The paper analyzes power effects of the strategy discourse to create a more profound understanding of how strategy seen as a discourse constitutes certain identities and practices among communication practitioners. The following two research questions has been posed to concretize the overall aim of the study: 1) What has the strategy discourse meant for practitioners understanding of themselves? 2) How is communication practitioners’ power over others facilitated through the strategy discourse as strategic communication management is increasingly legitimized in organizations?
26 semi-structured interviews were conducted with communication practitioners from 10 public and private organizations in Sweden. 19 practitioners worked in the public sector, and 7 in the private. The interviews were analyzed from a Foucauldian inspired discursive approach where focus was to analyze the power effects of the strategy discourse on practitioners understanding of themselves and their practice, and intra-organizational relationships between practitioners and other organizational members.
The finding related to RQ1: ‘What has the strategy discourse meant for practitioners understanding of their self?’ is that the strategy discourse has empowered communication practitioners to perceive themselves as ‘strategists’ who are essential for the organization due to their role as experts in strategic communication which is embedded in responsible management of organizations. The ‘strategist’ identity provides a sense of purpose and meaning which often is contrasted to less desired understandings of the self, such as the ‘producer’ or ‘journalist’ which is regarded as less skilled compared to the ‘strategist’. The practitioners ascribe the ‘strategist’ as a practitioner that both think and act strategically and thereby produce a positive understanding of the self as a ‘worthy’ and ‘competent’ practitioner that one should strive to be.
The findings in relations to RQ2: ‘How is communication practitioners power over others facilitated through the strategy discourse as it is increasingly legitimized in organizations?’ is that the strategy discourse slowly but steady produces new intra-organizational social relationships in which the communication practitioners are claiming more central roles which manifests in how other organizational members increasingly legitimizes that communication practitioners define rules and practices related to communication which other organizational members need to adhere to.
As previous research interested in the strategic practice of communication practitioners focused greatly on either if practitioners work strategically or how they do it, this study is a fresh take since the discursive approach on strategy enables treating strategy as the unit of analysis rather than a taken for granted fact whether it is a physical object or talked into ‘being’.