Engagement and Empathy Discourses in Corporate Communication: The Case of “The Science of Engagement”
Keywords:engagement, empathy, public relations, discourse
This paper analyzes engagement and empathy discourse in a corporate document The Science of Engagement published online by a leading UK PR agency. The method used was a critical discourse analysis (CDA) of the document, and the findings reveal that the engagement discourse in this document positions the consumer as a passive, compulsive purchaser, while the empathy discourse largely frames the consumer as young and more empathic than previous generations, and thus an easily accessible target for brands to appeal to, using emotional communication on social media. The conclusion of the paper is that in contrast to conceptual understandings of engagement as two-way and empathy as other-oriented, the Agency relies on early understanding of engagement as a cognitive process based on instincts and persuasive communication, and not as a concept of social communication that will be dependent on cultural and social differences, individual approach, and trust. This practice goes against the already acknowledged view of engagement and empathy as more than just cognitive responses by consumers, and presents an outdated understanding of these increasingly debated concepts.