Walmart’s communication techniques for sustaining stakeholder trust: How CEOs answer critics and reassure stakeholders in their annual and CSR report letters
Based on a corpus of Walmart CEOs’ letters introducing the annual and sustainability reports from 2005 to 2016, this paper investigates the company’s communication techniques to limit loss of social and symbolic capital in order to bolster up morale and retain or attract investors in a period of repeated crises and attacks from a number of critics. Analysis of the corpus evidences a careful selection of the themes addressed year after year, the rule being for CEOs to choose when to react, and what to leave out. Answers to critics remain subtle and indirect, and the resources of rhetoric are fully exploited through metadiscourse and counter narrative to insist on the company’s strengths, celebrate its heroes and to highlight its enduring values. Renewal discourse is meant to offer a new vision for the company and reassure investors and other stakeholders.
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