Public Relations Inquiry as Rhetorical Criticism: Case Studies of Corporate Discourse and Social Influence

Public Relations Inquiry as Rhetorical Criticism: Case Studies of Corporate Discourse and Social Influence

Public Relations Inquiry as Rhetorical Criticism: Case Studies of Corporate Discourse and Social Influence

Public Relations Inquiry as Rhetorical Criticism: Case Studies of Corporate Discourse and Social Influence

Synopsis

Whether politically, socially, economically, or psychologically, postmodern institutions attempt to influence their environments through the use of rhetoric in their public relations campaigns. As corporations increasingly dominate the public discourse we experience daily, it becomes increasingly important to understand how that discourse operates, and to become more informed creators and consumers of institutional rhetoric. This volume examines the theoretical bases and practical effects of a variety of public relations campaigns. The contributors demonstrate that rhetorical inquiry is a viable and underrated approach to explaining the influence of public relations campaigns. Cases analyzed in the book range from those of national scope (e.g., Mobil Oil's "Observations" campaign of the 1970s and 1980s), to studies of targeted influence (e.g., corporate recruitment videos), to cases of internal relations (e.g., issues management during corporate mergers), to studies of local situations (e.g., theanatomy of,a local ballot issue campaign). While the various contributors employ a broad range of rhetorical methods and analysis, the discussions remain approachable and understandable for students and professionals alike.

Excerpt

Those of us from the discipline of communication studies have long believed that communication is prior to all other fields of inquiry. In several other forums I have argued that the essence of politics is "talk" or human interaction. Such interaction may be formal or informal, verbal or nonverbal, public or private but it is always persuasive, forcing us consciously or subconsciously to interpret, to evaluate, and to act. Communication is the vehicle for human action.

From this perspective, it is not surprising that Aristotle recognized the natural kinship of politics and communication in his writings Politics and Rhetoric. In the former, he establishes that humans are "political beings [who] alone of the animals [are] furnished with the faculty of language." And in the latter, he begins his systematic analysis of discourse by proclaiming that "rhetorical study, in its strict sense, is concerned with the modes of persuasion." Thus, it was recognized over 2,300 years ago that politics and communication go hand in hand because they are essential parts of human nature.

Back in 1981, Dan Nimmo and Keith Sanders proclaimed that political communication was an emerging field. Although its origin, as noted, dates back centuries, a "self-consciously cross-disciplinary" focus began in the late 1950s. Thousands of books and articles later, colleges and universities offer a variety of graduate and undergraduate coursework in the area in such diverse departments as communication . . .

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