5th CRILL International Conference Legal Discourse: Context, Media and Social Power

Corona, Isabel: “Damage control in corporate e-releases: “When things go rough, the rough get going”


Corporate communication policy is generally concerned with construing and projecting the company’s identity and image. Web-mediated press releases (or e-releases) have been profusely studied (for example Tessuto 2017) with the widely accepted assumption that these texts are a hybrid genre (Bhatia 1995, 2004) that incorporates different discourses, mostly informative and promotional.  However, the precise motives and purposes underlying e-releases can vary substantially.

Corporations are legally or ethically bound to disclosure of arbitration when they are listed in financial markets, when they are dealing with a purchaser (Denoix de Saint Marc 2003) or when the law applies the principle of public interest. The e-releases of the corporations dealing with arbitration processes are critical sites of engagement of corporate commitments and community expectations with a considerable risk of damage to the company’s reputation and consequently of a high impact in the corporations’ financial results (Corona 2013).

This study seeks to explore how these specific texts are construed to naturalise their stance in the argumentation of the conflict and lead the audience to see ‘the truth’ from their perspective and thus minimise the negative impact. How does the legal conflict, that is, the propositional content of the e-releases dealing with arbitration affect the genre? How does the voice of each corporation positions itself with respect to the audience and to the other party, particularly when considering that these media announcements construe a sequence of discursive events within a single process, that of an arbitration procedure?

This paper takes as a case study the e-releases produced by Starbucks and Kraft, in a three-year arbitration case in which Starbucks was the respondent.