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Strategic Communication as Translation and Institutional Work

Conference contribution
Authors Magnus Fredriksson
Josef Pallas
Published in Paper presenterat vid The 61st Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, Boston, USA, 25-30 maj 2011
Publication year 2011
Published at Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG)
Language en
Keywords strategic communication, institutional theory, institutional work
Subject categories Business Administration, Media and Communications


Organizations operate in environments that require and expect strategic action. Strategic in sense of being governed by managerial ideals, rationality as well as having unique offerings to their clients, customer and partners in terms of products or services as well as being distinguishable from other organizations on the basis of identities, brands, organizational structures and technologies. Being strategic is not only commonly seen as crucial for an organization’s ability to act autonomously in relation to own objectives and expectations. It is also important for signalling security, sustainability, predictability and control to organizational constituents. The notion of strategy is thus strongly represented in any discipline that deals with organizations as social units. In this paper we seek to examine and challenge the notion of strategy in the context of strategic communication. We address the practice by number of empirical examples that help us to illustrate the problematic and often contradictory efforts of organizations to employ and follow the ideas of strategic behaviour in their communicative activities. Informed by the insights from neo-institutional theory we also argue that organization’s communication cannot be only perceived as mainly derived from prevailing institutional constrains. Institutions are not static or deterministic in the way they influence organizations and their behavior. They are open for strategic innovations and interpretations. Thus, we return to and problematize the analysis of strategic communication as determined and limited by institutional conditions. We’ll argue that the dominant static view on institutions is neither satisfactory nor does it provide for a deeper understanding of the way organizations perform and handle their communication activities. In this context we address the concepts and mechanisms of translation and institutional work trough which organizations actively and strategically relate to and handle institutional pressure, escaping thereby the totalitarian boundaries of institutions.

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