Corporation and advocacy group conflict: Is ‘engagement’ an option?

TitleCorporation and advocacy group conflict: Is ‘engagement’ an option?
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Chaudhri, V., and J. E. Hein
Affiliation (1st Author)Erasmus University Rotterdam The Netherlands
Section or WGCrisis Communication Working Group
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeCRIW4a
Slot Code (Keyword)CRIW4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitlePanel: Causing Crises and Navigating Political Struggle (s): Activists’ dilemmas between symmetry and asymmetry
Submission ID6513

This abstract is part of a panel ("Causing Crises and Navigating Political Struggle(s): Activists’ dilemmas between symmetry and asymmetry") submitted to the Crisis Communication Working Group. We examine how advocacy groups use social media to “create power and salience through advocacy” (Coombs & Holladay, in press). We contend that inequities in power perhaps necessitate that in order to change business practices, activist organizations take actions that targeted corporations denounce as ‘illegitimate.’ By serving as a source of leverage and a manifestation of power, such ‘illegitimate’ actions empower activist groups to negotiate favorable outcomes vis-à-vis corporations. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that corporations pay more attention when advocacy groups’ activities pose a serious reputational threat (see Trumpy, 2008). Specifically, we focus on the ongoing conflict between Greenpeace and Shell over the corporation’s plans for arctic drilling. Although Dutch courts have ruled against Shell, and Greenpeace has claimed victory, the case illustrates tensions in forging a relationship between corporations and advocacy groups. A blog post on the Greenpeace website sarcastically notes that “Shell likes to play the victim, but the truth is, they are not willing to listen when Greenpeace, our supporters or a whole range of other environmental groups speak up about Arctic drilling” (JulietteH, 2012, para 10). We discuss the implications of these new e-protests for the scholarship and practice of public relations, and crisis communication, more broadly.

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