A practice perspective on strategic communication: The discursive legitimization of managerial decisions

Helle Kryger Aggerholm (Department of Business Communication, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark)
Birte Asmuß (Department of Business Communication, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Publication date: 1 August 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to link the authentic, communicative activities, e.g. organization-wide meetings at the micro-level, to the institutionalized practices at the macro-level within an organization, e.g. change management decisions and communication strategy (Steyn, 2003). Thus, the concern is with the relationship between institutionalized strategic management and the real-life strategic communication processes, thus advancing the understanding of the role of texts and discourses in the actual practice of strategic communication in an organizational context of strategic change processes.

Design/methodology/approach

The data are based on a large corpus of video-taped management meetings and organization-wide meetings in a large Danish public, knowledge-based organization. The method applied for studying the management discourse is a conversation-analytical approach (Sacks et al., 1974; Sidnell, 2010). This method has been chosen as it enables the authors to focus on micro-aspects of organizational practices (Nicolini, 2013) by investigating the interactional patterns that serve as resources for doing legitimation as an institutionalized practice.

Findings

The common denominator for the entire analysis is legitimation accomplished through the discursive use of distanciation and the analysis identifies three different discursive elements or micro-level strategies directly related to the concrete doing of strategic communication. First, legitimation is created by reference to the socio-economic context of the organization. Second, legitimation is generated by means of pointing to the abnormality of the strategic situation. And third legitimation is fostered by the use of idiomatic expressions. These different ways of accomplishing legitimacy are in a strategy-as-practice perspective related to the specific, in-situ communicative praxis and accomplished by the concrete actions of the strategic communicators, and thus the authors can position the instances of strategic communication at the organizational micro-level.

Originality/value

This paper studies at a micro-level how strategic actors use various discursive resources to legitimize strategic decisions and how these resources constitute the discursive basis of strategic communication as a managerial practice. The authors focus on the role of discourse in the legitimization processes of strategic managerial decisions analyzing micro-level instances of organizational communication. The paper thereby links the actor process activities (Langley, 2007), e.g. organization-wide meetings at the micro-level, to the institutional field practices at the macro-level within an organization, e.g. strategy and planning (Johnson et al., 2007).

Keywords

Citation

Aggerholm, H.K. and Asmuß, B. (2016), "A practice perspective on strategic communication: The discursive legitimization of managerial decisions", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 195-214. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-07-2015-0052

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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