Using emotive communication for reputation management

One of the many benefits of Twitter is its ability to connect you with new and interesting people. Last week student Kamila Sosnowska (pictured) got in touch with me after reading my article on how Coca-Cola is putting the fizz into its comms.

She is currently studying at the University of Edinburgh Business School, undertaking a MSc in Management. I was intrigued to learn of her research into emotive communication, so asked her to write a guest article for Diary of an internal communicator. She has developed a framework and is looking for input from communications professionals so I’ve included her email at the foot of this article.

Kamila was born in Poland and lived in Sweden and Canada before deciding to begin her studies in Scotland. She speaks English, Swedish, French and Spanish and completed her Bachelor (Hons) in PR & Media with a 2:1 degree from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. I’ll let her explain in her own words some of the good work she has been doing and the results. Over to you Kamila…

Using emotive communication in marketing and how it applies to reputation management
My interest in emotive communication strategies developed during a summer internship at Saatchi & Saatchi in Warsaw, where I began reading Kevin Roberts’ fantastic book about Lovemarks (for those who don’t know, he’s the global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi). I felt like it had opened up a completely new world of communication and it made so much sense. It then made me wonder why I had not read or heard anything about emotion throughout my PR and media undergraduate studies.

I started doing research for my dissertation and soon it became obvious that PR literature has a significant lack of studies conducted on emotional aspects of communication when compared to marketing and advertising literature. I found an extensive number of journal articles and books about consumer behavior and its theories on rational versus emotional decision-making as well as advertisings’ use of affective symbols and images in evoking certain feelings.

Focusing on brand loyalty
In order to relate to the Lovemark theory, I focused on brand loyalty, how it can be achieved through emotional engagement with consumers and how ultimately it builds a company’s reputation. Since PR practitioners are commonly viewed as reputation guardians (Surma 2006), I immediately saw the connection between emotional relationship management not only with consumers, but with all stakeholders and its applicability to reputation management.

I therefore conducted focus groups that tried to determine whether viewers pick up on certain emotive signals embedded within one of Coca-Cola’s promotional videos from their ‘Open Happiness’ campaign, which provides an ‘inside’ view to the imaginary world inside the Happiness factory, ie. a Coke vending machine, and its quirky employees. The discussion among participants proved that most of them recognised and reflected on the intended emotional values related to good employee relations within Coca-Cola, its ‘happy’ corporate culture and creativity.

Some admitted that the video itself made them feel happy or even proved to them their love for Coke. When asked them to explain why they felt this way it was difficult for them to do so. This is what I believe Lovemarks are all about – a strong, irrational loyalty to a product.

These results prompted me to develop a theoretical framework with an emotional component that could be applied to reputation management within public relations studies. I recognise the fact that in the ‘real world’, outside academia, PR professionals use emotions on a daily basis to persuade and motivate audiences to act, change or notice products, events or organisations. However, I think that communication, specifically PR scholars, should give more credit to consumer decision-making processes (such as in consumer behaviour) and the emotional, more real and passionate aspect of human relationships.

For example, storytelling is a communication practice that  (from my experience) is quite underestimated in academic theories. Rachel’s post about Coke using emotional storytelling to engage dialogue with their employees really interested me and I think it is a great example of how emotion is being used by PR professionals.

I am now brainstorming ideas for my MSc dissertation and am considering revisiting the topic of emotional engagement but this time either applying it to employee relations and its role within organisational behaviour or focusing on specific marketing strategies and their effectiveness. Any comments/thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you for your insightful article Kamila. I think this research sounds incredibly interesting and hope my readers do too. If you would like to get in touch with Kamila you can do so at or via Twitter @Haalina, Rachel.

Roberts, K. 2005. Lovemarks – the future beyond brands. Saatchi&Saatchi Publishing.
Surma, A. 2006. The Rhetoric of Reputation: Vision not Visibility. Prism 4(1):



  1. Go with the internal branding issue 😉 a brand is a promise that is supposed to be kept not only on the outside, brand values have a guiding function in corporate culture / change /…

  2. Thanks for commenting Ralf. I’m looking forward to seeing what Kamila writes next, Rachel

  3. Tony Sharp says:

    I agree with Ralf. At Caterpillar we naturally have a strong focus on Employer Brand to attract people with skills we need and raise awareness with future talent of the career opportunities that exist in our Company. But we also have a strong focus on Employee Brand that is essential for retention, pride, engagement, celebrating achievements and understanding development opportunities so we remain the employer of choice for existing colleagues.

  4. Hi Tony, I think remaining an employer of choice is key and is something that can often be overlooked as people focus on attracting rather than retaining talent.

    I’d be happy to feature the good work you’re doing if you’d like to write a guest article? Am sure other readers would be interested in hearing all about it. Let me know if you do and thanks for commenting, Rachel

  5. Great post – thanks Kamila and Rachel. This is an area we’re developing here at SAS, so it’s top of mind!

    The whole idea of ‘brand’ is becoming a bit muddy, as multiple versions create confusion – with the risk of creating ‘Frankenbrands’ bolted together to meet the needs of marketing, HR and talent teams.

    Kevin Roberts’ ‘Lovemarks’ is a great way of summing up an extreme emotive bond between people and brands – but maybe we need a more functional version for how we relate to organisations (as employers/work partners/associates)? Any suggestions?

    If we over-use the ‘brand’ word (which is already a bit worn out) we’ll end up weakening the thing we’ve set out to strengthen. My colleague Jason Franks commented on the naming issue recently here:

  6. Thanks for your comments Louise and good to read the article from Jason too.

    I agree there needs to be a more functional version, you’ve got my brain whirring! Rachel

  7. Kamila Sosnowska says:

    Thank you for the comments! I really appreciate them.

    I think the lovemark concept should somehow (will hopefully try to figure that out) be applied to communications models on how to engage in efficient dialogue with employees and consumers. I developed a temporary framework but it needs a lot more research to support it and check its applicability.
    I strongly believe that the way forward is relationship management!
    We should create strong, meaningful and ‘fun’ relationships with both consumers and employees. Happy employees could be the key that will open the door to the consumers heart!

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