Michigan Technological University
Vincent Manzie is a Ph.D. student at Michigan Technological University. Vincent’s research interests include risk communication, corporate crisis rhetoric, organizational culture, and communication theories. His current project examines rhetoric, power, and agency in a post-colonial conflict set in Cameroon, which involved claims from indigenous, environmental, governmental, and multinational stakeholders. He also holds a bachelor’s degree (university of Buea, Cameroon) and Master’s degree (Tsinghua University, Beijing) in journalism and communication. He has worked as editor-in-chief for a Cameroonian tabloid, Cameroon Trumpet, and as news and programs coordinator for several community radio stations in Cameroon. He was an intern with the international English service of China Radio International in Beijing. Prior to accepting the PhD offer at Michigan Technological University, Vincent was a lecturer at the university level in Cameroon. His recent class projects include among others, the Ebola crisis rhetoric with focus on the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC.
Learning from a Multinational Corporate Crisis in Cameroon: The Case of Herakles Farms and Image Repair Strategies
Herakles Farms, a New York based agricultural multinational corporation, launched a major palm oil production project on land leased by the Cameroon government but under contestation by indigenous communities, NGOs, and environmental groups. The company faced opposition from villagers who alleged Herakles stripped them of their land; from environmentalists who said the plantation cuts through two baboon-populated nature reserve; from officials of the National Forestry and Wildlife agency alleging abuse of power by Herakles Farms; and suspicions of government corruption and greed among public officials responsible for authorizing the palm operations. The company has responded to these confrontations with rhetorical strategies that deny the legitimacy of these claims.
The presentation will explore:
- the articulation of struggles over the palm oil project as a complex exigence that threatened the corporate reputation and enmeshed Herakles Farms in multilayered cultural power dynamics.
- the need for an amendment to current crisis communications theoretical frameworks in order to more adequately address non-Western cultural contexts.
- an improvisational crisis response strategy emerging out of the Herakles Farms crisis that I contend offers a more responsive approach to the Cameroonian dynamics.