A cross-cultural analysis of corporate press statements: A case study of Monsanto

Jubber, Kathryn Lara (2018-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Multinational corporations (MNCs) such as Monsanto direct a significant amount of attention to strategic marketing efforts in order to achieve a number of goals. These goals include brand awareness, client-base expansion, client retention, competitive advantage and profit generation. Many MNCs choose to achieve their marketing aims, either solely or in part, through public relations (PR). PR is a practice that involves strategic communication. This form of communication is “purpose-driven” and “forward-looking” by nature (Dulek and Campbell 2015:124). As part of a larger PR strategy, press statements are used by media representatives to generate news or editorial stories or to gather further information on a particular topic or news event. If the media representative chooses to make use of the information contained in the press statement, the choice to publish the press statement verbatim or to use it only as a source of information upon which an original article is written is up to the media representative. Media representatives therefore control the extent to which the press statement is adapted to fit in with the publication’s template or themes. This is partially due to the fact that publications very often have editorial policies or requirements outlining the style of content, tone of voice and word count which need to be followed when producing editorial pieces. While the press statement as a genre has been studied from a structural perspective (see Lassen 2006; Maat 2007; Bremner 2014), the linguistic elements of this text type and their variation across cultures have not been explored. For this reason, this research project incorporates Gee’s (2011) method of discourse analysis in order to determine the salient linguistic features of the text and the extent to which these differ – if at all – across different cultural settings or “discourse systems” (Scollon, Scollon and Jones 2012: 9). Gee’s tools of discourse analysis are relevant to this study because they do not only assist the researcher in identifying the dominant themes and linguistic devices in the text, but the ways in which these devices represent social actors and social reality. Once this has been done, the researcher is able to determine whether Monsanto, as a MNC, adapts their message (and representations) for different audiences or whether the messages and representations remain the same. This then speaks to the notion of cultural awareness and cultural adaptability. The focus on culture in this thesis is important because of the dominance of MNCs in contemporary society. While it has been argued that there is increasing need for businesses to be culturally aware when delivering their corporate strategies, there are many scholars who have argued that, due to their wealth and power, MNCs act according to a paradigm of cultural imperialism. A discourse analysis of Monsanto’s press release statements enables the researcher to uncover, not only dominant the linguistic features contained in the text, but the dominant ideologies which give rise to the use of particular linguistic features over others.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Multinasionale maatskappye soos Monsanto bestee ’n aansienlike hoeveelheid aandag aan strategiese bemarkingsaktiwiteite om ’n aantal doelwitte te bereik. Hierdie doelwitte sluit in onder andere handelsmerk-bewustheid, die uitbreiding en behoud van hul kliëntebasis, medidingendheid en die generering van wins. Openbare Betrekkinge behels die praktyk van strategiese kommunikasie. Hierdie vorm van kommunikasie is uiteraard doelgedrewe en vooruitstrewend (Dulek and Campbell 2015:124). Persverklarings vorm deel van ’n toereikende openbare betrekking-strategie en word benut deur mediaverteenwoordiges om nuus en redaksionele inhoud te genereer. Dit kan ook benut word om verdere inligting aangaande ’n spesifieke onderwerp of nuusgebeurtenis te bekom. Indien die mediaverteenwoordiger besluit om die inligting te benut, berus die besluit by die mediaverteenwoordiger om die persverklaring verbatim te publiseer óf dit bloot as bron van inligting in ’n oorspronklike artikel te gebruik. Daarom bepaal die mediaverteenwoordiger tot watter mate die persverklaring tot die publikasie se riglyne of temas aangepas word. Dit is gedeeltelik as gevolg van die feit dat publikasies oor die algemeen tydens redaksionele inhoudsvervaardiging ’n redaksionele beleid toepas met betrekking tot die inhoudstyl, stemtoon en woordtelling. Alhoewel die persverklaring as genre reeds voorheen vanuit ’n strukturele perspektief bestudeer is (verwys na Lassen 2006; Maat 2007; Bremner 2014), is daar nog nie ondersoek ingestel met betrekking tot die linguistiese elemente en kulturele variasies van hierdie soort teks nie. Juis daarom sal hierdie navorsingsprojek Gee (2011) se diskoers-analise metode bewerkstellig om die besondere kenmerke van hierdie linguistiese elemente binne die teks te bepaal. Hierdie navorsingsprojek sal ook bepaal tot watter mate hierdie linguistiese elemente van mekaar oor kulturele instellings of “diskoers-stelsels” (Scollon, Scollon and Jones 2012: 9) verskil en of daar wel verskille is. Gee se diskoers-analise metodes is relevant tot hierdie studie; nie net help dit die navorser om die hooftemas en linguistiese elemente in die teks te identifiseer nie, maar ook die wyse waarop hierdie elemente sosiale bewerkers en realiteite verteenwoordig. Gevolglik kan die navorser bepaal of Monsanto as multinasionale maatskappy hulle boodskap (en voorstellings) luidens verskillende gehore aanpas en of die boodskap onveranderd bly. Dit het dus implikasies vir die begrip kulturele bewustheid sowel as kulturele aanpasbaarheid. Die fokus op kultuur in hierdie tesis is belangrik as gevolg van die oorheersing van multinasionale maatskappye in die hedendaagse samelewing. Onderwyl die argument dat besighede ’n toenemende behoefte het om kulturele bewustheid in hul korporatiewe strategieë wil bewerkstellig, is daar baie akademici wat redeneer dat multinasionale maatskappye op ‘n kulturele imperialistiese wyse optree as gevolg van hulle rykdom en mag. ’n Diskoers-analise van Monsanto se persverklarings stel die navorser in staat om nie net die oorheersende linguistiese elemente in die teks te ontbloot nie, maar ook die dominante ideologieë wat aanleiding gee tot die gebruik van spesifieke linguistiese kenmerke oor ander.

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