The following is a study of the image repair tactics used by Tori Spelling after Dean McDermott’s affair. The study will include media and social media coverage of the scandal. Moreover, it will focus on the couple’s relationship and public image– McDermott’s affair, Spelling’s response, the family’s dynamics and their portrayal in the media.
Meet Tori Spelling & Dean McDermott:
- Actress and author
- Thought she’d inherit more than $800,000 of her father’s $500 million estate
- Shares about living on a budget, dealing with marriage problems, parenting in her books, interviews and reality shows
- Canadian-American actor
- Host of Chopped: Canada
Timeline of Relevant Dates
- July 2005: Reality television stars, Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott, met while filming Mind over Murder in Ottawa. The night they met, they began their affair.
- May 2006: They each left their former spouses and wed. They have four children together. McDermott brought one child from his previous marriage.
- December 2013: Eight years into their marriage, McDermott had a two-day affair with Emily Goodhand. McDermott admitted his transgression to his wife. In a therapy session with Spelling’s trusted therapist, Ann K. Wexler, McDermott revealed he was abusing substances and struggling with suicidal thoughts– both direct results from his remorse for his unfaithfulness.
- Jan. 23, 2014: With Spelling’s support and sympathy, McDermott checked into rehab.
- April 22, 2014: Spelling created the six-segment Lifetime documentary, True Tori, to chronicle the couple’s attempt to mend their broken relationship.
Why do they need image repair?
Although Spelling and McDermott are supported by a group of loyal fans, they’ve received a hefty dose of criticism. Some believe they’ve falsified drama to beef up their show. They each operate their own social media accounts. Their social media presence has occasionally helped them win favor in the public eye, but has also occasionally gotten them into trouble.
- Followers doubting the authenticity of their reality television show have voiced their critical opinions.
- Spelling and McDermott haven’t earned much respect from the public and are at risk of losing their fan base as well.
Recently, McDermott got fed up with criticism from his followers and aggressively renounced his participation in social media.
Literature Review Summary
- Benoit (1995b) Sears’ repair of its auto service image: Image restoration discourse in the corporate sector
- Benoit (2011). NPR’s Image Repair Discourse on Firing Juan Williams
- Benoit (2014) In Accounts, Excuses, and Apologies, Second Edition: Image Repair Theory and Research
- Holdener & Kauffman (2014) Getting out of the doghouse: The image repair strategies of Michael Vick
- Oles-Acevedo, D. (2010). Deny, Delay, Apologize: The Oprah Winfrey Image-Defense Playbook
From our literature review, we developed the following research questions:
- What is mainstream media response to Tori and Dean’s image repair tactics?
- How did audience respond to the couple’s image repair strategy?
- Did the couple’s strategy transfer to traditional media?
- We conducted a general analysis over Spelling and McDermott’s most popular social media posts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) since the affair in December 2013.
- We also looked at their personal websites.
- We looked at the media’s and public’s response to Spelling’s and McDermott’s posts.
How we chose sample: We let the public choose! We looked through their social media profiles and found the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram posts that got the most public response. To keep consistent on social media platforms, we looked at every fifth to sixth entry.
- See how often Spelling and McDermott are mentioned.
- Analyze the content to determine if it helps or hinders the couple’s celebrity reputation.
- Examine the number of times the couple’s social media status was re-tweeted, liked or shared (since October 1, 2014)
Findings & Discussion
Mission/Goal of their social media pages
- Website: “In ediTORIal , I’m sharing all of the ideas, icons, and trends that inspire me, and I’m asking you to tell me what’s inspiring you! I’ll be sharing my personal tips for decorating, entertaining, and developing a unique personal style. Plus I’ll be dishing about relationships and parenting…”
- Her Twitter, Instagram and Facebook don’t have an explicit mission statement– only a short bio.
- Website: “This site serves as a pit stop for dudes and dads of any age who want to talk shop about man-of-the-house stuff—family, relationships, projects, hobbies and living life to the fullest.”
- His Twitter, Instagram and Facebook don’t have an explicit mission statement– only a short bio.
The mass media frames the Spelling-McDermott duo as a dramatic mess. The media is fairly consistent with their social media posts.
Tori & Dean Creative Concept 2
- Limited information about the McDermott-Goodhand affair (unhelpful for our study; helpful for Spelling and McDermott)
- McDermott’s lack of an online presence since his explosion on October 28
- McDermott’s potential withdrawal from reality television
Suggestions for future studies:
- Analyze Spelling’s and McDermott’s personal social media accounts
- Deeply analyze television and print media– most followers will trust the media over Spelling and McDermott
- Measure fans’ responses to the couple’s social media posts and to the media’s coverage of the couple
- Spelling and McDermott remain a couple
- They are publicly working to save their marriage on the reality show True Tori
- McDermott sincerely and publicly apologized to Spelling for his infidelity
- He’s taken full responsibility for his actions
- He checked into rehab for alcohol and drug abuse
- Spelling has accepted McDermott’s apology and has publicly supported his continued recovery from drugs and alcohol
- Using social media to interact with fans:
- Relating to them on a level the humanizes Spelling and McDermott
- Enables them to reach their fans instantaneously at no cost
- The couple uses social media to help create a relationship with their audience
- Content can be controlled if monitored constantly
- When the news broke of McDermott’s affair with Emily Goodhand, initially the couple had no comment. The delay in response bred negative publicity.
- The couple choose to document their marriage crisis on a reality show. Reality television comes with the stigma of a scripted drama. The audience is left to wonder how much of the show is scripted and how much is reality. Everyone has as opinion: supporters will empathize with the couple and naysayers will say it’s all done for ratings.
Changes for Social Media:
- Spelling’s social media presence is strong.
- She continually updates her website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
- She does a great job of engaging her audience with questions and soliciting advice.
- Spelling also hosts live chats on Twitter to promote her reality and television shows.
- Spelling should monitor her accounts closely and interact with audience periodically.
- Her social media platforms state that she’ll interact with her audience in conversation but she rarely follows through.
- Beef up social media presence by actually being present on social media so he can have more control over how he’s perceived.
- Address crisis as soon as possible.
- If you’re guilty, apologize (mortification). Share ways you’re improving your behavior (corrective action).
- Seek endorsement from someone the public respects. Make sure this person is relevant to the crisis.
- Solutions and advice for other celebrities, athletes and politicians are to address the crisis as soon as possible. The longer one waits, the more speculation arises. No one is perfect and the public is forgiving. If you made a mistake, say so.
- Share consistent and concise messages to the media.
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