Session 5, Ellerup Nielsen & Thomsen


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CSR as Strategy?

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Session 5, Ellerup Nielsen & Thomsen

  1. 1. DATE MONTH YEARCSR Communication Conference, Amsterdam 26-28October, 2011A review of CSR communication research: management andmarketing approaches (new title!). Work-in-Progress.Anne Ellerup Nielsen ( & Christa Thomsen (
  2. 2. Purpose› Review the CSR communication literature to outline management and marketing approaches to CSR communication› Synthesize the means by which CSR communication activities can add value for stakeholders with a focus on employees, consumers and stakeholders in general› Present a research agenda for future research to allow greater mutual lunderstanding among CSR communication researchers
  3. 3. Design/methodology/approach: LiteraturesearchSelection criteria: › Search focusing on: a) “CSR communication” and “CSR dialogue” (small sample); b) “CSR” combined with “communication” (large sample) › Database: Business Source Complete, the dominant database within business and economics › Academic journals & international peer-reviewed articles (English language) › Period 2000-2011 (search 1st of August) › Possible source of error: search criteria
  4. 4. Literature search: results › 49 articles reporting a conceptual, theoretical and/or empirical investigation of ”CSR communication” (small sample) › 247 articles reporting a conceptual, theoretical and/or empirical investigation of ”CSR” combined with ”communication” (large sample) - not explicitly included in this work-in-progress! › Published in 31 international academic journals. Some journals are more dominating than others, e.g. the Journal of Business Ethics › Overrepresentation of articles with a marketing research. = CSR communication is an emergent field and a field of research (still) not in its own right!
  5. 5. Literature search: identification of researchstreams Topical focus: › Conceptualizing CSR communication: › The management communication approach to CSR communication: › The marketing communication (incl. Public Relations) approach to CSR communication * General picture: a large spectrum of both quantitative and qualitative methods, i.e. surveys, content analyses, interviews and field work
  6. 6. Research stream (1): Conceptualizing CSRcommunication (a) The scope of our review is the definitions or understandings of CSR communication and the contribution that CSR communication research may provide for companies in terms of CSR communication models and frameworks. › Research which explicitly refers to definitions, understandings and interpretations of CSR communication is rare (Podnar, 2008) › Research which explicitly refers to CSR communication models and/or frameworks includes four papers from the small sample (Morsing, Schultz & Nielsen, 2008; Maon, Lindgreen & Swaen, 2010; Du, Bhattacharya & Sen, 2010; O’Riordan & Fairbrass, 2008).
  7. 7. Research stream (1): Conceptualizing CSRcommunication (b) › A general understanding of CSR communication as functionalistic, and CSR communication tailored to different stakeholders. › Perceived contribution of CSR communication: enhance businesses’ image and reputation amongst customers, employees and other stakeholders. › Central concepts: inside-out communication, endorsement and stakeholder dialogue, a need for corporations to pay attention to message content and communication channels.
  8. 8. Research stream (2): The management communication approach to CSR communication (a) Research with explicit reference to the CSR communication of managers at different levels with internal and external target groups of which the purpose is to realize a positive communication climate and a positive reputation. Distribution of papers in three categories: › a) strategic use of CSR management communication › b) operative use of CSR management communication › c) CSR management communication in specific contexts (country specific approaches vs. sector-, firm and industry specific approaches) 17 articles (out of 49 in the small sample) are selected and commented on.
  9. 9. Research stream (3): The marketingcommunication (and PR) approach to CSRcommunicationResearch focusing on registering, measuring and/or discussingconsumers’ and publics’ attitudes, beliefs and/or assessments of CSRDistribution of papers in two categories and two sub categories:a) The marketing approach to CSR communication › Perception studies. › Development studiesb) The public relation approach to CSR communication › Attitude studies › Value, image and reputations studies 13 articles (out of 49 in the small sample) are selected and commented 9 on.
  10. 10. Discussion and conclusionInsights:› CSR communication is still an emerging field, but, the number of publications on the subject has significantly increased, especially during the last three or four years.› Marketing approaches to CSR communication dominate over management approaches› Research focuses on both strategic and operational CSR communication.› Research on the importance of country of origin and industry sector is increasing.
  11. 11. Discussion and conclusion› Modern companies still don’t seem to have moved from a reactive complicance-oriented management of CSR communication into a proactive, stakeholder-oriented (co-creative) approach to CSR communication.› CSR communication is primarily viewed as a process for managing e.g.a company’s social risk and not as a process for connecting with stakeholders.› Classical and functionalistic (e.g. Effect studies) perspectives dominate.› Stronger communication theorerical anchoring is required
  12. 12. Thank you! Questions?