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Dialogism in Corporate Social Responsibility Communications: Conceptualising Verbal Interactions between Organisations and their Audiences

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  • Niamh Brennan
  • Doris M. Merkl-Davies
  • Annika Beelitz

Abstract

We conceptualise CSR communication as a process of reciprocal influence between organisations and their audiences. We use an illustrative case study in the form of a conflict between firms and a powerful stakeholder which is played out in a series of 20 press releases over a 2-month period to develop a framework of analysis based on insights from linguistics. It focuses on three aspects of dialogism, namely (i) turn-taking (co-operating in a conversation by responding to the other party), (ii) inter-party moves (the nature and type of interaction characterising a turn, i.e. denial, apology or excuse) and (iii) intertextuality (the intensity and quality of verbal interaction between the parties). We address the question: What is the nature and type of verbal interactions between the parties? First we examine (a) whether the parties verbally interact and then (b) whether the parties listen to each other. We find evidence of dialogism suggesting that CSR communication is an interactive process which has to be understood as a function of the power relations between a firm and a specific stakeholder. Also, we find evidence of intertextuality in press releases by six firms which engage in verbal interaction with the stakeholder. We interpret this as linguistic evidence of isomorphic processes relating to CSR practices resulting from the pressure exerted by a powerful stakeholder. The lack of response by ten firms that fail to issue press releases suggests a strategy of ‘watch-and-wait’ with respect to the outcome of the conflict.

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  • Niamh Brennan & Doris M. Merkl-Davies & Annika Beelitz, 2013. "Dialogism in Corporate Social Responsibility Communications: Conceptualising Verbal Interactions between Organisations and their Audiences," Open Access publications 10197/4948, Research Repository, University College Dublin.
  • Handle: RePEc:rru:oapubs:10197/4948
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    1. Niamh M. Brennan & Doris M. Merkl-Davies, 2014. "Rhetoric and argument in social and environmental reporting: the Dirty Laundry case," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 27(4), pages 602-633, April.
    2. Saverio Bozzolan & Charles Cho & Giovanna Michelon, 2015. "Impression Management and Organizational Audiences: The Fiat Group Case," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 126(1), pages 143-165, January.
    3. Emilio Passetti & Lara Bianchi & Massimo Battaglia & Marco Frey, 2019. "When Democratic Principles are not Enough: Tensions and Temporalities of Dialogic Stakeholder Engagement," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 155(1), pages 173-190, March.
    4. Lauwo, Sarah & Kyriacou, Orthodoxia & Julius Otusanya, Olatunde, 2020. "When sorry is not an option: CSR reporting and ‘face work’ in a stigmatised industry – A case study of Barrick (Acacia) gold mine in Tanzania," CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, Elsevier, vol. 71(C).
    5. Peter Seele & Irina Lock, 2015. "Instrumental and/or Deliberative? A Typology of CSR Communication Tools," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 131(2), pages 401-414, October.
    6. Andreas Rasche & Frank Bakker & Jeremy Moon, 2013. "Complete and Partial Organizing for Corporate Social Responsibility," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 115(4), pages 651-663, July.
    7. Dirk C. Moosmayer & Yanyan Chen & Susannah M. Davis, 2019. "Deeds Not Words: A Cosmopolitan Perspective on the Influences of Corporate Sustainability and NGO Engagement on the Adoption of Sustainable Products in China," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 158(1), pages 135-154, August.
    8. Susannah M. Davis & Dirk C. Moosmayer, 2014. "Greening the Field? How NGOs Are Shaping Corporate Social Responsibility in China," Journal of Current Chinese Affairs - China aktuell, Institute of Asian Studies, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 43(4), pages 75-110.
    9. Chan, Hau-Ling & Wei, Xiaoyong & Guo, Shu & Leung, Wing-Hong, 2020. "Corporate social responsibility (CSR) in fashion supply chains: A multi-methodological study," Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Elsevier, vol. 142(C).
    10. Charles H. Cho & Matias Laine & Robin W. Roberts & Michelle Rodrigue, 2018. "The Frontstage and Backstage of Corporate Sustainability Reporting: Evidence from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Bill," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 152(3), pages 865-886, October.
    11. Anne Michaels & Michael Grüning, 2018. "The impact of corporate identity on corporate social responsibility disclosure," International Journal of Corporate Social Responsibility, Springer, vol. 3(1), pages 1-13, December.
    12. Dirk C. Moosmayer & Susannah M. Davis, 2016. "Staking Cosmopolitan Claims: How Firms and NGOs Talk About Supply Chain Responsibility," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 135(3), pages 403-417, May.
    13. Niamh Brennan & Doris M. Merkl-Davies, 2013. "Accounting Narratives and Impression Management," Open Access publications 10197/4949, Research Repository, University College Dublin.

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