Influence and Organizations: Cultures, Practices and Perspectives

Revue Communication & Organization, Issue 60, December 2021

Deadline: March 1, 2021

Whether academic or for practitioners, discussions about influence are dominated by work in marketing and psychology, with influence being conceived as an object that could be theorized, analyzed, quantified, manipulated, or even marketed. Issue 60 of Communication & Organization aims to enrich the conceptual field around the notion of influence through the prism of other notions such as prescription, recommendation, routines and familiarization, trust, the role of a third-party symbolizing, or the place of reputation.

Coordination

  • Camille Alloing, Université du Québec à Montréal – alloing.camille@uqam.ca
  • Stéphanie Yates, Université du Québec à Montréal – yates.stephanie@uqam.ca
  • Benoit Cordelier, Université du Québec à Montréal – cordelier.benoit@uqam.ca

Argumentation

Influence as an object of research in social sciences and in communication (Mucchielli, 2009) mobilizes numerous definitions and approaches, putting at their center both the media (Maigret, 2015) and social interactions (Katz and Lazarsfeld, 1955). Through a more instrumental prism, we could say that exerting influence consists in getting others to freely do something that they would not have done spontaneously without a given intervention (Massé et al., 2006). Influence can also translate into the status quo, when the objective is, for example, to avoid mobilization (Gendron, 2014).

Influence can be conceived as the result of an act of communication on an audience’s behavior or social representations (Jodelet, 2003), as the result of a process of circulating ideas and opinions (Heath, 2006), or as a set of practices and strategies aimed at persuasion (Breton, 2008).

Whether in academic research or in practitioners’ perspective, work in marketing and psychology dominates discussions about influence as an object that could be theorized, analyzed, quantified, manipulated, or even marketed (see notably François and Zerbib, 2015; Dupont, 2011; Cialdini, 2009; Ouimet, 2008). Indeed, can influence theories be divorced from psychology and marketing? Enriching our conceptual field by discussing influence through the prism of other notions such as prescription, recommendation, routines and familiarization, trust, the role of a symbolic third-party, or the place of reputation in the process would undoubtedly renew our understanding of the concept. This is the avenue we propose here.

First, this call for articles focuses on contextual elements, particularly on cultural dimensions as a substructure – or infrastructure – of influence (Seltzel et al., 2013). We thus question cultural elements, whether they are linked to practices or organizational modes or, more broadly, to societal values that allow influence to be exercised in a given context. Under what conditions influence attempts generate tangible effects, or affects? Can influence be considered as a quantifiable, manipulable object that generates adherence (or acceptance), commitment or mobilization?

Second, we aim at gathering articles analyzing concrete practices that generate influence. Primarily, the central place of the “digital” (its industries, devices, uses, economies) in communication strategies and practices need reflection in order to define this notion better (Coutant, 2013): The web’s sociotechnical devices can be complementary to other media (mass or not) as vectors of influence; however, they also generate new difficulties in reaching the different audiences of an organization, sometimes confined in “echo chambers” (Colleoni et al., 2014). Professional practices aimed at producing or instrumentalizing influence, particularly for public relations and organizational communication, are constantly being reorganized (Desmoulins et al., 2018) and lead to an extension of influence and accountability regimes (Cordelier and Breduillieard, 2011). Indicators for measuring influence proliferate on platforms that define their standards and concepts – such as Facebook and “engagement” (Alloing and Pierre, 2019). Influencers, for their part, are becoming unavoidable opinion producers (Poell et al., 2016; Charest et al., 2017). Moreover, trust (re)becomes a central issue when the same platform allows both advertising and disinformation; indeed, digital platforms are shaking up the codes of legitimate knowledge production (Lalancette, Yates and Brouillard, 2020). What is more, the influence on online groups questions the quality and instrumentalization of the social link (Cordelier and Turcin, 2005). In all cases, pre-digital authoritarian models are transformed (DiStaso and Bortree, 2014). In short, the practices of influence deployed in digital spaces produce observable behaviors or discourse with societal consequences that are often highly mediatized; it is, therefore, worth looking into them.

However, even if it seems more obvious to identify changes in the conditions and forms of influence on and through the digital world, organizational practices of influence are not limited to this medium. Traditional approaches to influence thus fully retain their relevance, whether it is a question of reputation management (Turbide, 2017; Huffaker, 2010), lobbying (Koutroubas and Lits, 2011; Juanals and Minel, 2013), astroturfing (Lock and Heath, 2016), patronage or sponsorship (Cordelier and Desaulniers, 2020), advertising (Kapferer, 1978) or press relations (Yates, 2018). However, to be effective, these practices must be in line with the contextual elements mentioned above while taking into account the dynamics taking place in digital spaces, which have a direct impact on their deployment (Hampton et al., 2017), despite the resistance of some practitioners to appropriate them (Kondratov, 2018).

In short, the economy of influence, like the communicational work it involves, is broad and requires us to put this notion into perspective. We wish to explore the contexts and cultural dimensions in which it is deployed and question the practices associated with it to become a lever for organizational strategies.

Issue 60 of Communication & Organization invites proposals for articles addressing the following topics in a theoretical or conceptual, empirical, and/or methodological manner, from three angles. The aim is to construct a real perspective on the notion of influence for/by communication research:

– Is influence an outcome that can be evaluated? And if so, how? Or is it a set of practices aimed at acting in a specific way on the representations or behaviors of given audiences? Thus, this angle focuses on approaches that aim to question the very concept of influence as practitioners use it in info-communication theories or media discourse. It may then be interesting, from this perspective, to discuss the notions often associated with the concept of influence (authority, trust, etc.) but also other forms of communication strategies aimed at influence, such as “engaging communication” or “persuasive communication.”

– The cultures and contexts that enable influence techniques to be effective, acceptable, and guide those who use or are exposed to them. Indeed, influencing requires the ability to understand and integrate audiences’ values and beliefs into one’s rhetoric to generate trust and authority. It also requires an understanding of each organization’s culture and the media in which this influence occurs and is exercised. Are there, therefore, cultures of influence? Is influence done differently depending on the organization or are there forms of conventions or even standards specific to the professions?

– Whether professional or amateur, organizational practices participate in these possible cultures of influence as much as they depend on them. This must be described, analyzed and taken into account in their socio-historical contexts. Can be addressed, for instance, questions related to techniques for “producing” influence, communication practitioners deploying actions qualified as influence (online or offline), or the possible forms of marketing influence.

Calendar :

  • Abstract submission: March 1, 2021
  • Return to the authors of the selection of proposals: March 15, 2021
  • Submission of the full article: June 1, 2021
  • Return to the authors of the peer review: July 30, 2021
  • Return of final articles (reviewed after evaluation): September 2021
  • Publication date: December 2021

Proposal writing instructions (summaries)

  • 6000 characters including spaces
  • Bibliography not counted in the number of characters
  • On a cover page: title of the proposal, first and last name of the author, university, laboratory, e-mail address, five key words
  • The abstract must allow for a clear identification of the problematization, the theoretical and conceptual framework, the method, the analyses and the discussion.
  • Proposals should be sent to the following address: influence.comorg@gmail.com.

Instructions for writing the final articles

– 35,000 characters, including spaces, including bibliography

– Layout standards for final articles are available online on the Journal’s website: https://journals.openedition.org/communicationorganisation/5909.

– The final formatting according to the standards provided will condition the final acceptance of the article.

The evaluation of complete articles will be done in double-blind by the journal’s reading committee.

You can consult the list of the members of the reading committee on the following page: https://journals.openedition.org/communicationorganisation/5910