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Corporate Communication

Graduate School of Communication

Thesis examples from Kees Smeets and Antje Laenen.

An Introduction to Higher-Order Frames in Communication: How Controversial Organizations Maintain Legitimacy Over Time - Kees Smeets

It is widely-assumed that in today’s poly-contextual society, organizations ought to serve a plurality of contradictory interests to preserve their license to operate. Little has been written, however, on the exact dynamics that precedes such service of society. More specifically, the interdependence of framing and legitimacy in adequately serving contradictory interests has been remotely neglected. In an aim to fill this gap, an exploratory content analysis was performed on a longitudinal case study of Volkswagen Group’s emissions scandal. Passages (N = 26,400) were coded that originated from Volkswagen Group (VWG), Volkswagen Group’s customers, traditional media, and governmental institutions. Significant differences were found between the controversial organization and its primary stakeholders in regard to mobilization of higher common principles over time. Given the exploratory nature of this study, theory was subsequently generated that reflected on a hierarchy in framing. This hierarchy contains first-order and higher-order frames, which are argued to comprise a series of interrelated building blocks that eventually lead up to legitimacy. Controversial organizations, as such, may strategically draw upon these blocks to help close the gap with its challengers and eventually repair legitimacy.

Leaders Under Fire: German Armed Forces and Their Crisis Response Strategies - Antje Laenen

Turbulent times entail crises, for countries, people and organizations. In uncertain situations, leaders are required to solve the crisis and above all, communicate about it. This study sheds light on the scarcely researched field of leadership crisis communication of state-owned companies and its impact on secondary crisis communication (SCC). In the general context of public agencies, the German Federal Armed Forces are the subject of investigation. Based on a survey-embedded online experiment conducted with 249 respondents, the findings advocate that SCC remains unaffected of applied tone of voice strategies (i.e. corporate, conversational) or crisis type (i.e. accidental, preventable). In point of fact, source credibility and trust in the organization play a crucial role for SCC, as well as gender impacts attitude towards the organization. By virtue of these findings, the study provides a starting point for further exploration of the impact of leadership crisis communication and the effect on stakeholder reactions.