Public Relations and the Corporate Persona: The Rise of the Affinitive Organization, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Public Relations and the Corporate Persona

The Rise of the Affinitive Organization, 1st Edition

By Burton Saint John III


176 pages | 2 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2017-07-13
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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.


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.

Table of Contents

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?


About the Author

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

About the Series

Routledge New Directions in Public Relations & Communication Research

Current academic thinking about PR and related communication is a lively, expanding marketplace of ideas and many scholars believe that it’s time for its radical approach to be deepened. Routledge New Directions in PR & Communication Research is the forum of choice for this new thinking. Its key strength is its remit, publishing critical and challenging responses to continuities and fractures in contemporary PR thinking and practice, tracking its spread into new geographies and political economies. It questions its contested role in market-orientated, capitalist, liberal democracies around the world, and examines its invasion of all media spaces, old, new, and as yet unenvisaged. The New Directions series has already published and commissioned diverse original work on: PR’s influence on Israeli and Palestinian nation building; its origins in the history of ideas; a Jungian approach to its ethics and professionalism; global perspectives on its professional practice; PR as an everyday language for everyone; as emotional labour; as communication in conflicted societies, and its relationships to cooperation, justice and paradox. We actively invite new contributions and offer academics a welcoming place for the publication of their analyses of a universal, persuasive mind-set that lives comfortably in old and new media around the world.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Advertising & Promotion
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Customer Relations
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Public Relations
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Communication Studies