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Humanitarian Branding & the Media - The Case of Amnesty International

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The development of corporate communication in recent years has brought about a fading of the division of labor between commercial and non-commercial organizations. While the practices of commercial organizations are becoming increasingly ethicalized, so the practices of non-profit organizations are becoming increasingly commercialized. This paper explores the use of media discourse for the communication of ethical messages by humanitarian organizations, caught, as they are, in a tension between, on the one hand, the commercial strategies of visibility and still greater dependence on the media, and, on the other hand, the public’s skepticism toward mediated morality and what is commonly referred to as compassion fatigue. The issue is investigated through an analysis of a TV spot produced by the Danish section of Amnesty International in 2004. This spot is taken as an example of how the organization’s branding strategies testify to a high degree of reflexivity about the conditions of what Luc Boltanski calls a Crisis of Pity. The analysis illustrates how, in the face of compassion fatigue, the organization manages to carve out a new space for itself in the marketized ethical discourse, and leads to a discussion of the consequences of such rebranding for the construction of morality by the organization.

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Anne Vestergaard

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