Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


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Date of Graduation

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


School of Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication


Angela Crow


Competition for university applicants has pushed MBA programs to recruit broadly by taking a more marketing focused self-promotional approach. To grow their applicant pool, many turn to customer relationship management (CRM) systems to manage email recruitment campaigns. CRM systems are efficient communication managers that consistently deliver promotional email content to vast online audiences. However, writing and rhetoric scholarship promote the idea that interfaces, such as CRM systems, are more than mere tools; instead, they impact the purpose, content, and form of communications. This study explores a CRM software interface along with the emails generated from such systems. The first part of the study describes the affordances of a CRM system using my own experiential knowledge as a CRM system user. In the second part, I acted as a prospective applicant to 34 different MBA programs and collected 266 emails generated from CRM systems. I finished the study with a rhetorical analysis of emails grouped by the amount of data collected from the MBA programs’ online request for information forms. This study found that audience segmentation was underutilized, email series varied in their timing and content, and that more data did not translate into more targeted messages. CRM systems are complex and although they extend the repertoire of possible actions, they also frame outcomes which effect the persuasive impact of email recruitment campaigns. Additionally, it is unknown who benefits from vast amounts of personal data collected by MBA programs’ online request for information forms, a detail that requires further study.



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