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29 Aug. 2018 | Comments (0)

What drives the public’s evaluations and expectations of corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication in a global environment? Although companies have embraced CSR has a key business strategy, globalization has introduced new challenges for public relations practitioners seeking to engage audiences on a global level.

Public relations scholars and practitioners believe that CSR communications is an important relationship tool. Previous research has offered resources for better understanding of what and how to communicate CSR to different audiences in different countries. However, key questions remain. For example:

  • Are the same CSR communication strategies employed in the U.S. as effective in Asia?
  • How do we better understand what drives people to engage with the messages companies are sending?
  • Are there different expectations for different industries?

 Our study, funded by the Arthur W. Page Center, explored these questions by specifically examining whether people in the U.S. and China have different expectations for CSR engagement and communication across six different industries and across different types of CSR activities.

Chinese participants had higher expectations for all industries’ CSR engagement and communication than the U.S. public. Both U.S. and Chinese participants expected the most of CSR engagement and communication from the healthcare industry, and other top-rated industries included energy and technology. Aside from the differences, both U.S. and Chinese participants reported moderate to high expectations for all industries, meaning they expect all companies to engage in and communicate about their CSR efforts, not just one or the other.

We also found that there is a generally high expectation for companies to engage and communicate about all areas of CSR. In particular, participants from both countries had the highest expectations for companies to engage and communicate about environmental/sustainability issues, and diversity and human rights efforts. The U.S. public showed a higher expectation for diversity and human rights activities than Chinese participants, and they also had a higher expectation for companies to invest in CSR activities.

The survey results suggest that strategic communicators in the healthcare, energy, and technology industries should engage in and communicate about CSR efforts regularly to meet the expectations of the public in the U.S. and China. Corporations should invest in and communicate their CSR engagement in areas such as environment/sustainability, and diversity and human rights. Companies should also develop CSR programs and messages that focus on selfless actions, human welfare, and how CSR programs benefit the whole community and society.

Although people in the U.S. and China might perceive messages differently, in the case of CSR communication, corporations should emphasize the overarching, self-transcendence values. In addition, the high rating of CSR engagement and CSR communication by participants from the U.S. and China reminds corporations about the importance of not only engaging in CSR activities (especially in the environmental/sustainability and diversity and human rights), but also of investing in strong CSR communication that highlights these key areas.

  • Posted by Anli Xiao

    Anli Xiao

    Anli Xiao (Ph.D., the Pennsylvania State University, 2018) is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Media, College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University – Corpus Ch…

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  • Posted by Holly Overton

    Holly Overton

    Holly Overton (Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University, 2016) is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina. Her research examines …

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