Corporate Language in Online Campaigning. Candidate Trump's Tweets in the 2016 Presidential Election Campaign

Textbook, 2019

89 Pages


Table of Contents



List of Figures

List of Tables

1 Introduction
1.1 Aims of the thesis
1.2 Structure of the thesis

2 Political Context
2.1 The electoral system in the USA
2.2 Political Presidential Campaigning
2.3 Changes within Political Presidential Campaigning in thest century
2.4 The use of social media in Presidential Campaigning

3 Corporate Language
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Implementation
3.3 Trump - A Corporate World
3.4 Previous Research

4 Methodology
4.1 Method of Data Collection
4.2 Method of Data Analysis
4.3 Limitations of the Study

5 Results
5.1 Presentation of Results
5.2 Discussion of Results

6 Conclusions and Future Work

7 Bibliography


First of all I would like to thank my supervisors Prof. Dr. H. Schreiber and Prof. Dr. P. Siemund for their kind support and highly appreciated advice; also Sven Tolle and J. Elliott Casal for their valuable technical advices. Finally, I must express my very profound gratitude to my parents Peter and Barbara without whom this academic career would have not been possible and Silvia for providing me with unfailing loving support and encouragement.

Thank you.


New Social Media has brought profound changes to the way people communicate with one another and demonstrate its deep impact on political participation through the recent U.S. American presidential elections. A considerable amount of research has focused on analysis of sentiments or hashtags while a relatively small segment has dealt with the actual content of tweets. The aim of this scientific paper is to explore whether Trump’s preferred linguistic style within the presidential campaign was not only based on the simple marketing instrument Corporate Language but had also been created by an editorial team to frame authenticity. By using this particular style in his tweets the former business man convinced voters to become his follower - not only in the digital world. The experimental results show that there are various linguistic patterns which point to a systematic use and that the verbalization of Trump’s tweets can be generated through means such as reversed engineering.

Key words: Twitter, Corporate Language, Social Networks, Political Campaigning, Trump, Stylometric

List of Figures

Figure 1. Electoral System of the U.S. bz the U.S. Government 2018

Figure 2. Lexical Comparison of U.S. Presidential Candidates by Schumacher and Eskenazi 2016

Figure 3. Standard Deviation for the Lexical Measure by Schumacher and Eskenazi 2016

Figure 4. Coding Theme and Frequency during Scandal by Larson 2016

Figure 5. Top Themes in States during Presidential Election bz Larson 2016

Figure 6. Right Wing Media by Faris et al. 2017

Figure 7. Different mobile devices for Twitter Use by Robinson 2016

Figure 8. Comparison of Devices concerning Pictures in Tweets by Robinson 2016

Figure 9. Tweet Android Quotation Marks by Robinson 2016

Figure 10. Comparison of Devices concerning Quotation Marks in Tweets by Robinson 2016

Figure 11. Words used in Tweets by Robinson 2016

Figure 12. Each Time Frame as Respective Corpus

Figure 13. Number of Tweets Campaign Team

Figure 14. Trump Content Words

Figure 15. Occurences Term Hillary in T

Figure 16. Term Hillary Concordance Plot

Figure 17. Denomination of Trump's Opponents

Figure 18. Increasing Use of Term Crooked in T

Figure 19. Collocations Term Hillary Verbs

Figure 20. Collocations Term Ted Cruz Verbs

Figure 21. Most frequent main Verbs reflecting Sentiment

Figure 22. Topics connected to Hillary Clinton

Figure 23. Content words of CT

Figure 24. Occurrences Term Crooked in CT in numbers

Figure 25. Occurrences of Crooked in CT in numbers

List of Tables

Table 1. Common Collocates for Content Words in T

Table 2. Most Common Collocates for Hillary Clinton

Table 3. Most common Hillary Verbs with Frequencies of Complements in T

Table 4. Collocates of to be Ted Cruz

Table 5. Syntax Example Hillary

Table 6. Syntax Ted Cruz

Table 7. Syntax Example Failed

Table 8. Syntax Example Media in T

Table 9. Syntax Example Media in CT

1 Introduction

1.1 Aims of the thesis

This thesis has two primary aims: The first being to provide a valuable contribution to a relatively young field of research, content analysis of Twitter data and secondly to point out a connection between this research field and two other different disciplines, political science and marketing. Existing research literature so far has focused heavily on Twitter metadata used for analysis, such as time and location or hashtags in various fields of interest, as well as sentiment analyses but has rarely focused on systematic linguistic patterns used in tweets. In particular, the focus of this research shall lie especially on the content of the tweet and shall bring evidence to one assumption. The marketing instrument Corporate Language was used within political campaigning on new social media as an innovative linguistic strategy in Donald Trump`s 2016 presidential election campaign.

Politics are one of the most widely studied fields in such research, now more than ever. The 2016 U.S.-American presidential elections have been an exhilarating source of research up until today (Cesar et al. 2017; Gross 2016; Nelson 2016). Not only political scientists, sociologists or economists take great interest, but also media scientists and several sub-disciplines of linguistics commit themselves more and more to political language in general (Benoit 2007; Lakoff 2014).The reasons are to be found in the developments and changes within the digital era in the 21st century and the correlation between the significance of new social media within political campaigning (Enli 2017; Vergeer 2015; Owen 2014) since its emergence in 1992 as well as the innovative usage of marketing instruments in contemporary politics (Newman 2016). Linguistic analyses represent a versatile range of methodological approaches which provide researchers with perspectives on diverse dimensions of human activity, such as e.g. (re-)framing - how language is applied to achieve desired results, and the representation of a certain personality or ideology (Wehling 2017).

Especially in political campaigns linguistic analyses can bring light to strategies which mostly become visible in post-analysis. As a meticulously planned strategy political campaigns require an editorial linguistic style guide (Wehling 2017; Simpson & O`Shaugnessy 2016) which now is being transmitted through a non-reciprocal communication channel that functions as an arena for political marketing as opposed to classic and traditional campaigning. Corporate Language appears to be a suitable linguistic strategy as it is not evidently visible to the layman’s eye and shows to have been effective in advertizing when applied correctly (Reins 2006). This development towards a commercial character of political campaigning seems to bring profound changes to voters within the election processes and demonstrates the value of new media as an innovative marketing channel, especially when multiple linguistic strategies are applied.

Language is fundamental to the human being as it has, among others, two main functions: intelligibility and identity (Chrystal 2013). While Chrystal awards the first one of the characteristics of an important driving force, the second seems even more important. Crystal points to the human’s elementary need of creating and feeling solidarity and postulates that identity and the sense of belonging are essential factors to strive after. As language can be one of the simplest ways to bond with one another, style is a crucial factor which can form such an attachment. With regard to the outcome of the recent U.S. elections this thesis seeks to to present a stylometric analysis of language used in the 2016 presidential campaign by candidate Donald J. Trump on Twitter and to answer the following research questions:

What systematic linguistic patterns characterize Trump`s personal speech during the presidential campaign on public media?

To what extent do these patterns suggest a unified Corporate Language?

Furthermore, another substantial component of this analysis shall be a vital role of social media and in particular Twitter which served as the main medium for the presidential candidate and which is presumed to have been a determining factor for winning the elections in the new digital era. The hypotheses this thesis seeks to verify are the following:

1. The linguistic style guide for the Trump campaign was designed by an editorial team and consists of implemented Corporate Language.
2. This style guide follows already existing and applied economic language used by Trump before being involved in political matters.
3. With the help of Corporate Language the editorial campaign team was able to pursue framing which aimed at authenticity and emotionality.

1.2 Structure of the thesis

In order to discuss the correlation of applied Corporate Language and social media as a rising marketing channel within political campaigning, this thesis is organized as follows: Chapter 2 gives an overview of U.S. American election processes and its peculiarities and will look at the concept of U.S. American political campaigning from the origins to the present day including changes. The rise of social media platform Twitter and its influential power within media coverage nowadays will complete this chapter. Chapter 3 provides a general definition of the term Corporate Language, furthermore a view on presidential candidate Trump’s background and reasons for this assumed strategy and previous research in the field of new social media within politics. Chapter 4 presents the methodology of how the content analysis of tweets made by Trump was conducted, this procedure included a quantitative and qualitative approach by the means of linguistic stylometry. In Chapter 5 the results are presented and interpreted. Chapter 6 completes this research with a conclusion and thoughts on future work.

2 Political Context

2.1 The electoral system in the USA

To contrast the early and the contemporary U.S. political presidential campaigning and election processes, this chapter shall function as an introductory summary and will present the visible changes and reasons for this development. As a concept of influencing the recipient’s conception of a message, framing and reframing are highly regarded linguistic tools in politics (Wehling 2017). While framing used to be associated with a certain disdain in early political campaigning it now seems to be an omnipresent strategy which is not only found in advertising but also in political matters. The recent U.S. elections show evidence of a development among voters’ willingness to dissociate themselves again from the classic political framing and evidence of a trend towards presented authenticity of public figures on new social media while unknowingly being exposed to advertising strategies.

One important transformation of election processes and presidential campaigning in specific can be traced back to 1972 (Kendall 2016). As a presidential system the U.S. follows the strong tradition of a two-party system. At earlier times either political party gathered at national conventions and submitted candidates as presidential nominees which were later narrowed down. This previous nominating process focused on personal encounter and resulted in the convention delegates (party leaders) voting for their preferred nominee. With a requisite number of votes the candidate then became the party’s nominee. The national political conventions and the process of nomination then changed with the 1972 elections and led to the reformational McGovern-Fraser Commission. This commission and its new rules emphasized the participation of party members rather than party leaders to select the party’s nominee. This event turned political conventions into more ceremonial occasions called primaries and caucuses as it functioned as a democratic instrument which could be observed by a wider audience and therefore allowed to ratify the choice of the candidates; now each state was engaged in helping to choose the nominee. Kendall addresses major differences in campaigning throughout the primaries and campaigning for the general elections such as time, audience and media coverage.

Primary campaigning gives the candidate the time and power to shape the agenda for the presidential campaign. Due to voters’ lacking knowledge of the candidates at the start of this early campaigning more information in upcoming debates is highly anticipated. The main audience for the presidential primary campaigning are party members which are authorized to vote in a primary of a specific party, whereas the audience for the general election is the electorate as a whole, including all registered voters, regardless of party. Heavy coverage is already given by the media throughout the primaries as they are seen as the prequels of general election results (Kendall 2016: 31-39). Benoit found that “primary messages stress character more and policy less than messages from the general election campaign” as candidates are able to introduce themselves and have less time for political messages. (Benoit 2014a: 80).

Presidential campaigning can be viewed completely different to primary campaigning. In 1796 George Washington warned against framers of the U.S Constitution, so-called factionalists, and their attempts to assert personal interests which were not necessarily pursued in the best interest of the country. In contrast, the man of virtue was the “natural opposite” who would focus on the common good of society and was able to identify the most virtuous and therefore suitable candidate among people he knew personally. This was seen as a method of ensuring virtue being self-evident. To find the most appropriate candidate for leadership among those virtuous people neither the president nor the senate could be chosen by direct popular vote due to a potential conflict with natural self-interest. Being the lower house of the Congress and the most locally based elective office, the House of Representatives was permitted to be elected by direct popular vote and provided apportioned seats relative to each state’s population (Zarefsky 2016: 4ff). As a compromise between election of the president by a vote in Congress and election by popular vote of citizens, the Electoral College, functioning as a filter for identifying suitable candidates, was established in the constitution. Figure 1 serves as a simplified overview of the complex U.S. election processes compared to any other national model.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1. Electoral System of the U.S. bz the U.S. Government 2018

This explains the non-existence of a real national election and the actual state-by-state election which determines the majority of the electoral votes in the U.S. A further notable implication of this arrangement is postulated by Zarefsky. He indicates that the political campaign was unnecessary at that time and even counterproductive as the most virtuous candidate and the public good being self-evident would not need any kind of persuasion through campaigning. “To campaign for an office was to provide prima facie evidence that one did not deserve the office. The office sought the candidate, not the other way around.” (Zarefsky 2016: 5). American political campaigns then emerged outside the constitutional framework as they resembled a contest between character traits such as virtue and vice and required participation with focus on the personal character and therefore techniques of personal attacks, a special characteristic for American campaigning since.

2.2 Political Presidential Campaigning

Political Campaigns consist of various interconnected elements which serve to present competing political actors and their agendas (Lilleker & Jackson 2011: x). Especially in the U.S., political campaigning has always been an emotionally charged endeavor which seems to equal a battle. The fierce competition for the arguably highest office in the world attracts the most money and the most attention, therefore electoral campaigns are required to be appealing, comprehensible and meticulously designed. The definition of modern presidential campaigning was born in 1896 when candidate Bryan travelled the country to give speeches in front of large audiences. The candidate’s speech then took a major role in the campaigns of Nixon in 1952, John F. Kennedy and Obama in 2008 and helped the candidate considerably in taking the lead (Kim & Jamieson 2016: 21). After his speech, Obama was not only compared to talented orators such as Martin Luther King Jr. but was also considered a politician who “was able to rhetorically emphasize the commonalities shared by all Americans” (Jarvis, Stephens & Han 2016: 3). Songs, docudramas and newsreels were placed in the new medium of television and transformed into telethons, cinema verité interactions and personal witness ads.

While the principle of presidential advertising has mainly stayed the same, its communication channels as well as methods of campaigning and rhetorical strategies seem to have changed significantly throughout its historical progression. Presidential advertising helps candidates to build name recognition and to frame issues they deem crucial. It is suggested that by following their selected candidate the targeted voter gets to have a say in the decision making of the country’s polity. The communicative capacity as well as the temperament and agenda of a presidential aspirant are exposed, fatal flaws of the opposing candidates are revealed while one’s own are being concealed (Kim & Jamieson 2016: 29). Benoit et al. (2007) illuminate the classic functionality of campaign language and strategy behind American campaign messages and present six axioms which illustrate, inter alia, how candidates must distinguish themselves from opponents, how a candidate establishes preferability through acclaiming, attacking and defending and how campaign discourse occurs on the two topics policy and character (Jarvis et al. 2016: 6).

2.3 Changes within Political Presidential Campaigning in thest century

To highlight the evolution of political campaigning in the United States in contrast to other countries and their processes within political procedures such as elections, one of the major focuses in this thesis is the role of social media platform Twitter as “the channels of communication during political campaigns have changed dramatically over the history of the United States” (Min & McCombs 2016: 45). In which direction this might develop cannot be discussed in full detail in this thesis (for further readings see Jones 2016). Vergeer (2015) distinguishes between the classic professional political campaigning and modern campaigning. The former primarily comprises interpersonal contact at election rallies and print media and thus politicians’ compelling reliance on journalists’ cooperation to disseminate political views. While modern campaigning does not only rely on expensive television appearance and advertisement via emails to increase interactivity with potential voters, it has created a new era with personalized campaigning utilizing social media such as Twitter which “brought back amateurism.” (Vergeer 2015: 746).

Howard describes the U.S. as developing a hypermedia campaign with which voters are targeted by political organisations and how their personal data is stored and analyzed (Lilleker & Jackson 2011: 76). This can be considered postmodern campaigning. Professional campaigners gain more control through the increasing use and effectiveness of email and social networking sites such as Twitter to mobilize supporters (Lilleker & Jackson 2011: 144). With analytical- experts in an election campaign team being in fund of such valuable knowledge, the possibilities to shape a customized campaign and promulgate purposeful information discreetly seem infinite. Simpson and O’Shaugnessy (2016) not only give advice on necessary new campaign technology and bring light to the importance of research, campaign literature and voter analytics but also to the profound and longstanding effort of organizing a presidential campaign plan which is not visible to the layperson. Six substantial methods of voter contact are now used in a contemporary presidential campaign: (1) direct contact by the candidate, (2) door-to-door contact by campaign workers, (3) direct mail, (4) telephone, (5) news coverage and advertising and (6) social media and the internet.

The authors also point to the importance of a “tyrannical campaign schedule” combined with essential knowledge of the different types of media to ensure the campaign’s effectiveness and to techniques of media manipulation to sell less qualified candidates while running synthetic campaigns (Simpsond & O’Shaugnessy 2016: 48). These synthetic campaigns of the 21st century comprise of the following elements: negative advertising on opponents, targeted communication to reach segmented audiences and the use of the internet and social media to disseminate unfounded rumors and lies about an opponent. As knowledge on the voter’s attitude is crucial, public opinion polls and focus groups are an expensive yet successful key to shaping the candidate’s image and the campaign. (Simpson & O’Shaugnessy 2016: 105ff).

2.4 The use of social media in Presidential Campaigning

The use of new social media within Presidential Campaigning can be viewed from two perspectives. While it offers the opportunity for more participants to engage in political matters and to become more active, the discrepancy between how social media users perceive and use the knowledge they find online has become a rising issue. “The lack of objectivity” and the rise of social media as a marketing instrument rather than functioning as an unbiased communication platform has brought up the requirement for an improved use (Simpson & O’Shaugnessy 2016: 154). Research has shown that communication on social media can be much more impactful than impersonal mass media, yet people who use social media as a primary source of news are not more knowledgeable of politics. This points to Jones‘ assumption of social media staying an extending tool for traditional campaign activities rather than replacing them entirely (Jones 2016: 98f).

The 2008 Obama election can be viewed as a central turning point in the transformation of presidential campaigning where especially young adults tended to use social media as a significant platform to discuss politics and to engage actively in the campaign. As the numbers of social-networking site users has grown immensely within the past years, researchers expect the influence of social media to continue to expand across all age groups in future political campaigns (Min & McCombs 2016). Acknowledging this growing group as future costumers sophisticated strategies need to be developed and enhanced.

“Traditional marketing methods can no longer sustain a business [...] with the advent of analytics and other sophisticated measurement tools, entrepreneurs are finding that they can now not only take advantage of social media as marketing tool but use data to optimize their social media marketing campaigns.” (Geho & Dangelo 2012: 61).

This approach is seen as a prosperous way to win elections and to do so with less financial expenditure as the massive user data available has been converted into customer information, analysed by marketing specialists and used for focus targeting and shaping the campaign (Simpson & O’Shaugnessy 2016: 140). New social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram offer different opportunities in campaigning: the possibility for the user to selectively approach or avoid content based on personal interest, the connection with potential supporters and volunteers of a campaign, a respective target group and therefore the possibility to obtain donations and voters. “To be effective, techniques such as analytics and social media must be fully integrated with the rest of the campaign.” (Simpson & O’Shaughnessy 2016: 137). “Social media’s importance steems in part from changes in the way people consume political information.” (Jones 2016: 84).

Jones focuses on four major social media outlets essential for contemporary campaigning: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and email as all of them share important commonalities such as enabling the voter to create their own news feed, share it and therefore bypass traditional media. Their significance is also rooted in direct communication among and with supporters who are able to recruit new voters while sharing videos and other form of content with people they share personal or professional ties with. Peer-to-peer campaigning has been known as a powerful strategy as the source is seen as reliable and can be related to. Social media’s significant role in political issues can be acknowledged for example in the Arab Spring movements where both Facebook and Twitter served to raise global awareness and played a critical role in “mobilization, empowerment, shaping opinions and influencing change” (Salem and Mourtada 2011). While Facebook is still the outlet to comprehensively combine social media’s potential benefits, Twitter has become the giant of the 2016 presidential election campaign (Jones 2016:84ff).

2.4.1 Structure of Twitter

Although there is no evidence for social media to fully replace traditional channels in the nearer future, the “growing interest in the potential impact of the internet on the techniques used by professional campaigners during the short election period” (Lilleker & Jackson 2011: x) lies in the qualities of new rising marketing possibilities. Though “Television advertising in political campaigns is the most prominent medium of communication between the candidate and the voter” (Kaid 2004: 157), the benefits of using Twitter as “a second screen” (Jones 2016: 91) in political campaigning seem quite evident to political communication strategists: not only has this microblogging service provided a platform for an actual number of 328 million registered users worldwide (Statista 2017) to interact with one another since 2006. Furthermore, it has broadcasted as a traditional mass medium and allows relations to be non-reciprocal for unregistered users. Messages limited to now 280 (140 characters until 2017) characters are being relayed in real time throughout the globe.

A certain social etiquette allows to use Twitter to its fullest extent: the hashtag enacts three important communicative functions such as marking experiential topics, enacting interpersonal relationships and organizing text (Zappavigna 2015: 274). Hashtag-words which achieve outstanding popularity will be shown as trending topics and therefore reach even more users. To refer to someone directly, the at sign is used and a Retweet serves to reinforce and distribute the message at an even faster pace. People who feel like they want to follow up on a person’s life - this concerns mostly famous people or prestigious companies and brands - can like their account and are then a so-called “Follower”. The Follower is then subscribed to a self-created newsfeed which is curated by an algorithm that is based on their personal interest and such followed accounts (Averesch 2014). Through those listed features Twitter enables individuals to socially affiliate via participation in large-scale practices instead of direct conversational exchange through connected user accounts (Zappavigna 2015: 274). Compared to Facebook, which focuses on horizontal communication among friends, Twitter users are driven by” information-seeking goals” rather than “social interaction motives” (Jones 2016: 90). This is contrary to the original intention of Twitter’s communication model.

Initially Twitter was created as an SMS-based communications platform to interact with friends or a certain group of people sharing the same interests and views on a certain lifestyle (MacArthur 2017). It was not intentionally created as a platform for electoral war and took dimensions where it collapsed on a regular basis due to the many thousand comments one tweet by candidate Trump would generate. Both candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton used Twitter on a frequent basis to pursue political communication, but in fundamentally different manners. The fact that Twitter quickly became a mobile application and has a streamlined text-based format raised its popularity enormously within a short period of time. Moreover do Twitter’s open API structures allow for easy access to retrieve metadata such as date of tweet, sender information like name and location, distinction between devices or number of Retweets. Twitter itself now offers professional advertising and targeting for business clients to reach relevant target groups and to achieve the increase of their website traffic or enhance brand recognition. This part of advertisement can be categorized on the basis of gender, language, interests, followers, selection of mobile device, purchase behavior, keywords or geography (Twitter 2017). This targeting was already used in former elections such as the 2008 Obama election campaign which made Twitter attain great fame with the #YesWeCan campaign (Newman 2017).

Jones classifies Twitter as an “earned media tool“, which stems from its popularity among political journalists. A typical journalistic Twitter news feed provides consolidated and regularly updated stream from sources within the campaign including breaking news, live reactions to events or announcement by the campaigns (Jones 2016: 90). This has turned Twitter into the “real-time political wire” (Hamby 2013: 24) which has immense influence on media coverage as it is now also used as a giant focus group of journalists with campaigns monitoring journalists’ tweets in order to steer emerging storylines.

2.4.2 Criticism on Twitter in Political Campaigning

What can be viewed as rather critical is the usage of Twitter in the 2016 U.S. presidential election compared to previous elections as a main source of news. The candidates bypassed the traditional editorial media whose function is to provide potential voters with unbiased information. Millions of followers instead relied on this mass communication medium as the self selected main information channel (Enli 2017: 50) and demonstrated Twitter’s influence on media as the number one source of breaking news on Election Day, November 8th with over 40 million posts related to the election (Isaac & Ember 2016). Teams of Twitter were assigned to increase the possibilities to message users directly with voting information, or to connect people to polling places. Analysts have evaluated Twitter as vital for its immediacy, speed and reach compared to any other network but at the same time as “something of a cesspool for disinformation, intimidation and harassment” (The New York Times on Nov. 8, 2016). The inaccuracy and lacking quality of information makes Twitter a biased and guided source of information as “On Twitter, a storyline’s importance is...measured by the number of tweets, retweets and hashtags (Jones 2016: 92).

The impact on political communication through the usage of mass media has been a great concern of several domains including media research for the past decades and finds its roots in American politics; Zittel names this development the “Electronic Democracy”. Research has shown that established industrialized democracies have developed into highly cross-linked societies with access to a global computer network. This medium has the ability to bring permanent change to political participation as it provides a virtual marketplace allowing to debate, vote and exchange information on, regardless of spatial distance (Zittel 2003: 260). At the same time, fact-checks of political statements have become an important component of the modern political world (Wintersieck & Fridkin 2016:146) and are mostly offered by non-partisan organizations which try to offer a substantive look at policy issues and which devote themselves to check truth content of politician’s statements. Washington Post’s Fact Checker - The Truth Behind The Rhetoric and journalist Glenn Kessler particularly dedicated themselves enormously to presidential candidate Trump’s tweets and utterances in general and made the 2016 elections the most fact-checked ever (Funke 2017). Following Edelman (1977), people tend to be involved more in communications about politics and elections rather than to actually engage in political acts such as voting or volunteering on a campaign. This entails that the language of politics which surrounds them on a daily basis comes from traditional and social media, advertising, and mostly interpersonal conversation. Therefore language is more pervasive than political participation (Jarvis et al. 2016: 4).

The political landscape, its communication channels and strategies in the U.S. have changed tremendously due to the developments within the digital era. While political campaigning in its beginning was a rejected subject matter, it has now moved into the center of financial attention and can clearly be connected with advertising and marketing while using new social media. The significance that can be accredited to language within the field of political communication and linguistic style shall be presented in the following chapter.

3 Corporate Language

3.1 Introduction

Companies invest significant financial expenses in managing their brand perception and focus primarily on visual appearance and Corporate Design. A less well-known pillar of brand awareness is Corporate Communications, also known as Corporate Language, a valuable element of Corporate Policy which serves to present a unified linguistic image and ensures accurate targeting. A decisive influencing factor for identity becoming a crucial issue for companies is the rising diversity of aims, purposes and market activities within a competitive market. Birkigt et al. argue that the reasons can be found in the development of society moving away from tradition and towards rationality and the consequential necessity for companies changing their behavior control. Marketing orientation now requires replacement of tradition with instrumental rationality whilst a remaining amount of tradition is being reflected in Corporate Identity as a distinctive attribute to competitors. Public policy makes the term identity indispensable for companies and represents personality and credibility (Birkigt et al. 2000:15ff).

Also known as Corporate Wording, Corporate Voice, Verbal Identity or Speech Design, Corporate Language is a linguistic standardization tool which, at best, leads to the customer buying the product. Besides image-building, the most important function of Corporate Language is to provide the customer with the feeling of both being understood and valued as a result of identifying with the company and its brand (Reins 2016: 10). The science and business publisher Springer defines Corporate Language as a universal language which serves to represent a company on a linguistic level. In terms of a Corporate Identity, companies develop their own speech style to reflect the company’s perceivable values and positioning. Language rules and codes within Corporate Language consist of clear and simple wordings which are to be followed while using various different communication tools. Corporate Language is not yet as regulated or conceptualized as Corporate Identity which aims to answer questions such as Who are we and How do we want to be perceived (Schach 2015).

Following Reins (2006), Corporate Language is one of the most essential criteria for the stakeholder as it provides the company’s opportunity to address them not only personally, but more important, emotionally and therefore builds trust and sympathy, which in many cases is even inherited throughout several generations of families. Like the visual appearance, the articulation fundamentally remains the same. Hermansson, Marketing Manager of IKEA Germany knows the value of powerful identification and postulates: “Speech is part of our identity. It expresses the type of culture which is characteristic for our company.” (Reins 2006: x). The key terms in IKEA’s Corporate Language are positive, humane and flat hierarchical ones which speak to the potential customer and potential employee. This invites them to identify themselves with the company’s Corporate Culture (Pauwee & Farndale 2017: 161). As the dynamics of a Corporate Identity underlie individual progressive procedures which require constant controlled change without destroying the functional whole, Corporate Language’s function is to communicate properly without losing the customer. Consistent attributes function as the company’s signature and result in the customer’s perception of reliability, safety and competence (Birkigt et al. 2000: 18-32).

3.2 Implementation

Reins highlights the value of Corporate Language and presents an instructive handbook on how to successfully implement it. Not only does it promise linguistic recognizability, it is also highly important for brand building, communicating with the right target group and assuring one common language internally and externally. According to Reins Corporate-Language-Model, which comprises 12 methodological steps to design and implement a high-quality Corporate Language, the focus lies on the analysis of communication with the end customer following the aim to draw up every message reflecting the brand essence to 100 percent. The CL-12-Steps-Method includes:

1. Market Analysis
2. Market Voice Encoding
3. Speech Style Definition
4. Speech Style Collection Analysis
5. General Tonality Definition
6. Insights Finding
7. Text Inventory
8. Development of Speech Corridors and Corporate Language-Speech Bank
9. Development of Sample Text
10. Development of Corporate Language-Manual
11. Workshops for employees and
12. Topicality-Check

Key terms, tonality and a linguistic database are defined and determined in the Corporate Language manual. This specific linguistic database consists of approximately 100 words and individual expressions which can be transferred to certain linguistic style groups. These groups can be distinguished into five categories and are also found in the text design of television, literature or advertising:

(1) value-oriented (high rhetorical standard)
(2) emotion-oriented (pictorial)
(3) trend-oriented (stimuli addressing)
(4) result-oriented (factual)
(5) conscientious objectors (prosaic)

As target groups not only differ in income, educational background, age, morals and lifestyle but more important in language, these speech style groups are a significant factor for prosperous customer approach. A stylistic guideline needs to answer the following questions: how does it differ from other styles, what are the main characteristics and which elements need to be considered to reach the desired target group? (Reins 2006: 136 -155).

This guideline including all speech values, writing style, formulation examples and text modules, aims at every single employee and therefore ensures linguistic uniformity, as every text producer ought to be able to realize the company’s Corporate Language if necessary and is implemented by one decision-maker, the management. If the employees can identify themselves with the company’s maxim, the systematic integration in areas of action where formal organization cannot grasp is achieved (Birkigt 2000: 41).

Looking at the profitability aspect of Corporate Language, it offers advantages which cannot be measured instantly but will serve in the long term: recognition effect which strengthens the emotional bond with the customer, sense of togetherness which encourages loyalty among employees, individuality in direct comparison to competitors, simplification of communication processes and professional image of a company by creating consistency and therefore credibility (Reins 2006: 222). Reins terms the most important components of Corporate Language: emotional wording and precision. Rational information has to be connected to emotional language and will be saved in the speech memory. Triggering can be considered as one form of emotional language as emotive words draw attention of the customer. The shorter the message the easier the process of decoding and saving. Being one of the most commonly used tools in marketing the AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action) concept focuses on approaching the client the most effective way. Attract attention with emotive terms to awaken stimuli, the interest in the insight of the target group focuses on the desire and darkside of the customer and leads to offering a product without devious routes.

Another advise is to avoid the nominalization of verbs or adjectives due to the effect of hindering an ongoing mental process and converting those active and sensorial words into less well understood abstract concepts. As part of NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) verbal reframing is a widespread concept of changing the recipient’s evaluation of a statement towards the desired direction. Framing allows to generate, shape and change the mental frame of reference as words have the power to form one’s inner attitude and expectations (Reins 2016: 132).

The general prototypical structure of Corporate Language can be viewed as concise writing style with clear instructions and rules which build a bridge between the company and the client, therefore it should aim to be authentic. Among other definitions, authenticity can be seen as an emotionally appropriate and significant mode of life which can be a vital attribute in the process of identifying oneself with another (Oxford Dictionary). Another insight on language used to win someone over provides Robert Green in The Art of Seduction. He too points out the strategy to achieve success by choosing the right target and finding the correct insight. Additionally, by sending out contradictory signals, unpredictability and a mysterious aura will arouse interest, connected with strong emotions massive memories will be created. One of the most interesting points he addresses is his advice on creating a problem, then becoming the exclusive solution to this problem oneself. By verbalizing the desires of the target groups through suggestive phrases and creating the perfect illusion the seducer can bring his target to new hemispheres without being perfect and therefore boring (Green 2001).

3.3 Trump - A Corporate World

Throughout the entire presidential campaign 2016 Trump represented the man of business who never dissociated from polarizing statements on new social media such as Twitter rather than representing a versed rhetorician in the field of politics. The reasons can be found in a brief summary of his background and his endeavor to remain authentic. The Art of the Deal, a book which Trump co-authored in 1987, introduces 11 key elements which reflect the economic philosophy of a business person. These statements consist of simple and concise solicitations, comparable to linguistic elements designed for Corporate Language manuals:

1. Think big
2. Protect the downside and the upside will take care of itself
3. Maximise your options
4. Know your market
5. Use your leverage
6. Enhance your location
7. Get the word out
8. Fight back
9. Deliver the goods
10. Contain the costs
11. Have fun

Trump himself states that his style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward (Trump 1987: 45). This thinking is also visible in his speech style. Inspired by The Power of Positive Thinking, written by “God’s Salesman” Norman Vincent Peale, Trump himself declares to have found his life philosophy with this self-confidence teaching at a young age. Peale was one of the most influential religious figures of his time after the great depression and war, but was also severely criticized for his simplification of Christianity and general advice on how to accumulate not only spiritual but material success as well. Entrepreneur Trump adapted and extended the concept of personal branding during its emergence in the 1950’s and developed a successful form of self branding, a marketing measure which requires an editorial schedule to be entirely effective (Blair 2015). It functions as a promise to the customer, raises expectations and highlights the differences between oneself and the competition through an established authentic linguistic style and tonality which is distinctive (Haftmann 2014, Huffington Post).

In times of globalization where metaphors such as time is money represent economic thinking, almost everything is abbreviated to use time as effective as possible. Therefore shorthand seems to have become the language of business which suits Twitter’s communication model of messages being limited to 280 characters well. Presidential candidate Trump (now counting 46.006.789 followers) has been and still is specifically fond of Twitter as the main channel of communication. This could be due to the effect of economic thinking along with the simplicity of usage. Never in history before has a presidential campaign aroused such indignation and malice worldwide. The reasons lie in Trump’s explicit linguistic style on Twitter which included harsh insults and often statements he then later revised after being confronted with undeniable proof. As an “exponent of post-truth” (The Economist 2016) facts his tweets gained a new level of fame, one of the favorite objectives in his presidential campaign was his direct opponent Hillary Clinton. Aside from other factors, these verbal attacks and his particular speech style on Twitter seemed to have played a major role during the entire campaign and presumably had an immense impact on the voters contrary to traditional frameworking within politics. In regard to Corporate Language Reins postulates that the more emotional the information, the more efficient the recipient will save it and label these flash-bulb memories where the attentional focus is intentionally drawn upon (Reins 2006 :26). Trump himself openly evaluates that new social media, especially Twitter, was his key to success as one tweet would reach millions immediately while bypassing the media (Kanter 2017).

As a result of the recent presidential elections and the frequent use of Twitter, the Oxford Dictionary chose the word “post-truth” as the official word of 2016 and defines the adjective “as relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotional and personal belief” (Oxford dictionaries). Donald Trump is now termed the first “post-truth president” with a senior adviser denominating his claims as “alternative facts” (Tsipursky 2017). This leads to the concern if politicians in the future might follow Trump’s lead and use the same stylistic strategy and new communication channels to overwin voters. “Simply put, Donald Trump is highly skilled at hacking our societal structures, abusing trust in a classical use of the psychology of persuasion.” (Tsipursky 2017).

Almost one year after Trump having been elected U.S. President, the media reported that the Intelligence Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is now investigating what role the data analysis company Cambridge Analytica played in Trump’s electoral campaign in 2016. The accusations include voter manipulation and therefore damage to democracy through so called psychological warfare. Cambridge Analytica advertises to create psychometric profiles of Facebook-User on basis of their usage behavior and admits to have handed over documents to the congress. Those profiles are to be seen as the fundament for tailor-made promotion to manipulate systematically. Further investigation also implies that in close cooperation with Trump’s election campaign team the company put customized advertisement in circulation to denounce his direct opponent Hillary Clinton and to gain potential voters’ trust without the majority of the country even conceiving. This is due to facts such as Robert Mercer being one of the shareholders of Cambridge Analytica and at the same time a great Trump supporter, as well as Stephen Bannon who held a leadership role with Cambridge Analytica and with Breitbart News before being nominated Trump’s head of election campaign. Social Media platforms Google, Facebook and Twitter are now obliged to give statements concerning possible electoral manipulation (Süddeutsche Zeitung 2017). If psychometric information was used on potential voters to customize the Trump campaign and therefore gain more influence, which strategy would make the most sense linguistically?


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Corporate Language in Online Campaigning. Candidate Trump's Tweets in the 2016 Presidential Election Campaign
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Corporate Language, Linguistics, Linguistik, Sprachwissenschaften, Trump, USA, Marketing, Politics, Politik, Political Presidential Campaigning, Corporate Identity, Hillary Clinton, Twitter, Social Networks
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Amelie Kersten (Author), 2019, Corporate Language in Online Campaigning. Candidate Trump's Tweets in the 2016 Presidential Election Campaign, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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