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

By William N. Elwood | Go to book overview

ing the white proxy cards and motivated the action through the personal choice tactic.


CONCLUSIONS

Whether AT&T could attribute a win at the proxy meeting to a campaign success is questionable. Did AT&T manipulate the news stories and stakeholders' opinions well? Was the desire and belief system already present in the shareholders employed by AT&T to its advantage? Was AT&T's reactive advocacy advertising effective? Based upon its victory at the proxy contest, it would seem so. AT&T effectively defeated NCR, and the merger was underway. Although theoretically AT&T's campaign was rather weak, it produced results. How can this inconsistency be explained? In the initial stages of the campaign, many industry analysts were vying for the merger. One analyst, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal, said, "Take the money and run," and another investor advised, "Don't stonewall, negotiate out a transaction for everyone's benefit" (" AT&T launches," 1990). These analysts may have influenced shareholders' decisions to tender their shares to AT&T. No one wanted to miss out on the deal of the year.

However, a better explanation lies within the structure of owning shares. Many NCR shares were owned by investment firms, and arbitragers may have gotten involved. These two groups have no interest in organizational longevity or commitment; rather, they operate on making the dollar the quickest way possible, which in this case was to capitalize on AT&T's offer. The shareholders were undoubtedly the most important group to target in this event. AT&T had a much easier persuasion task because the belief system was already in place. It simply had to reinforce the belief and to avoid making any major mistakes. However, NCR was faced with the task of changing many opinions and of reassuring some wavering ones. Although NCR put forth a well-developed campaign, it could not undermine the goals of many shareholders. The issue of money overcame any others, and the proxy contest tactic did not lend itself to strong counter-rhetoric. Therefore, in this case, the communication strategies during the merger did not make or break the company. Pietruski, CEO of Sterling Drug, Inc., asserted that, until legislation is passed, more and more deals resulting from investment bankers acting as deal makers and not sound business advisers will occur. Quick profits over the success of the corporation does not create a

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