Thinking about what sort of effects a text might have and how various audiences might respond gives us a richer sense for how particular rhetorical strategies work. It is important to keep in mind that a rhetorical strategy isn’t inherently effective just because it’s there – the effectiveness depends on the audience. Here are some questions to keep in mind when considering audience:
What sort of effect does the text aim to have on the audience? How does the company or organization want the audience to think, feel, and/or act after encountering this text? How does this response help the text achieve its purpose? Has the same company tried different approaches to work toward the same purpose? Have other companies tried similar or different approaches? Can you imagine other possible approaches toward achieving the same purpose? How might different approaches and strategies be more or less effective?
Try to posit at least three different audiences or discourse communities that might encounter the text and read it in different ways. How would you describe the attitudes, values, and interpretive frames for each of these audiences? What is important to them? What is their relationship to this particular company or organization? What are the audiences looking for from it? How might these different audiences respond in different ways to a given text?
Can you find any articles or other sources that give you a sense for how people are thinking and talking about your organization or a particular text that they produced? How do these outside perspectives shape your thinking on your organization and its effectiveness?
From Analysis to Significance
One of the main challenges of Paper 1 will be moving from identifying and analyzing rhetorical strategies toward reflecting on the larger significance of your analysis. The main question here is, “what do we learn from your analysis?” That is, in order for your analysis to be a productive activity, we should be able to learn something about the situation that we didn’t know before. We might describe this as an insight or an argument – the takeaway. Most likely, this insight will focus on the organizations you are analyzing. We might learn something about their values or ethos; we might learn something about the ways that they distinguish themselves from similar or competing organizations; we might learn something about the industry or sector in which these organizations are situated. We might also gain insight into a particular type of text or media and its rhetorical nature (e.g., a particular genre of advertising, a particular type of corporate document, the sort of rhetorical strategies that work best in a particular medium, etc.).
Here are some questions to consider when reflecting on the significance of your analysis:
– Based on your analysis, how would you describe the attitudes and values of your organization? How do these attitudes and values compare to other organizations in the same industry or sector? If these attitudes and values are fairly standard, what sets this organization apart?
– Does your organization use particular texts in interesting ways? Do they offer or produce texts that similar organizations don’t? Do they approach common types of texts in unusual ways? Do they incorporate any unusual rhetorical strategies? If so, how do these things affect our understanding of the organization or their relationships with their customers, clients, employees, target audience, etc.?
– Is there a particular type of text that your organization relies on heavily or produces repeatedly? How does this compare with other similar organizations? Is there a particular type of rhetorical strategy or appeal that these texts rely on heavily? How does this compare with texts from similar organizations?
– What is the relationship between your organization’s larger purpose and goals and the purposes of specific texts that it produces? How would you differentiate between your organization’s purpose and that of similar organizations? If you find yourself saying that your organization’s purpose is to make money or to make customers happy, try to make this more specific (we could say the same thing for any sort of general purpose). Also, does the organization have any purposes other than trying to make money and satisfy customers?
– How does the understanding of your organization that you developed through your analysis match up with what others have said about your company in articles or other sources? What thoughts or perspectives would you contribute to the larger public conversation surrounding your organization?