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Organizational Rhetoric

An unprecedented text explains how to analyze the role of rhetoric in organizations

Integrating rhetorical theories and methods with principles of organizational communication, this pioneering text provides students with a step-by-step method for analyzing and critiquing examples of organizational rhetoric. The first half of the book offers an accessible introduction to rhetorical research, theory, and criticism and equips students for analyzing the messages of organizations in a variety of contexts. The second half focuses on needs in real-life organizational situations: to create and maintain identity; to manage messages about issues, risk, and crisis; and to communicate with those "inside" the organization.

Contemporary examples and case studies (including a dispute over clean energy in Texas, efforts on the part of restaurant owners in New York to fight food labeling requirements, and a university's announcement that it is building a "body farm") illustrate the importance of this area of study and provide opportunities for students to apply their emerging analytical and critical thinking skills.

Key Features

  • Grounds the explanation and critique of persuasive organizational messages in traditional and contemporary rhetorical literature
  • Shows students how to critique the messages organizations use to create and maintain organizational power
  • Demonstrates the importance of rhetoric to the success of the organization
  • Uses case studies and accompanying worksheets to help students move through the process of analyzing sample situations and messages
  • Covers image/impression management, issue management, crisis management, and other key facets of organizational rhetoric
  • Includes models of the book's method for analysis at the beginning of each chapter to help students visualize how each step fits into the larger system

Intended Audience

Organizational Rhetoric: Situations and Strategies is ideal for a wide range of courses at the upper-level undergraduate and master's level, including Organizational Communication, Organizational Studies, Public Relations, and Rhetorical Studies. This first-of-its-kind textbook is also an essential addition to the libraries of Communication/Rhetoric and Business instructors.

1. Organizations and Rhetoric in Contemporary Culture
Defining Rhetoric

Defining an Organization

Defining Organizational Rhetoric

Understanding Organizational Rhetoric

Characteristics of Organizational Rhetoric

Reasons for Studying Organizational Rhetoric

Goals for Studying Organizational Rhetoric

Practical Outcomes of Studying Organizational Rhetoric

A Process for Analyzing Organizational Rhetoric


2. Identifying Rhetorical Strategies in Organizational Rhetoric
Canon of Invention

Canon of Organization in Organizational Rhetoric

Canon of Style in Organizational Rhetoric

Canon of Delivery in Organizational Rhetoric

Interdependence of Invention, Organization, Style, and Delivery in Organizational Rhetoric

Canon of Memory in Organizational Rhetoric

Special Situations and Rhetorical Strategies


Worksheet for Identifying Rhetorical Strategies in Organizational Texts

3. Rhetorical Situations in Organizations
The Importance of Context in Rhetoric

Two Perspectives on Rhetorical Situations

The Rhetorical Situation in Organizational Rhetoric

Researching the Rhetorical Situation


Case Study: A Showdown Over Power in Texas

Worksheet for Describing Rhetorical Situations in Organizations

4. Critical Approaches to Organizational Rhetoric
Historical Overview

Key Ideas in Critical Approaches to Organization Studies and Organizational Rhetoric

Summary of the Key Concepts in Critical Theory/Perspectives

Making Choices: Ethics and Organizational Rhetoric



5. Evaluating and Critiquing Organizational Rhetoric
Two Approaches to Analyzing Organizational Rhetoric


Worksheet for Conducting an Evaluative Reading

Worksheet for Conducting a Critical Reading

6. Identity Creation and Maintenance Rhetoric
The Foundation for Identity Rhetoric: Organizational Identity

Identity Building Rhetoric

Identity Maintenance Rhetoric

Evaluating and Critiquing Identity Creation and Maintenance Rhetoric


Case Study: “Who Says the Internet Is Only For Young People?” Identity and Disaster Relief

7. Rhetoric About Issues
Defining Issues and Issue Management in Organizations

Foundation for Understanding Issues Rhetoric: Issue Life Cycles

Issue Management: The Rhetorical Situation

Strategies for Rhetoric About Issues

Evaluating and Critiquing Rhetoric About Issues


Case Study: Menu Labeling---Healthy Idea or Big Brother?

8. Rhetoric About Organizational Risk
Defining Risk in Organizations

Foundations for Understanding Risk Rhetoric

The Rhetorical Situation for Risk Rhetoric

Strategies for Rhetoric About Risk

Evaluating and Critiquing Rhetoric About Risk


Case Study: No Bodies in My Backyard

9. Crisis Rhetoric
Defining Rhetoric About Crisis

Foundation for Understanding Crisis Rhetoric: Life Cycle of a Crisis

Crisis Management: The Rhetorical Situation

Strategies in Crisis Rhetoric

Evaluating and Critiquing Organizational Rhetoric About Crisis

Case Study: The Perfect Storm

10. Organizational Rhetoric for Internal Audiences
The Rhetorical Situation in Internal Organizational Rhetoric

Rhetorical Strategies for Internal Messages

Evaluating and Critiquing Internal Organizational Rhetoric


Case Study: A New Record---Transitioning to Electronic Medical Records

Epilogue: The Ancient Art of Rhetoric in a Complex Organizational World
Rhetoric in a Globalized Organizational World

Corporate Rhetoric in Nonprofit Organizations

Traditional Rhetorical Strategies in Contemporary Forms

The Environment as Situation and Strategy

Appendix: Worksheets for Analyzing Organizational Rhetoric
Worksheet for Identifying Rhetorical Strategies in Organizational Texts

Worksheet for Describing Rhetorical Situations in Organizations

Worksheet for Conducting an Evaluative Reading

Worksheet for Conducting a Critical Reading

About the Authors

step-by-step process for analyzing public texts is perfect for what i want undergrads to learn; written in very accessible language

Professor Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik
Communications Dept, North Dakota State University
May 18, 2014

I use the Hoffman text for an introductory graduate course and add graduate-level activities and papers to accompany the text.

Dr Naomi Bell ONeil
Department of Communication, Clarion Univ Of Pennsylvania
March 2, 2014

I will not be teaching this course until next spring, but I know I will adopt this book.

Dr Jeremy Fyke
College Of Commmunication, Marquette University
March 28, 2012

Curriculum change

Mr Eugene Basil Basil
Engineering, Bowling Green Technical College
August 30, 2011

A valuable addition to the small but growing body of literature recognising the positive contribution that the concept of rhetoric potentially has to play in modern-day communication, in this case in the context of the organisation.

Mr Paul Simpson
Business School, Greenwich University
April 18, 2011

For this class the book is recommended, but I will likely require it for a new course in Organizational Communication, to start Spring 2012

Mr Chris Faulk
Rhetoric and Composition, American University In Cairo
March 4, 2011

The book is very well organized and easy to read. Great plus for the work sheets, they are very pedagogial and helpful tools.

However, for my class on organizational changes, I would perhaps only use this book as a recommendation for additional reading, in particular in terms of chapter 10.

Dr Claudia Bernhard-Oettel
Department of Psychology, Stockholm University
August 9, 2010

I believe the content will function well for my course on Corporate Advocacy. I attended a short course at the Central States Communication Association convention that helped to tell me that the material would be appropriate for me.

Dr Jeffrey Brand
Communications Dept, Millikin University
April 23, 2010