Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The structure of strategic communication: Theory, measurement, and effects
by Harmon, Derek J., Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2016, 135; 10243673
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation advances a novel approach that I refer to as the structure of strategic communication. Leveraging theory on how people naturally structure their arguments, this approach contends that organizational actors deploy arguments to influence others at two structurally distinct levels— within the rules of the game or about the rules of the game. This dissertation’s primary claim is that talking more about the rules of the game, which exposes the assumptions underlying our social institutions to direct examination, may have profound implications. I build evidence for this claim in two ways. First, I develop a new measurement called the argument structure ratio (ASR) that conceptually and empirically captures how explicit a speaker makes these assumptions in their communication. I outline a three-step methodology for measuring the ASR of any collection of written texts. Second, I theorize and empirically demonstrate how the ASR impacts an audience’s reaction. Using all public speeches made by the Chairperson of the United States Federal Reserve from 1998 to 2014, I show that the more they expose the assumptions underlying the Federal Reserve System, the more their speeches produce market uncertainty. I argue that these findings fundamentally change how we think about the role of strategic communication in market contexts. More generally, this work provides a new way to conceptualize and study strategic communication that extends well beyond financial markets to a variety of different organizational contexts and across multiple levels of analysis. Taken together, this dissertation provides a theoretical and methodological foundation upon which to conduct research on the structure of strategic communication.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Fiss, Peer
Commitee: Hoberg, Gerard, Mayer, Kyle, Wiltermuth, Scott
School: University of Southern California
Department: Business Administration
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 78/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Management, Communication, Organization Theory
Keywords: Argument structure, Institutional theory, Markets, Strategic communication, Toulmin, Uncertainty
Publication Number: 10243673
ISBN: 978-1-369-47442-8
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