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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines how, as activist organizations pressure firms to act in more socially responsible ways, the activists influence managers’ perceptions of their firms’ existing practices. We conduct two studies to explain how, using rhetoric, activists attempt to convince managers that their firms’ practices constitute inappropriate behaviors. The first study discerns the types and functions of the rhetorical strategies used by activists, and the second study discerns the sequence, interplay, and implications of these strategies when used during activists’ campaigns in industries. Our findings indicate that activists enact three rhetorical strategies through an intricate process, the essence of which involves using managers’ own cognitive structures to problematize their firms’ practices. Overall, by specifying activists’ methods for facilitating managerial perception change, we enrich interdisciplinary research on activism in industries.

Keywords: rhetoric, top management teams, practice change, corporate social responsibility, activists

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