This paper discusses the relationship between cognitive science, linguistic analysis and Corporate Public Communication. Recent findings in the fields of cognitive science and neuroscience (Stemmer and Whitaker, 2008; Rabagliati, Marcus and Pylkkänen, 2011; Slingerland, 2008; Boden, 2006; Thagard, 2005; Damasio, 2005, Westen, 2007; Lakoff, 2008; Lakoff and Johnson, 1999) have made available specific knowledge on the emotional aspects of communication that could be useful to communication professionals either in public or in private organizations. The study of how people’s brains respond to audio or video messages and their related language is an area external relations departments should monitor as it offers scientific evidence on the ways press releases should be shaped for their relevant audiences. As such, they are of interest to the linguist that, by means of Multimodal Analysis (Jewitt, 2009; Garzone, Poncini and Catenaccio, 2007; Machin, 2007; Mezaris, Gidaros and Kompatsiaris, 2009; O’Hallaran, K.L., 2004), can try to unify and “defragment” what Entman (1993) called, referring to the possible fragmentary contributions social sciences can give to the study of communication, the fractured paradigm. Furthermore, this approach can foster and foreground the understanding of processes described by Aday and Livingston (2008) not only at state and transnational level during wars, but also along the individual-institution/company (as non state actors)-state continuum in international crises and affairs. Thus, this can be considered a blend of a position paper and a case study. As such, the paper assumes a heterogeneous readership, and little or no previous knowledge of cognitive science applied to the field of linguistics is requested, so that professional communicators can easily approach the problems and the solutions addressed here. This is why, in the first part, the paper outlines the tenets of cognitive science through its most important discoveries, focusing the attention on those findings that are relevant to the linguist and the professional communicator. This is achieved introducing examples and theories that explain them underlying the power of words in crisis situations. In fact, they create, in a short time, specific mental frames. The paper briefly outlines the main strategies for effectively creating and managing them, too. The second part of the paper is dedicated to crisis communication and the way cognitive science can shape its techniques. The paper attempts to bridge crisis communication, discourse analysis and cognitive science using an empirical case. In April 2010 the American coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi witnessed “the world’s largest accidental release of oil into marine waters” . The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a disaster of enormous proportions and its outcome will affect the Gulf of Mexico and the American Southern coastline for decades. Parallel to the tragedy of the oil spill, the company in charge of drilling operations, British Petroleum (BP), faced a crisis on its own: part of the political community and large part of the public opinion in the US and worldwide pointed their fingers to the British-based energy giant, which was accused of cutting security costs for profits and “cover-up” the extent of the spill . BP, already damaged by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill itself, had to consider how to carefully draft a communication strategy in order to limit the damages to its business in the United States of America and in other parts of the world, in order to protect its image and assets, summarised in the well known green and yellow “sunflower” with the payoff: “Beyond Petroleum”. Finally, the paper addresses the implications of such important findings for democracies and the role and responsibility of cognitive science, showing how the latter can help the former to improve. Having discussed the role of cognitive science in the facing of a crisis, the paper, in its conclusion, makes explicit its ideal audience: the democratic citizenry, since it is the one that should be particularly interested in what cognitive scientists are discovering and the ways their findings can be used.

The Deepwater Horizon Crisis: A Linguistic and Cognitive Analysis of BP Communicative Strategy

CONOSCENTI, Michelangelo
2013-01-01

Abstract

This paper discusses the relationship between cognitive science, linguistic analysis and Corporate Public Communication. Recent findings in the fields of cognitive science and neuroscience (Stemmer and Whitaker, 2008; Rabagliati, Marcus and Pylkkänen, 2011; Slingerland, 2008; Boden, 2006; Thagard, 2005; Damasio, 2005, Westen, 2007; Lakoff, 2008; Lakoff and Johnson, 1999) have made available specific knowledge on the emotional aspects of communication that could be useful to communication professionals either in public or in private organizations. The study of how people’s brains respond to audio or video messages and their related language is an area external relations departments should monitor as it offers scientific evidence on the ways press releases should be shaped for their relevant audiences. As such, they are of interest to the linguist that, by means of Multimodal Analysis (Jewitt, 2009; Garzone, Poncini and Catenaccio, 2007; Machin, 2007; Mezaris, Gidaros and Kompatsiaris, 2009; O’Hallaran, K.L., 2004), can try to unify and “defragment” what Entman (1993) called, referring to the possible fragmentary contributions social sciences can give to the study of communication, the fractured paradigm. Furthermore, this approach can foster and foreground the understanding of processes described by Aday and Livingston (2008) not only at state and transnational level during wars, but also along the individual-institution/company (as non state actors)-state continuum in international crises and affairs. Thus, this can be considered a blend of a position paper and a case study. As such, the paper assumes a heterogeneous readership, and little or no previous knowledge of cognitive science applied to the field of linguistics is requested, so that professional communicators can easily approach the problems and the solutions addressed here. This is why, in the first part, the paper outlines the tenets of cognitive science through its most important discoveries, focusing the attention on those findings that are relevant to the linguist and the professional communicator. This is achieved introducing examples and theories that explain them underlying the power of words in crisis situations. In fact, they create, in a short time, specific mental frames. The paper briefly outlines the main strategies for effectively creating and managing them, too. The second part of the paper is dedicated to crisis communication and the way cognitive science can shape its techniques. The paper attempts to bridge crisis communication, discourse analysis and cognitive science using an empirical case. In April 2010 the American coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi witnessed “the world’s largest accidental release of oil into marine waters” . The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a disaster of enormous proportions and its outcome will affect the Gulf of Mexico and the American Southern coastline for decades. Parallel to the tragedy of the oil spill, the company in charge of drilling operations, British Petroleum (BP), faced a crisis on its own: part of the political community and large part of the public opinion in the US and worldwide pointed their fingers to the British-based energy giant, which was accused of cutting security costs for profits and “cover-up” the extent of the spill . BP, already damaged by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill itself, had to consider how to carefully draft a communication strategy in order to limit the damages to its business in the United States of America and in other parts of the world, in order to protect its image and assets, summarised in the well known green and yellow “sunflower” with the payoff: “Beyond Petroleum”. Finally, the paper addresses the implications of such important findings for democracies and the role and responsibility of cognitive science, showing how the latter can help the former to improve. Having discussed the role of cognitive science in the facing of a crisis, the paper, in its conclusion, makes explicit its ideal audience: the democratic citizenry, since it is the one that should be particularly interested in what cognitive scientists are discovering and the ways their findings can be used.
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http://www.fldm-usmba.ac.ma/lasco/
Crisis communication; Cognitive Linguistics; BP; Discourse Analysis; Multimodal Analysis
Michelangelo Conoscenti
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2318/110597
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