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Session 7, Schmitt

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CSR, Media & Reputation

CSR, Media & Reputation

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  • Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you have already made out what will be my topic in the next ten minutes. In my doctoral thesis I am working on the link between CSR and reputation, so today I want to focus on the Impact of Frame Analyis on Research of Corporate Social Responsibility and Reputation.  
  • These headlines are only a small selection from the newspapers and I could have chosen others, which show the same effect: CSR is in the media So, what I want to stress is the fact: Companies – whether they wish to or not – cannot escape from public communication and public scrutiny in the media society. Therefore both for research and for practice analyzing media coverage is exposed to be an important form of research. Furthermore in a media society we can observe: Most people are heavily dependent on news media for gathering corporate information. As a result, news media play an important role in shaping people’s perceptions of corporations. We know studies, that have found that exposure to news coverage can significantly influence public opinion toward corporations. Such perceptions have important implications in a number of areas, ranging from the nature of attitude toward CSR to the judgment of a corporation’s image and identity.
  • So: the starting point of my explanations can be subsumed as follows: CSR can be understood as a symbolic and communicative practice and it is therefore precisely in communicative practices that the institutionalisation of CSR manifests itself. Companies – whether they wish to or not – cannot escape from public communication and public scrutiny in the media society.
  • Even if the importance of the issue of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has increased considerably in public debate and in the economic sector over the last few years, the question of the motivation and the added value of social commitment in terms of reputation for primarily economically orientated companies remains still open. Regarding the increasing relevance of the public for economic organisations operating under the conditions of the media society, I will discuss the question whether media coverage of Corporate Social Responsibility is a driver of or a constraint upon corporate reputation. Reputation is stated as an important factor from research as well as from the economy, empirical evidence on whether CSR is a driver of reputation or rather a constraint upon it is scarce. It is assumed that the public assembled by the (mass) media forms the arena in which reputation is constituted and communicated. Therefore, I suggest an analysis of media coverage in order to produce answers as to how media frame the issue of CSR. Some may ask: Haven’t we already answered the question? Or: why looking at the media?
  • Referring to Mark Eiseneggers concept of reputation, the establishment of social and expressive reputation is highly dependent on the perception of each particular organisation by society and therefore dependent on communicative representation. Following him: The functional reputation is based on how agents are judged with regard to their success or failure in achieving established goals. The functional reputation of companies is therefore built upon how well they succeed in demonstrably achieving the fundamental goals of their organisations, that is to say, their economic goals. The social reputation of companies depends on the extent to which they adhere to social norms and values whilst achieving functional goals. Finally, expressive reputation is based on a positive emotional connection to the company and, in this sense, largely depends on the judgement of the companies functional and social reputation. The question here is: Is CSR actually an opportunity for companies to achieve an improved reputation among relevant stakeholders or does it rather represent a risk to reputation? The assumption that social commitment necessarily leads to an improved reputation among the relevant stakeholders or procures the companies a more favourable position in political circles sounds promising but it has not been able to confirm this to date. Rather, it can be assumed that the undertaking of a social commitment does not only entail opportunities for reputation but also risks. If I may quote John Peloza so far, he considered (next chart): “ A positive action can [.] turn negative as a result of the firms’ promotion of its CSR. Although many consumers find it acceptable for a firm to derive some benefit from their CSR activities, and the inclusion of cause-marketing messages in advertising is generally seen as beneficial to the firm, researchers caution that this type of promotion requires great care. Attempting to capitalize on good deeds by promoting them has backfired on some firms who have spent more on promoting their actions than they spent on the action itself.”
  • Irrespective of whether the correlation between economic success and socially responsible action has a positive or negative bias – and plausible reasons can be found in the literature to account for both positions – it can be maintained that there is extensive agreement on the fact that the added value of social commitment to the success of the company is rather of an indirect nature. That is to say that it comes into effect in the long run via the establishment and consolidation of the corporate reputation and a minimisation of the risk of public scandal. Even companies that actively assume and communicate social responsibility can only measure or quantify the value of this commitment to a very limited extent. CSR measures themselves generally make no direct contribution to achieving the goals of an organisation, but primarily create, through the establishment of reputation and minimisation of risk, the conditions for companies to achieve their goals successfully. Due to the fact that media coverage is still the most important arena of public communication it seems to be indispensable to analyse media coverage when regarding effects of CSR on reputation. In this context, mass media have a double function: Facing there function to select issues, they provide third ones with a communication platform. Facing their function to comment and evaluate, they have to be regarded as independent commentators, who are able to influence the reputation of corporations (Eisenegger and Schranz, 2011); especially with regard to the assumption that most people depend on news media for gathering corporate information. Thus, mass media are essential in shaping people’s perceptions of corporations (David et al., 2005; Wang, 2007).
  • Some may ask: Why do we have to look at the media? Einwiller, Carroll and Korn stated in this regard: “ the media salience on the dimension of the firm’s ‘social and environmental responsibility’ had a significant relationship with the respondents’ evaluation of the firm on this very same dimension. Moreover media salience in this dimension was related to respondents’ evaluation of the firm’s products and services and their affective reaction.” (Einwiller et al., 2010: 312) So: Due to the fact that media coverage is still the most important arena of public communication and that stakeholder and target groups perceive economic organisations more and more through media-channelled communication only, it seems to be indispensable to analyse media coverage when regarding effects of CSR on reputation. In this context, mass media have a double function: Facing there function to select issues, they provide third ones with a communication platform. Facing their function to comment and evaluate, they have to be regarded as independent commentators, who are able to influence the reputation of corporations; especially with regard to the assumption that most people depend on news media for gathering corporate information. Thus, mass media are essential in shaping people’s perceptions of corporations. Issues covered by the media are relevant to the fields of politics, economics, and society. Often issues only receive social acceptance and vigour when they are in. Thus, research is faced up to the questions to what extent CSR is a media issue and whether media reflect changing expectations and appraisals of CSR. Based on the assumption that media coverage is the most important arena of public communication, the increasing impact of CSR should be reflected in media coverage.
  • 1. First of all we can observe, that mass media are a significant source of public information. Therefore understanding framing offers the opportunity to see ways that key stakeholders seek and process information. 2. We also can notice, that the public is more likely to experience the issues through the media rather than through their own experience. The study of framing – therefore - aims to identify the dominant frame for a particular social issue or phenomenon. 3. And last but not least: Framing can provide a useful, strategic way to come to understand how the news media shape how we perceive and think about issues. But until now, we can notice a lack in research regarding the long-term evaluation of the concept of CSR in media.
  • To mention only a few questions to be answered in this context are: … It is assumed that the presentation and reconstruction of CSR in media coverage has altered during the last decades. These alterations can be initiated by the media itself, i.e. influences of other media discourses on the CSR discourse, and by external influences, i.e. political and economic circumstances. As expected, these changes can be measured by the analysis of frames, which again and again are recreated by the media. Thereby, th e concept of framing suggests that public perception of reality is determined by certain frames. They define, which aspects of a certain item are important and which perspectives appear to be appropriate. Thus, the concept of framing aims to identify frames for particular issues or phenomena. By means of a frame analysis of CSR, media coverage patterns of interpretation and their impact on reputation can be outlined. Thus, frame studies can provide a strategic analysis of the question how media shape how the public perceives and thinks about certain issues.
  • Looking at the output of this research, we may differ in an empirical output and a practical output. From the perspective of research, the analysis of CSR in media promises to offer valuable clues to the public appraisal of CSR and, furthermore, to the public appreciation of corporate legitimacy, trust and reputation. In particular, frame analysis gives the opportunity to explore in temporal dimension whether frames alter among each other; if modifications within frames themselves can be observed; if media-induced differences in the patterns of interpretation can be identified; if differences in evaluating CSR caused by industrial sector or business type are visible.
  • And regarding the practical output framing seems to be important for: Understanding how media frame CSR can be helpful for (re-)gaining the privilege of interpretation by trying to influence the CSR discourse in media.
  • Transcript

    • 1. value Media coverage Corporate Citizenship Corporate Social Responsibility sustainability Reputation ecological environment green Research Frame Analysis nature Impact Three-bottom-line media ethical green CRM
    • 2. CSR Communication Conference 27.10.2011
    • 3.
        • CSR is understood as a symbolic and communicative practice and it is therefore precisely in communicative practices that the institutionalisation of CSR manifests itself.
        • Companies – whether they wish to or not – cannot escape from public communication and public scrutiny in the media society.
      CSR Communication Conference 27.10.2011
    • 4. CSR Communication Conference 27.10.2011 REPUTATION ADDED VALUE ?
    • 5. Reputation management: a balancing act between conformity and differentiation CSR Communication Conference 27.10.2011 Fulfilling functional performance expectations » competence, success Functional reputation Fulfilling socio-ethical expectations » social responsibility, integrity Nurturing an emotional attractive identity » attractiveness, authenticity Social reputation Expressive reputation Adaptation Delimitation
    • 6. CSR – opportunity or risk for a company‘s reputation?
      • “ A positive action can [.] turn negative as a result of the firms’ promotion of its CSR. Although many consumers find it acceptable for a firm to derive some benefit from their CSR activities, and the inclusion of cause-marketing messages in advertising is generally seen as beneficial to the firm, researchers caution that this type of promotion requires great care. Attempting to capitalize on good deeds by promoting them has backfired on some firms who have spent more on promoting their actions than they spent on the action itself.”
      • Peloza 2005: 16
      CSR Communication Conference 27.10.2011
    • 7. Media analysis of CSR – for what reason?
      • “ [T]he media salience on the dimension of the firm’s ‘social and environmental responsibility’ had a significant relationship with the respondents’ evaluation of the firm on this very same dimension. Moreover media salience in this dimension was related to respondents’ evaluation of the firm’s products and services and their affective reaction.”
      • Einwiller et al., 2010: 312
      CSR Communication Conference 27.10.2011
    • 8. The Impact of Frame Analysis
      • Given that the mass media are a significant source of public information, understanding framing offers the opportunity to see the ways that key stakeholders seek and process information.
      • The public is more likely to experience the issues through the media rather than through their own experience. The study of framing aims to identify the dominant frame for a particular social issue or phenomenon.
      • Framing can provide a useful, strategic way to come to understand how the news media shape how we perceive and think about issues.
      CSR Communication Conference 27.10.2011
    • 9. Questions to be answered…
      • In which amount and where is reported on CSR?/Are there variations in time and how can they be explained?
      • How is reported on CSR? Which issues are mentioned in media coverage/Are there variations in time and how can they be explained?
      • In which amount political, societal, economic and scientific actors/groups are present in media coverage and what is their attitude to CSR?
      • What are the differences in framing between certain media?
      CSR Communication Conference 27.10.2011
    • 10. Conclusion: Empirical output
      • From the perspective of research, the analysis of CSR in media promises to offer valuable clues to the public appraisal of CSR and, furthermore, to the public appreciation of corporate legitimacy, trust and reputation.
      • Frame analysis gives the opportunity to explore in temporal dimension
      • whether frames alter among each other;
      • if modifications within frames themselves can be observed;
      • if media-induced differences in the patterns of interpretation can be identified;
      • if differences in evaluating CSR caused by industrial sector or business type are visible.
      CSR Communication Conference 27.10.2011
    • 11. Conclusion: Practical output
      • Understanding how media frame CSR can be helpful for practitioners for (re-)gaining the privilege of interpretation by trying to influence the CSR discourse in media themselves by strategic framing.
      • “ While the corporation can control the CSR message sent through advertising, the corporation can lose control of the message when using media as intermediaries of the CSR information.”
      • Lee & Kim, 2010: 283
      CSR Communication Conference 27.10.2011
    • 12. CSR Communication Conference 27.10.2011 Thanks for your attention!
    • 13. References
      • Eisenegger, M., Imhof, K. (2008), “The True, the Good and the Beautiful: Reputation Management in the Media Society”, i n Zerfass, A., van Ruler, B., Sriramesh, K. (Eds.), Public Relations Research. European and International Perspectives and Innovations, VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden, pp. 125-146.
      • Einwiller, S.A., Carroll, C.E. and Korn, K. (2010), “Under What Conditions Do the News Media Influence Corporate Reputation? The Roles of Media Dependency and Need for Orientation”, C orporate Reputation Review , Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 299-315.
      • Peloza, J. (2005), “Corporate Social Responsibility as Reputation Insurance”, Center for Responsible Business, Working paper series, Paper 24 , Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary.
      CSR Communication Conference 27.10.2011

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