Cacciatore Final Exam – Master of Arts in Communications


Stacy Cacciatore

Final Exam – May 30, 2015

Queens University of Charlotte


The theory I believe would best be applied to the Starbucks breastfeeding issue is Erving Goffman’s dramaturgic metaphor. Goffman’s (1959) sociological background provides the context for his contributions to public relations. What’s interesting is that Goffman’s (1959) theory outlines that identity and personal relationships are constructed through face-to-face interaction. Goffman (1959) provides a theoretical framework that includes impression management, framing, footing and face (Johansson, 2009). The reason I believe Goffman’s dramaturgic metaphor fits this situation the best is because this theory is all about the interaction played by actors in front of audiences. Goffman took his ideas of this theory using the metaphor of dramatic scenes on stage and how there are several actors that play a role in the bringing the story to life. He uses this metaphor of the stage to demonstrate how society is a drama and our social interactions are like the intricate relationships, symbols and dialogue among actors in a play.

Therefore, using the example of the Starbucks case study, I will outline why I think Goffman’s dramaturgic metaphor fits this situation and each player’s “role” in the communications situation. First, Goffman (1959) discusses both the frontstage and backstage as part of the communication interaction. Frontstage and backstage refer to the thought that people use communication deliberately and strategically to create an image of themselves (Johannson, 2009)

The backstage of Starbucks is their corporate office, back office functions and internal policies. As Audrey walks into the communications strategy meeting, she is prepared to discuss the approach with backstage members. The backstage members are comprised of Human Resources, Corporate Communications, Legal, Compliance, Risk and company executives that form the strategy and policies of the company. They are not seen in the public, but they are the backbone of the organization. In the backstage, Audrey can relay the facts of the situation and the team can openly debate the pros and cons of allowing breastfeeding in their stores. The backstage conversations will not be relayed to the public, so this is a place where open dialogue can occur without fear of the information negatively impacting the company’s impression to the public.

Audrey, the spokesperson for Starbucks and the barista’s who interact with customers are at the frontstage. Audrey plays a unique role as the company’s spokesperson because she is an “insider” member of the backstage and she also is the face of the organization to the public. The baristas at Starbucks are truly the “frontstage”. The frontstage is what is presented to others that observe. The baristas will have to present the policy of breastfeeding to the customers, enforce it, and take the feedback from the customer’s on their thoughts of the policy.

Within the “stage” of the Starbucks breastfeeding incident, let’s also explore how impression management plays a role. Audrey must create a communications strategy that appeals to several key stakeholders and manages the company’s impression among the public. Impression management is the thought that people use communication deliberately and strategically to create an image of themselves (Johannson, 2009). In creating the communications strategy, Audrey must consider how she, as the actor representing the company, should relay the information the illustrate the viewpoint of the company. She can do this by using framing, footing and face.

Let’s assume that Starbucks decides to implement a policy that allows mothers to breastfeed in its coffee shops. Audrey must using impression management, footing, frames and face to properly communicate the policy to the key stakeholders.

First, Audrey will develop a communications strategy using framing help explain the background to others to help them understand what is going on in a particular situation. I recommend that Audrey implement an apology as one of the first communication tactics. Benoit (1997) conducted many case studies on image restoration for corporations in a time of crisis and discovered that the mortifications strategy is a key strategy for image restoration. Benoit says a company should apologize for any wrong doing, not only because it’s the right thing to do morally, but because it is essential for image repair. Audrey should use the mortification strategy in conjunction with Goffman’s dramaturgic metaphor attempt to repair Starbuck’s image after the breastfeeding protest incident. This will help set the stage for managing Starbucks image in the situation.

Secondly, Audrey should use framing to ensure the successful delivery of her communications strategy to change Starbuck’s employee’s policy on breastfeeding. Goffman says that frames organize more than what’s going on, but also get others involved and committed (Johannson, 2009). The key here is to get the other stakeholders involved.

Audrey should evaluate the various tiers of stakeholders in this communications strategy. One tier is the corporate “backstage” team, another tier is the barista’s and other “frontstage” employees, another tier includes the protest groups and another tier includes customers’ opposed to the policy. Audrey needs to frame the situation for each of those groups and get them involved and engaged in the communications strategy. The backstage needs to ensure they are all on the same page and they should update all official internal documentation. The backstage should also ensure they have clear, consistent and timely communications to employees throughout Starbucks. Starbucks shouldn’t find out about the change through social media or the news, they should find out first hand from company leadership. Audrey can achieve this through a cascaded communications strategy, with messaging at the level for the CEO down through the hierarchy of managers to employees. Audrey will need to ensure she has the right framing wrapped around the message so employees understand what is changing, why, when and how it affects customers. Audrey should also prepare FAQs and training, delivered via the Barista training portal. Audrey should also ensure that the new policy is integrated into the online Barista training program and management training. In addition to the new policy, employees will need to understand how to escalate customer questions and concerns. There should also be pre-approved messaging that Starbucks employees can use when communicating with customers about the policy. Since Starbucks employees, baristas and managers are on the “frontstage” they will receive all the questions, not those in the “backstage” who created the policies. Therefore, they will need to be equipped with the right communications to ensure that customers receive clear and consistent communication about the approach and that there is a clear escalation path for customer complaints or concerns.

Again, the key here is to ensure that employees are engaged, as an important component to framing is to get others involved in committed. This can occur if Audrey frames the change appropriately and has employees on board to help ensure the messaging is consistent.

Starbucks should also prepare their “frontstage” messaging, including their customer-facing website, social media sites, signage at their coffee shops, press releases and news story opportunities. Starbucks can also employee a grassroots mommy blogger community to bring their message to the “frontstage”. The mommy blogger community is a great strategy because a key stakeholder in this communication strategy is breastfeeding mothers. If Starbucks can engage key influential mommy bloggers to promote the change of policy on Starbucks behalf and share through social media channels, the message will be more pervasive and reach the key audiences in a way that resonates with that audience. Compare, for example, the frame of a corporate message being delivered via press release on the Starbucks site, compared with a trusted blogging companion promoting a change on behalf of the group in which one is a member. The key audience for this change of policy, breastfeeding in the coffee shops, will relate much better to the mommy blogging companion. Additionally, the key bloggers can have tremendous reach on social media, with stories being retweeted, shared and pinned millions of times throughout the cyber atmosphere. The important component here for Audrey is to choose the right frame for the message. While multiple frames can be used, and should be used, the framing chosen is critical to how the receiver interprets the message.

The footing of the issue is the stance or posture on an issue. This includes both verbal and non-verbal behavior. Footing is divided into three components, the animator, author and principal. Goffman (1959) states that the animator is the speaker, the author is the one who writes the content and the principal is the person behind the speaking. (Johansson, 2009). In this case, Audrey is the author. The case study said that Audrey is the spokesperson, so I’m assuming she is not only the author, but also the animator. The principal is the Starbucks corporate team behind the messaging. I’m sure Starbucks will employ legal, compliance, risk, Human Resources, Corporate Communications, Marketing and other key company executives to make the decision about the policy. That corporate team makes up the “principal”. As Audrey walks into this team meeting, she will need to consider the roles of all the key players as the “principal” of the message. The case study mentioned that there are legal implications given the Maryland Act of 2003. The leader of the pack behind the nurse-in, Lorig Charkoudian, is also a skilled public movement artist. She has led the charge among many important political movements. This should be considered in the footing, as the principals, those who are behind the message, will need to ensure they consider all angles of this issue. This communications strategy goes well beyond simply communicating a change of policy to the public. It’s a political, legal, health and ethical issue that must be considered from all angles. I also believe that Audrey should not be the company’s spokesperson in all of these forums. Given that Lorig is a savvy protestor, I believe that Starbucks should receive outside council from a political advisory agency and consider a political spokesperson or the CEO to act as the “animator” in this situation. The footing, or relationship, between the animator and participant is determined through this interaction as the participant gauges the trustworthiness. This is why I suggest that the CEO deliver the message, as many customers are aware of the Starbucks history and how Schultz built this company from the ground up. Many customers are also aware of how Schultz built this company’s culture to be the company that his father never got a chance to work for, with benefits for employees working 20 hours or more, training for employees and a diverse workforce. Given the trustworthiness of Schultz and his strong ethical background, customers should hear directly from him on this important issue. This trust that Starbucks has built with their customer base has built their brand.

Starbucks must also consider the face in this situation. According to Goffman, face is “the public self-image” (2009). The face is emotionally invested and must constantly be negotiated. The concept of face is constantly intertwined with power and prestige and it’s in everyone’s best interest to maintain each other’s face. There are two components to face, both positive and negative. Positive face consists of basically trying to make someone feel good about the other member and desirable. On the other hand, negative face is greedy side that tries to influence through power and dominance and wants his/her actions to be unimpeded by others. In the case study of Starbucks, they need to maintain positive face. It’s in Starbucks best interest, in using Goffman’s impression management theory, to use positive face and make their position seem desirable and not force their actions on others. I’ll compare and contrast the approaches Starbucks could take using positive and negative face. Starbucks has an opportunity with the nurse-in to use their positive face to make their coffee shop seem desirable and indicate that they care about others feelings, wants and needs. While this may seem like a crisis, it’s also an opportunity for Starbucks to redeem their positive face by showing an emotional side that can relate to their nursing mother customers. They should not use their power, as a corporation, to ban breastfeeding in their coffee shops, or even worse, ban nursing in any public forum. Given Starbucks size, scope, scale and power, they certainly could use negative face to enforce breastfeeding banning policies. They could use their power and negative face to make breastfeeding in public a health related issue or public indecency and they could drive forward legislative change to have it banned. However, I would not recommend that approach as it would alienate a segment of their customer base. Instead, they could use positive face to listen to their customers concerns, be empathetic and use the nature of their relationships with their customers to communicate and demonstrate understanding. A strategy Starbucks could use in demonstrating positive face is encouraging dialogue through social media about the policy to truly hear from their customers and what they thought about the policy. The key is though, to back words up with action. If Starbucks just wants to have a “dialogue”, but not back it up with action to change a policy, they should remain mum. It’s worse for Starbucks to ask customers what they think, and then not drive change, than to not ask at all. To maintain positive face, and manage their impression, they must back their words up with action.

It’s also important to note in impression management one must navigate two levels of communication: “the expression that the individual gives, and the expression that is given off” (Johansson, 2009, p. 121). For Starbucks to properly use impression management to manage tis crisis, they must keep an eye on the customer perception of the brand during this time. While Audrey may create a dynamic communication strategy, complete with the recommended policy, appropriate backstage and frontstage communications, framing, footing and face, if the voice of the customer, and employee, is not at the forefront at all times, the impression she thinks Starbucks is giving, may not be the one that is given off. The communication strategy I recommend to mitigate this circumstance is two-fold. Given that Goffman’s Dramaturgic Metaphor is based in theatre, I thought it was apropos to recommend a “Rotten Tomatoes” approach to gauging the audience’s reaction to the communications. With employees, I recommend writing an article for the company blog or intranet site, and then asking employees to rate the policy change on a Rotten Tomatoes scale and provide their honest feedback on what they think about the change. Given that Starbucks places their employees first, with customers a close second, it’s critical that Starbucks understand the voice of employee with the policy change. They could engage employees and encourage them to share their open and honest feedback without fear of negative consequences. Leadership could then take that feedback into consideration in their messaging and tweak how they communicate based on employee feedback.

Second, I recommend that Starbucks keep a finger on the pulse of social media. They should put messaging about the policy change on Facebook and Twitter to test the messaging with their audience and gauge the reaction. Customers on Twitter are open, honest and quick to reply. This can be a quick gauge to see how the message is being received. If they see a negative reaction, they can quickly course correct in a medium like Twitter. Many other companies have done this and if a message isn’t well received, they’ll send out a quick tweet, such as “Thanks for your feedback. Back to the drawing board”.

In conclusion, Goffman’s impression management is an important theory to manage a company’s image and reputation. Given the crisis of the nurse-in, Starbucks can achieve much success in their image and brand if Starbucks employs the techniques of impression management, footing, framing and face, they can not only save their image, but they can improve upon their image and brand.


Part II – Stacy’s Capstone Inquiry Project Theory


My inquiry project will explore the power of language used in the headlines and content in women’s running magazines. I will explore the subculture of mother running and how headlines, content and images in running magazines demoralize mother runners and create unrealistic expectations of performance and appearance.

I will use the feminist standpoint theory to evaluate if running magazines contribute towards the continued social ideology that mothers aren’t “good enough” or “true runners” and answer the question what, if anything, is missing from these women’s running magazines that mother runners really want to hear about?

It’s particular important to use feminist standpoint theory to evaluate this issue. The feminist standpoint theory was developed by Dorothy Smith (1987), Hillary Rose (1983), Patricia Hill Collins (1986), Donna Haraway (1988, 1997), Sandra Harding (1991, 1993) and Nancy Hartsock (1983). The feminist standpoint theory takes a page from the book of Marxist ideas. The Marxist theory looks at how capitalism naturalizes class divisions. Similarly, feminist standpoint theory analyzes how women are subordinate to men, and how the patriarchy between men and women makes this division seem natural and unremarkable (Wood, 2009).

First, in regards to why it’s important to use feminist standpoint theory to evaluate women’s running, it’s important to note the history of women’s running. Women’s running and feminism are intertwined. Consider key events in women’s running history, such as the historic event of after years of hard work and lobbying allowed women’s Olympic Marathon in the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in 1984. Also consider that in 1960, after 32 years of women being banned, the women’s 800 meter race was reintroduced in the Summer Olympics. That year the Summer Olympics were held in Rome, and women were allowed to participate in five running events, as opposed to 16 races open to men (The History of Women’s Running, n.d.). However, even with this ground-breaking moment for women in the sport, all was not overcome. In 1967, Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. But it almost didn’t happen. At mile four, race director, Jock Semple, tried to knock her off the course. Semple yelled at Switzer, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!” (p. 1). Semple charged at Switzer and repeatedly tried to knock her off the course while her two male companions fought him off. Semple was outraged at the audacity of a woman running in “his” race. It wasn’t until 1972 that the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) allowed women to register for marathons, but they were required to start at separate time. Since then women have entered running in record numbers.

Why is this important? Because this exemplifies why it’s important to specifically use feminist standpoint theory to evaluate the content in women’s running magazines. The reason why it’s important to consider the history of women’s running when using the feminist standpoint theory is because this theory is rooted in feminism political movements. Chris Weedon (1997) stated, “feminism is a politics,” (as cited in Rakow and Nastasia, 2009, p. 253). The women’s rights movement occurred between 1960s and the 1980s. The feminist narrative is tied with feminist movement. Feminism is not only political, but it helps us understand power, gender, injustice and change (as cited in Rakow and Nastasia, 2009).


The feminist theory of public relations views things from a shift from “women’s assimilation into patriarchal systems” to a “genuine commitment to social restructuring,” (p. 262). Basically this means that we should change our viewpoint from women having to adapt into the male social structure to a social restructuring to accommodate women and men.

In women’s running, this is critical because I will use the feminist theory to demonstrate that I don’t believe we have reached this state yet. Running is still viewed as a male’s sport I which women are reluctantly allowed to participate. This can be seen through the headlines of running magazines. I will evaluate what, if anything, is missing from the content of running magazines using the feminist standpoint theory. Do running magazines focus primarily on men and have a few items of editorial that accept women running in a man’s world? Or does the content of the magazine equally focus on content that apply to men and women equally in the sport? These are the questions I seek to answer with the research.

Secondly, the feminist theory of public relations assumes that men are the dominant group. The feminist standpoint theory is centered on the belief that men and women have different power in society and women are the marginalized group (Wood). We see this in women’s running through the top three running magazines that target primarily male runners. Runner’s World, the most successful running magazine, has a total audience of 2,594,000. More than half of their reader base are men (52 percent) and 48 percent of reader’s are women (Runner’s World Media Group, 2014). Running Times, whose circulation is 121,841, is directed 60 percent to men, 40 percent women (Runner’s World Media Group, 2014). The smallest of the three main running magazines, Women’s Running, has a circulation of 72,000 and their magazine is 100 percent dedicated to women (Women’s Running, 2014). The advertising and content in these mainstream running magazines are geared towards men, which further marginalizes women in the sport of running.

Finally, it’s important to consider that feminist standpoint theory is a theory of knowledge, otherwise known as an epistemological theory. This theory focuses on how one’s gender shapes their knowledge. “A feminist standpoint grows out of (that is, it is shaped by, rather than essentially given) the social location of women’s lives. Feminist standpoint can, but does not necessarily arise from being female,” (Rakow and Natasia p. 62). In women’s running, it’s important to realize how one’s gender shapes their knowledge to women’s running. This knowledge is developed and understood by women, being a woman in the sport of running. This can be explained through the feminist standpoint theory, as the marginalized group is more likely the party is to acknowledge the truth that there are inequalities. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that more privileged groups have a vested interest in not seeing the inequality and less powerful groups are more inclined to see the social location of the privileged rather than the inverse.

This theory will also help analyze the content in running magazines and understand how the rhetoric plays a role in understanding the power dynamics in the sport, culture, context and historical time will all be considered in the analysis of women’s running magazines. I will use the feminist standpoint theory to highlight the cultural values and power dynamics that subordinate women in the sport of running. I will analyze the context in running magazines forums to better understand the dynamic, power imbalance and its’ effects on female, mother runners.

Let me provide a specific example of how I will use feminist standpoint theory to evaluate the content. In the headlines for Runner’s World in May on their website feature, a male, David Clark, who ran the Boston Marathon, a picture of a male running trails, advice from Larry Bird, a male basketball star, a feature on runner Chris Laudani, a profile on running in Idaho, whole-grain recipes for runners, activity trackers, a picture of a male running drills, a feature on Navajo runner Craig Curley, prosciutto recipes, body shop core exercises and a profile on Marla Runyan who teaches the blind to run (Runner’s World, May 2015). Of all of the headlines, the only content feature that pictured a female was the one about teaching the blind to run. Without using feminist standpoint theory, one wouldn’t be able to dissect the content from a gender perspective. However, with looking at the content through the lens of feminist standpoint theory, one can see that the headlines are lacking features that pertain to women. Additionally, the image of a female in a stereotypical “helping” role, reinforces the gender stereotype that women play a role in caring professions in society. This is a key component of the feminist standpoint theory. Additionally, the article on “Body Shop: Standing core strengtheners” reinforces the fat shaming and focus on body image and weight loss for women.

These content headlines also demonstrate that Runner’s World is allowing females to play a role in the running community that is predominantly male dominated, but doesn’t give them an equal seat at the table. Out of the 12 headlines, only two feature pictures of women, and the content places women in the stereotypical role of body conscious sex image and helping role.

In conclusion, feminist standpoint theory will allow me to effectively evaluate the content in the running magazines and search for themes. The bottom line for the feminist standpoint theory is that it’s a theory of knowledge (Epistemological theory) that focuses on how one’s gender shapes their knowledge. I will explore the shared knowledge reiterated in running magazines.







Benoit, W.L. (1997). Image repair discourse and crisis communication. Public Relations Review, 23, 177-186.

Johansson, C. (2009). Researching Relations with Erving Goffman as Pathfinder. In Ø. Ihlen, B. van Ruler, & M. Fredriksson (Eds.), Public relations and social theory: Key figures and concepts (pp. 118-139). New York: Routledge.

Rakow, L. and Nastasia, D.I. (2009). On Feminist Theory of Public Relations. In Ø. Ihlen, B. van Ruler, & M. Fredriksson (Eds.), Public relations and social theory: Key figures and concepts (pp. 252-277). New York: Routledge.

Runner’s World (June 2015). Rodale, Inc: Emmaus, PA.

Runner’s World Media Group (2014). Running Times Demographic Profile. Retrieved from on May 12, 2015

Runner’s World (May 2015). Rodale, Inc: Emmaus, PA. Retrieved from

Sebor, J. (n.d.). The history of women’s running. Active. Retrieved from

Women’s Running (2014). Overview. Retrieved from on May 12, 2015

Wood, J. T. (2005). Feminist Standpoint Theory and Muted Group Theory: Commonalities and Divergences. Women & Language, 28(2), 61-64.



One thought on “Cacciatore Final Exam – Master of Arts in Communications

  1. Pingback: Theoretical Literacy | Stacy Cacciatore's Digital Project Portfolio for Queens University of Charlotte

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