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COMM 3170: Introduction to Organizational Communication. Summer 2005 Dan Lair [email protected] Questions from Chapter Five. What Is Identity?. Changing nature of “identity”: from sameness to uniqueness. Kuhn & McPartland’s Twenty Statements Test

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Comm 3170 introduction to organizational communication

COMM 3170:Introduction toOrganizational Communication

Summer 2005

Dan Lair

[email protected]



What is identity
What Is Identity?

  • Changing nature of “identity”: from sameness to uniqueness.

  • Kuhn & McPartland’s Twenty Statements Test

    • Exercise: Answer 20 times the question, “I am . . . .”

    • Now, consider how many of your answers are:

      • characteristics (e.g., honest, friendly)

      • social roles (e.g., mother, brother)

      • group or organizational memberships (e.g., positions)

  • Identity as the sum total of identifications (Burke)


Discussion organizational identification
Discussion: Organizational Identification

  • What is organizational identification?

  • What was your level of identification with your organization?

  • What factors do you feel contributed to your level of identification with employees?

  • Is identification always a desired organizational goal?


Inducements to identification
Inducements to Identification:

  • Common-ground (e.g., “I was poor, too.”)

  • Antithesis (i.e., unity in opposition)

  • Assumed or transcendent “we” (e.g., “We at Acme believe”)

  • Unifying symbols (e.g., logos, banners)

    --from Kenneth Burke (1950), then adapted by

    Cheney (1983), and DiSanza & Bullis (1999)


Identification and decision making
Identification and Decision Making

  • “A person identifies with an organization when he or she seeks to select alternatives with the interests of the organization—as best they can be determined—uppermost in mind”

    --Tompkins & Cheney (1985), adapting the operational definition by Simon (1976)


The Problem of Organizational Identity: Communicating Identity in A Crowded Communication Environment

  • Increased media outlets

  • Increased stakeholder pressures

  • Increased competition

  • Other trends?

  • In a crowded communication climate, communication is both a cause of and solution to the problem.


Projecting organizational identity a timeline of external corporate communication
Projecting Organizational Identity: Identity in A Crowded Communication EnvironmentA Timeline of “External” Corporate Communication

  • 1860s: Early Developments in Advertising

  • 1880s: Early Developments in Public Relations

  • 1920s: Growth of Advertising; Emergence of “Lifestyle”

  • 1950s: Advent of Marketing; Growth of Consumerism

  • 1960s-1970s: Consumer Advocacy and Other Social Movements

  • 1975 Issues/Values Advertising/Management

  • 1980s: Rise of Identity Management

  • 1990s: Dominance of Marketing Discourse

  • 2000: Attempted Consolidation of Communications Functions


The problem of organizational identity branding as strategy
The Problem of Organizational Identity: Branding as Strategy Identity in A Crowded Communication Environment

  • Branding and the Unique Selling Proposition (Olins, 2000, p. 53):

    • This product is better because it contains X (secret, magic, new, miracle) ingredient that will make it work more effectively.

    • If you use it, it will mean that your home will look more beautiful, or your food will taste much better, or you yourself will be even more glamorous than before.

    • This will leave you more time to remain even more desirable and attractive for your lovely husband and family.


The problem of organizational identity branding continued
The Problem of Organizational Identity: Branding, Continued Identity in A Crowded Communication Environment

  • Evolution and Extension of Branding:

    • Consumer brands (USP)

    • Retail brands

    • Product brands

    • Corporate brands

    • “National” brands

    • ????


The problem of organizational identity auto communication
The Problem of Organizational Identity: Auto-communication Identity in A Crowded Communication Environment

  • The organization sends messages to the “outside” that it then receives itself.

    This may be conscious or largely unconscious.

  • The organization repeats a message so that it eventually internalizes it.

  • The organization sees the environment in such a way that confirms its own expectations.

    The last two are largely unconscious.


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