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Positioning Theory

Ansgar Zerfass

Subject Communication Studies » Strategic Communication and PR

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Positioning is an essential concept in →  communication management , →  Public Relations , and →  Marketing communication. The process of positioning includes identifying, defining, and managing the →  Perception relevant audiences have of a particular organization, product, person, or idea. Three lines of thought relevant to communication theory have emerged during the last decades: strategic positioning, positioning strategies, and discursive positioning. In line with the coalition and stakeholder theory of the firm ( Freeman 1984 ), companies can be conceptualized as a “negotiated enactment of stakeholder interests” ( Heath 1994 , 147). Resulting from this ongoing process is the strategic position of a company in the market and in society. Theories of →  corporate communication ( van Riel & Fombrun 2007 ; Zerfass 2007 ) argue that this position has to serve as the starting point for developing communication programs. Strategic positioning thus constructs a frame of reference for public relations and marketing. For example, the website of Merrill Lynch & Co, Inc., states: “Merrill Lynch has positioned itself to be the preeminent global investment bank, wealth management and advisory partner, an essential partner to its client.” This gives a clear orientation for the company's communication management, which has to identify and facilitate different facets of this ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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