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The compassionate organisation: Contesting the rhetoric of goodwill in public sector value statements

Poul Erik Flyvholm Jørgensen (Department of Business Communication, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark)
Maria Isaksson (Department of Communication, Culture and Languages, BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo, Norway)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 12 January 2015




The purpose of this paper is to test whether organisations in the public domain have embraced a corporate type of discourse, mirroring the private sector’s preferred orientation towards expertise, or whether they maintain their traditional discourse of goodwill towards the publics they serve. At a critical time for the public sector with inadequate funding and dominance of New Public Management approaches, will it be more motivated to portray itself as expert and efficient rather than altruistic?


The paper applies a rhetorical framework to provide a detailed analysis of organisational value statements posted on the web sites of public and private organisations. The research considers the value priorities of 50 organisations in the UK and Scandinavia in order to gauge the extent of convergence between the two sectors’ preferred discourses.


The research shows that the public sector sticks to its guns in maintaining a web-transmitted values discourse which forefronts goodwill towards its clients. It also shows that the public and private sectors take different approaches to goodwill.


Strategists and communication specialists are encouraged to contemplate the extent to which their organisation’s projected web image equates their desired image to avoid alienating important public audiences and reinforce levels of trust. The current framework brings attention to the complex nature of goodwill and may be employed to better balance a discourse of organisational expertise against a discourse of goodwill in planning authentic value statements.



Jørgensen, P.E.F. and Isaksson, M. (2015), "The compassionate organisation: Contesting the rhetoric of goodwill in public sector value statements", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 72-83.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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