1st Edition

Public Relations and the Corporate Persona The Rise of the Affinitive Organization

By Burton Saint John III Copyright 2017
    190 Pages
    by Routledge

    190 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    For much of the last century, large, predominantly US corporations used public relations to demonstrate that their missions resonated with dominant societal values. Through the construction and conveyance of the "corporate persona", they aimed to convince citizens that they share common aspirations - and moreover that their corporate "soul" works as a beneficent force in society.

    Through examining key examples from the last 80 years, this book argues that PR, through the corporate persona, works to create a sense of shared reality between the corporation and the average citizen. This has been instrumental in conveying, across generations, that the corporation is an affinitive corporate persona - a fellow companion in the journey of life. The construct is obviously ripe for manipulation, and the role of PR in creating and promoting the corporate persona in order to align corporations and stakeholders is potentially problematic. From wage inequality to climate change, preserving the corporate status quo may be negative.

    This original and thought-provoking book not only critically analyses how PR and its role in the corporate persona works to solidify power, but also how that power might be used to further goals shared by the corporation and the individual. Scholars and advanced students of public relations, organizational communications and communication studies will find this book a challenging and illuminating read.

    Table of Contents

    List of Figures

    List of tables



    1 A basis for a distinctive personality in the public relations realm: The corporate persona

    2 The corporation as person: Four perspectives

    3 The corporate persona and industry: the National Association of Manufacturers walks with you

    4 PR News: Public relations describes the corporate persona

    5 The railroad and you: The watchful Norfolk and Western helps chart the destination

    6 The oil company and you: The corporate persona as encourager of self-governance

    7 Reality television and you: The corporate persona observes and rewards on Undercover Boss

    8 Beyond fracking: The corporate persona as a relatable, credible entity

    9 Through the social media window: Tracking the affinity of the corporate persona

    10 Where to with the corporate persona?



    Burton St. John III is Professor in the Department of Communication at Old Dominion University, USA.

    This is a fascinating subject. The author uses it to illuminate PR's "invisible government" working at the heart of organizations to manage perceptions and create profound social changes.It is vital that society understands how much PR shapes our world. This well written, thoroughly researched book on the corporate face, character and voice makes a big contribution to that objective.

    Simon Moore, Bentley University, USA and author of Public Relations and the History of Ideas.


    This study of corporate persona, particularly its focus on values and an affinitive approach, is timely given a need to address the decline of public trust in business at the same time as corporations assume an ever greater role in neoliberal capitalist societies. Also, as Burton St John III pointedly notes, corporate persona has been largely ignored in public relations and corporate communication research. As well as creating greater affinity between corporations and their home market, an affinitive approach can reduce the negative colonizing effects of globalization by encouraging global corporate citizenship.

    Jim Macnamara, Professor of Public Communication, University of Technology Sydney, Australia.


    Professor Saint John's book is a meticulously researched, gracefully written significant contribution to PR and communications scholarship. The book borders on being an investigative report on the way in which the wooden and off-putting abstraction known as the modern corporation has been carefully fitted out with a recognizably human personality. The domestication of the corporation in the late twentieth century parallels the far more familiar current efforts of the artificial-intelligence community to produce sociable machines.

    Robert E. Brown, Professor, Communications Department, Salem State University, USA.