Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication Studies


Communication Studies

First Reader/Committee Chair

Brian Heisterkamp


This study utilizes William Benoit’s Image Repair Theory to frame the dominant crisis communication strategies that fast food chain Chick-fil-A (CFA) employed before, during and after their CEO mixed his personal opinion on social issues with corporate policy in June 2012. The thematic analysis draws from three distinct data sets that include 3,900 Facebook comments posted by the general public on CFA’s social media page, 32 individual Atlanta Journal-Constitution news articles that address the debate and CFA’s public response to the crisis titled “Who We Are.” This thesis aims to identify both the dominant themes in Facebook posts and the news articles, as well as how these themes are situated within Benoit’s Image Repair Theory.

Research shows that CFA representatives utilized eight of Benoit’s 14 strategies to address their CEO’s comments on gay marriage in an attempt to salvage their reputation. The transcendence strategy was used more than any other throughout the crisis. The thematic analysis of Facebook comments showed that religion and loyalty were the most addressed theme within social media users’ posts on the company’s page. Research also shows that a national boycott initiated against CFA by the LGBTQ community did not hurt the company, but may have helped to spur brand recognition and overall sales.

Another pertinent question arose during this research; did company representatives purposely forgo sharing their 2011 and 2012 tax documents that prove they had already stopped contributing to supposed anti-gay organizations more than a year before the controversy arose? Was CFA benefiting from the crisis to such an extent that they strategically remained silent and allowed the misconception to take place when they could have ended the crisis and shown proof?