Research of Strategic Communication

Strategic communication refers to people’s efforts to address or engage audiences for the advancement of goals. It refers to the use and creation of venues, technologies, discourses and practices of interaction – and their intended and unintended consequences.

The Latin verb communicare, the origin of our noun communication, means ‘to impart, share, or make common’. In our plural world, achieving such ‘bringing together’ of actors is no easy feat. At the same time, communication is of prime importance in meeting the challenges of our time. The globalization and horizontalization of society brings together and confronts scientists, citizens, consumers, governments, social movements and corporations in new ways, bringing up ever more urgent questions of legitimacy, credibility, transparency, accountability and risk. The Chair Group engages with key societal challenges in the WUR domains of food, health and the living environment: healthy lifestyles and livelihoods; sustainable food and food production; and sustainable co-evolution between societies and the living environment. This engagement demands that we engage with the pluralisms we are confronted when it comes to these challenges. This is what our research contributes to: we analyse how strategic communication, in contexts of pluralism, shapes understandings and processes around key societal issues of our time, and how it can contribute to innovation and change.

People communicate strategically in many different ways and contexts. Strategic communication involves, for example, the deliberate use of communicative strategies by organisations that wish to connect to certain audiences. But also the everyday communication strategies that citizens or consumers employ to achieve their own ends. Strategic communication also has a key role to play in shaping multi-stakeholder processes, involving actors like government agencies, industries, NGOs, farmers’ organizations and local communities. These different manifestations of strategic communication form our units of analysis.

Practice

We study communication in action in real-life, as it happens, for example, in the interactions between organizations and consumers, patients, or citizens; in public debate; in networks and multi-stakeholder processes.  Settings can be virtual, local, national, transnational or multi-level, and can include face-to-face as also mediated forms of communication, and the interplay between people and the environments that shape their behaviour.

Aims

We study communication in action in real-life, as it happens, for example, in the interactions between organizations and consumers, patients, or citizens; in public debate; in networks and multi-stakeholder processes.  Settings can be virtual, local, national, transnational or multi-level, and can include face-to-face as also mediated forms of communication, and the interplay between people and the environments that shape their behaviour.

Research themes

In our research, we address communication within three themes, distinguishable for the nature of the communication processes we seek to understand and contribute to, the societal issues we address, and the aspirations we have with our research.