Emerging Trends in Stakeholder Engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility Communication

Emerging Trends in Stakeholder Engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility Communication

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7946-5.ch003
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This chapter focuses on the analysis of several issues linked to communication implemented by organisations oriented toward corporate social responsibility (CSR). Communication plays an important role in pursuing CSR goals and starts a process in which the organisation is pushed to rearrange the way it structures its identity. This process is centred on communication, a driving force for the creation of shared contexts between the company and its publics. In fact, the communication of CSR contents requires the full engagement of stakeholders to attain full participation in the organisation's commitment to sustainable corporate performances. Reaching this goal is essential for the success of every kind of company. This chapter sees communication as the main pillar for building the relationship between the company and the external environment, enabling the creation of reputational capital. In particular, the chapter presents a literature review that reflects the need to prevent reputational risk by paying attention to managing growing stakeholder empowerment, since stakeholders often express their dissatisfaction and seriously endanger the company's reputation.
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The literature offers many examples of different types of stakeholder participation that an organisation can consider when it comes to managing the decision-making process (Reed, 2008).

One way of classifying engagement distinguishes levels of participation in the communication flows between the organisation and stakeholders (Rowe & Frewer, 2000). In line with this perspective, interaction between the company and its publics can be characterised by one-way communication flow with passive publics just receiving communication and information from companies, without the need to answer back. This relationship also can rely on information expressed by stakeholders, often defined as ‘consultation’. The highest level that can be reached in this sense is two-way symmetrical communication flows that proactively involve all participants. A similar classification hierarchy exists in public relations too (Grunig & Dozier, 2003; Grunig, 2013).

Morsing and Schultz (2006) identify three communication strategies characteristic of CSR:

  • 1.

    ‘Information Strategy’ characterised by one-way communication (messages created by the company reach different passive publics);

  • 2.

    ‘Stakeholder Response Strategy’ characterised by an asymmetric two-way communication flow (messages created by the company reach active publics);

  • 3.

    ‘Engagement Strategy’ based on symmetrical two-way communication flow (messages created by the company reach stakeholders who can express their opinion and influence the company through their feedback).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Stakeholder: Engagement: Stakeholder engagement is the process by which a company deals with publics who can be affected by business strategies and tactics, or can influence the implementation of its decision-making process. Stakeholder engagement plays a key role in CSR and CSR communication, and helps attain the triple bottom line. Organisations involve their publics in open dialogue to better understand which social and environmental issues are more important to them to improve decision-making processes.

Corporate Identity: Corporate identity includes logos, company house-style and visual identification. Moreover, it presents the uniqueness of an organisation, which is fully related to its external and internal image and reputation, thanks to corporate communication ( Gray & Balmer, 1998 ).

Stakeholder Management: Stakeholder management builds positive relationships with all stakeholders through the suitable management of their expectations and common goals. Stakeholder management is a complex process and, for this reason, it must be planned and guided by ethical principles.

Corporate Image: Corporate image differs from corporate identity. The corporate image expresses the stakeholder perception of a company. The implementation of public relations is useful to create and support the corporate identity and to generate an image in publics’ minds. This involves managing harmful media narratives. The final scope of a company is to reach the accurate alignment of corporate identity with corporate image, so that stakeholders perceive the company just as the organisation needs to be seen ( Gray & Balmer, 1998 ).

Corporate Communication: Corporate communication is the set of strategies and actions useful for managing all internal and external communication, with the main aim of creating favourable touchpoints with stakeholders on which the organisation relies. Furthermore, Cornelissen (2017) added that corporate communications is a management task that gives a frame and vocabulary for the efficient coordination of communications with the scope of setting and sustaining positive reputations with publics upon which the organisation is reliant.

Ethical Code of Conduct: An ethical code of conduct is a guide to principles created to assist practitioners in performing business in the right way. A code of ethics can reinforce the values stated in the mission and vision of the company. In fact, it explains how managers must deal with everyday problems and proposes the ethical principles based on corporate core values. An ethical code shares many features in common with the code of professional practice and the employee code of conduct.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Communication: Corporate Social Responsibility Communication is the communication expressed in the CSR mindset. Since CSR is considered as a ‘way of thinking’ and is part of the organisation’s core business, communication must highlight its role as a valuable component of corporate culture to all stakeholders. CSR in communication processes puts the interests and requirements of stakeholders at the centre of the organisation’s attention. It combines stakeholders’ interests into all strategic decisions and procedures in order to reinforce member identification ( Morsing, 2006 ). It also focuses the meaning of communication toward the implementation of an open dialogue.

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