Category Archives: Book chapter

More responsibility

In many respects an outlier case, but then again perhaps not. While Emerita Heidi von Weltzien Hoivik and I have detailed the history of CSR in Norway previously, we now have a piece together with Caroline Ditlev-Simonsen as lead author. This new text includes a short historical overview, as well as a snapshot of the present landscape. It is included in a new edited volume from the honorable Samuel O. Idowu called Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe. Preprint version



Rhetorical citizenship in the digital age

Soon hitting the streets, the seventh volume of the book series Developments in Corporate Governance and Responsibility. This time the title is Corporate Social Responsibility in the Digital Age, and together with Elisabeth Hoff-Clausen I have a chapter there called “The rhetorical citizenship of corporations in the digital age”.

This is the gist of the chapter: Corporations also have communicative responsibilities towards society, something that is highlighted when applying the conceptual frame of rhetorical citizenship. The prime goal of this paper is to discuss what rhetorical citizenship as a normative aspiration might entail for corporations. From a descriptive perspective, we argue that rhetorical citizenship may appropriately describe the communicative practices that corporations are expected and induced to engage in by publics, not least in social media. While the vernacular discourse on corporations’ Facebook pages might not always resemble typical political deliberation, we consider the act of being present and responsive in social media a form of rhetorical citizenship.

Preprint version

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Social theory as compass

Piet Verhoeven and I continue our crusade to highlight the necessity of using social theories to analyze strategic communication. In the new Routledge Handbook of Strategic Communication, we have extended on our discussion started in Public Relations and Social Theory and Public Relations Inquiry. The chapter is called “Social theories for strategic communication” and we argue that to choose a social theoretical approach by implication means that 1) the domain of research includes the social level, 2) a description of society is sought, 3) key concepts like legitimacy and reflection comes to the fore, 4) key issues for research concerns power and language; and 5) an empirical program based in social constructionism propels communication studies to the 
. Preprint version

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Approved chapter on critical rhetoric

I am truly delighted by having a chapter accepted in the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Critical Public Relations, edited by Jacquie L’Etang, David McKie, Nancy Snow and Jordi Xifra. This promises to be a landmark for the field! My feeble contribution is a chapter that focuses on a particular program for critical rhetoric and discusses its implications for analysis of public relations. While the critical rhetoric project has several strengths, a call is issued to bring back a focus on the agent to create a better fit for analysis of public relations. It is argued that there are, indeed, other critical, but less macro-oriented, perspectives that should be pursued, too. Don’t hold your breath though, publication is not likely to happen before NEXT fall.

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Three chapters on mediatization

The sizeable handbook called Mediatization of Communication (ed. Knut Lundby) has landed. Josef Pallas and I have a chapter in there discussing the mediatization of corporations. We argue that the mediatization of the corporate institution can be observed by looking at the attention devoted to media coverage and the resources that are poured into public relations. Management is often made available to the press and the timing of the media often influences corporate activities. The tools of media relations are themselves examples of mediatization as they are not only adapted to the logic of the news media.

In addition, together with the usual suspects of Kjersti Thorbjørnsrud and Tine Ustad Figenschou, I have a chapter on mediatization of public bureaucracies in there too. The chapter provides an analytical platform for studies of mediatization processes in public bureaucracies. It first discusses how mediatization should be operationalized to be applicable as a theory guiding empirical research on this type of institutions. Second, the chapter proposes key characteristics of potential mediatization processes in public bureaucracies, followed by a discussion of their normative implications.

Another version has been published in Organizations and the Media: Organizing in a Mediatized World (edited by J. Pallas, L. Strannegård & S. Jonsson). Here we provide even more details of the mediatization process in public bureaucracies.

The full references are:

Ihlen, Ø., & Pallas, J. (2014). Mediatization of corporations. In K. Lundby (Ed.), Handbook on mediatization of communication (pp. 423-441). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
Thorbjørnsrud, K., Figenschou, T. U., & Ihlen, Ø. (2014). Mediatization of public bureaucracies. In K. Lundby (Ed.), Handbook on mediatization of communication (pp. 405-422). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
Thorbjørnsrud, K., Ihlen, Ø., & Figenschou, T. U. (2014). Mediatization in new areas: The changed role of public bureaucracies. In J. Pallas, L. Strannegård & S. Jonsson (Eds.), Organizations and the media: Organizing in a mediatized world (pp. 162-175). New York: Routledge.

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While it lasts!

The unstoppable Bob Heath and Anne Gregory have collected articles for the four-volume set Strategic Communication to be published by Sage in October 2014. It’s strictly 175 copies folks, so dig out those USD 880 from your children’s college funds!

I have two pieces included: “How Public Relations Works: Theoretical Roots and Public Relations Perspectives” written together with Betteke van Ruler and “A Public Relations Identity for the 2010s” written together with Piet Verhoeven.Image


An upper hand

As many disciplines seek to understand corporate social responsibility (CSR), the role of communication has been relatively underexplored despite its prevalence in demonstrating and shaping social responsibility positions and practice. Together with Steve May and Jennifer Bartlett, I have singled out four aces we can play. Communication studies alert us to (1) how meaning is constructed through communication, something that has implications for the management of organizations as publics hold different views of CSR and expect different things from them; (2) how a dialogue between an organization and its publics should unfold; (3) how practices of transparency can assist organizations to come across as trustworthy actors; and, importantly, (4) how a complexity view is fruitful to grasp the CSR communication process. These four key themes could be instructive for practitioners who want to argue for and demonstrate the usefulness of strategic communication for the management of CSR and bridge meso and macro levels of analysis. These ideas are fleshed out in a new book chapter called “Four aces: Bringing communication perspectives to corporate social responsibility” that has been published in Ralph Tench, William Sun, Brian Jones (ed.) Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility: Perspectives and Practice (Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability, Volume 6).