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Att säkerställa att vi är välkomna : Om organisationers strategiska kommunikation och förtroendeskapande arbete i det mångkulturella samhället


  • Susanna Magnusson

Summary, in English

In a society increasingly characterized by cultural heterogeneity and where trust issues are becoming ever more important, new demands and dilemmas arise related to organizations’ strategic communication. This study investigates the struggles of contemporary organizations to achieve credibility and strengthen their social legitimacy as actors in Sweden’s multicultural society. The empirical case concerns the rescue services – Räddningstjänsten Syd – in southern Sweden, and the trust-building efforts the organization carries out in residential areas that tend to be described as “multicultural”. The efforts were a response to several years of social unrest, hostile treatment and communicative clashes between firefighters and local residents. The organization made a strategic shift towards a more proactive and community-engaged approach. A key group in the preventative and relationship building activities were the so called fire-hosts, who were given the role of link-workers. Through their “multicultural competence”, perceived cultural barriers would be overcome. By focusing on the rhetorical and communicative aspects of the trust-building efforts, this study targets the special challenges created by the multicultural condition. It also tries to determine those rhetorical/communicative processes which seem to lead to increased trust and improved relations between the organization and multicultural communities. The study has a discursive approach to the concept of culture, highlighting the social consequences caused by the framing of problems and of the solutions to problems in cultural terms.
The empirical material includes 33 qualitative interviews, about 30 hours of observation of the rhetorical practices of the fire-hosts, as well as approximately 25 hours of film material. Theoretically, mainly rhetorical terminology is applied to analyze the trust-building communication. The concept of ethos (appeals based on credibility) is central. Other rhetorical concepts such as phronesis (practical wisdom), eunoia (goodwill), copia (stock of possible choices, both content and form), actio (non-verbal language) and identification (according to Kenneth Burke’s ideas) are employed. Sociologically coloured concepts, such as tokenism and strategic essentialism, are also present in the analysis.
The first analytical chapter examines how the organization has changed its communicative strategies on a more general level in order to increase social legitimacy. It shows how the strategies and relationship-building activities correspond in many respects to a normative ideal within the field of strategic communication. At the same time it highlights the tensions created during the process. The role of the fire-hosts as living organizational brands is problematized, as is the reduced internal identification of firefighters caused by the organizational shift towards preventive work.
The second analytical chapter examines the fire-hosts' so-called multicultural competence. It shows that multicultural competence is construed in two contrasting ways: the culture perspective and the attitude perspective. These perspectives not only manifest different ideas of the origins of the persuasive power of ethos, but also create different rhetorical subjects. From the culture perspective multicultural competence largely concerns knowledge of what is described as specific cultures and/or religions. This knowledge is mainly ascribed to persons on the basis of national origin and background, and also stresses the significance of a “non-Swedish” appearance. In this perspective, ethos becomes something ascribed mainly to people who appear to have the authenticity of being an immigrant. The attitude perspective, on the other hand, appears as a displayed attitude based on eunoia. Analytically, the attitude perspective is interpreted as a form of phronesis, and different rhetorical concepts are employed to describe and demystify these communicative skills. Three themes in the copia of the fire-hosts are presented: first, the ability to listen actively, second, their repertoire of language skills and body language skills, third, having a broad conception of their duties and role in society. According to this view, one does not have to be categorised as an immigrant by appearance or descent in order to demonstrate multicultural competence. In this perspective, ethos becomes something acquired in the situation rather than attributed to static properties.
The third analytical chapter examines the concept of culture as a discursive tool. The concept has a constraining potential as well as a liberating one in the trust-building efforts and the chapter shows examples of both. The thesis ends with three conclusions regarding organizations' trust-building efforts in a multicultural society. The first conclusion is that those organizations must create a balance between emphasizing differences and emphasizing similarities between different groups and “cultures”. The second is that organizations should deal with the concept of culture with caution and avoid describing competencies in cultural terms. The final conclusion is that other organizations struggling with the same issues could learn from studying the processes and actions of the case organisation.

Publishing year





Lund Studies in Media and Communcation

Document type



Lund University


  • Communication Studies


  • tokenism
  • identification
  • credibility
  • trust
  • culture
  • strategic communication
  • Rhetoric
  • ethos
  • phronesis
  • eunoia




  • ISSN: 1104-4330
  • ISBN: 978-91-7623-207-1
  • ISBN: 978-91-7623-208-8

Defence date

16 January 2015

Defence time


Defence place

Stora Hörsalen, U202, Campus Helsingborg


  • Öyvind Ihlen