Is Breaking Up Hard to Do?: Strategic Communication Efforts Surrounding American Idol’s Loss of Paula Abdul


  • Sarah MacDonald Pepperdine University
  • Emily S. Kinsky West Texas A&M University
  • Kristina Drumheller West Texas A&M University


reality television, Fox, Paula Abdul, Twitter, social media, image restoration, celebrity, strategic communication


The reality show American Idol has made its way to the top of television ratings in nearly all of its 11 seasons to date. However, a challenge came with the departure of original Idol judge Paula Abdul after unsuccessful contract negotiations in 2009. During the crisis, social media were filled with rumors and comments from disgruntled Abdul fans. This case study examines the strategic communication efforts of American Idol producers during this crisis. Image restoration methods by the producers are examined and suggestions are made for future similar crises.