A Content Analysis of the Crisis Communication Strategies by Chipotle Mexican Grill
Towards the end of 2015, Chipotle Mexican Grill faced a series of E. coli outbreaks that sickened over two hundred customers across the United States. This research investigates what frames were used, how corporate social responsibility was communicated during the outbreaks and how brand loyalty changed. Using the Image Restoration Theory, this study analyzes Chipotle’s crisis communication in three ways: a framing analysis of press releases, content analysis and collection of social media posts. The findings revealed that six frames were discovered but the most frequent frames were business development, marketing initiative, or official report frames. Additionally, Chipotle communicated their CSR programs in gaming applications, giveaway campaigns and concerts after the outbreaks. Lastly, majority of the comments on social media sites were cognitive suggesting that consumers expected more explanations why the outbreaks occurred from Chipotle. As far as implications, the Image Restoration Theory encourages public relation individuals to examine their audience, decide what is threatening the reputation and determine how the public needs to be persuaded to restore the positive image. Limitations and directions for future research are also addressed.