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Consumer campaigns in corporate public affairs management: The case of climate change and the German energy industry

Inga Schlichting ( Department of Corporate Strategy, Deutsche Bahn AG, Berlin, Germany)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 28 October 2014

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to use expert interviews with communication managers of the German energy industry to analyze the strategic aims and challenges of consumer campaigns as a relatively new phenomenon in German public affairs management. The analysis is based on structuration theory, which is used as a theoretical framework. This framework helps to conceptualize the different logics of action within non-public and public paths of public affairs management, their stakeholders and respective instruments.

Design/methodology/approach

Expert interviews with German public affairs managers from multinational and regional energy corporations as well as industry associations were conducted regarding their communication in the context of climate regulation. Based on this data, the study reconstructs manager’s strategic considerations about why to engage in consumer campaigns, and analyses the challenges they see with them, and the strategies they employ to handle these.

Findings

Managers perceive the importance of the public path of regulative intervention as growing along with a strong media orientation of political authorities. Against this backdrop they describe the bypassing of critical journalists and the engaging of critical individuals and minorities as the strategic aims of consumer campaigns. They portray a lack of credibility as the main challenge of such campaigns – and relativising the corporation’s societal efforts as well as allowing public critique as most promising strategies to handle this challenge.

Originality/value

The contribution of the study is twofold: first, it adds to the scientific analysis of consumer campaigns as a rather new phenomenon in German public affairs management. Second, practitioners may utilize the results as impulses for their own communicative strategies in the context of public affairs management.

Keywords

Citation

Schlichting, I. (2014), "Consumer campaigns in corporate public affairs management: The case of climate change and the German energy industry ", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 402-421. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-02-2011-0020

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited