Trust-building strategies in corporate discourse: an experimental study

Matteo Fuoli, Christopher Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
611 Downloads (Pure)


This paper presents a scenario-based experiment designed to test the effects of trust-building strategies, realised in stance-taking acts, which a previous corpus-based study found to be salient features of stakeholder-facing corporate communication. The experiment relies on a between-subjects design in which a target group of subjects are exposed to trust-building strategies while another control group are not. We apply this paradigm to corporate discourse in the form of an About Us webpage produced by a fictitious multinational pharmaceutical company that has been accused by a whistleblower of corporate misconduct. The results of the study show that these strategies are indeed effective in fostering trust in the company and have an indirect positive effect on the perceived credibility of the company’s denial in response to the allegations made by the whistleblower. The strategies are therefore able to mitigate the potential damage caused by public accusations of wrongdoing and help companies insure against future threats to their legitimacy and freedom to operate, as when their behaviour violates, or is said to violate, societal norms and values. Theoretically, the results provide insights into the psychological mechanisms of trust-building and reader response. Methodologically, the study contributes to the growing body of work using experimental methods in CDA by further demonstrating that experimentation can usefully complement more traditional discourse-analytical methods as a form of triangulation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-552
Number of pages39
JournalDiscourse and Society
Issue number5
Early online date14 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


  • corporate discourse
  • credibility
  • denial
  • epistemic vigilance
  • experimental methods
  • stance
  • triangulation
  • trust


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