactions to corporations’ suasive attempts. These responses are remarkable in blogs, social networks, and other forms of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) genres (Puschmann 2010). Adopting an approach which integrates Computer-Mediated Discourse Analysis (Herring 2001; Androutsopoulos, Beißwenger 2008), Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough 2003; van Dijk 2006) and Pragmatics (Austin 1962; Searle 1975), the paper focuses on the perlocutionary acts enacted in blogs, tweets and user-generated articles that respond to corporate apologies. In particular, it investigates how corporate scandals and wrongdoings are experienced by readers. To achieve this goal, the paper is carried out on a corpus consisting of tweets disputing the Volkswagen (VW) diesel scandal over the period 2015 to 2017. Findings show that customers tend to react with anger, disappointment and irony to the crisis communicative stances enacted by the VW management.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v44p143

Keywords: corporate apology; CMC genres; CDA; pragmatics; tweets.


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