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Hoff-Clausen, Elisabeth

Winter 2013, 43:5, pages 425-448

Attributing Rhetorical Agency in a Crisis of Trust: Danske Bank’s Act of Public Listening after the Credit Collapse


Digital media offer innovative ways of resolving crises of trust. This essay discusses a campaign that aimed to rebuild public trust in banks during the financial crisis. The campaign reflected a strategy (well-known in conflict resolution) that is best described as an online exercise in active listening.The essay discusses the potential of such a campaign and argues that in a crisis where rhetorical agency is impaired due to declining trust, corporations that engage in public listening may communicate acknowledgment and openness to change. However, in order to realize this potential, the public must be entrusted with a meaningful role as contributor to the campaign in the discursive and technical design of the medium of interaction. In the case studied, the campaign texts explicitly invited participation, but implicitly restrained the rhetorical agency of the public. This undermined the initiative’s ability to renew the cognitive and emotional grounds for trust.

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