A selection of interesting articles we came across recently on communication issues.

Who apologizes when employees transgress?
Krista Hill and David Boyd examine the interactive effects of apology source (i.e., whether an apology is given by a chief executive officer or employee) and apology components (i.e., acknowledgment, remorse and compensation) on forgiveness. Results revealed a significant source by component interaction. A remorseful employee apology was more successful than a remorseful CEO apology because consumers felt more empathy for the employee. Furthermore, a compensatory CEO apology was more effective than a compensatory employee apology because CEOs could significantly affect consumer perceptions of justice. No significant differences were found between apology source and the apology component of acknowledging violated rules and norms.

Read more at: Krista M. Hill & David P. Boyd. 2015. Who Should Apologize When an Employee Transgresses? Source Effects on Apology Effectiveness.
Journal of Business Ethics, 130(1), 163-170.

CSR communication tools

Addressing the critique that communication activities with regard to CSR are often merely instrumental marketing or public relation tools, this paper develops a toolbox of CSR communication that takes into account a deliberative notion. The authors derive this toolbox classification from the political approach of CSR that is based on Habermasian discourse ethics and show that it has a communicative core.

Therefore, they embed CSR communication within political CSR theory and extend it by Habermasian communication theory, particularly the four validity claims of communication. Given this communicative basis, the authors localize CSR communication as a main means to receive moral legitimacy within political CSR theory. A typology of CSR communication tools is advanced and substantiated by a review of case studies supporting the categories.

Thus, the authors differentiate between instrumental and deliberative, as well as published and unpublished tools. Practical examples for the literature-derived tool categories are provided and their limitations are discussed.

Further details are at: Peter Seele & Irina Lock. 2015. Instrumental and/or Deliberative? A Typology of CSR Communication Tools.
Journal of Business Ethics, 131(2), 401-414.

Linking sustainability-related stakeholder feedback to corporate sustainability performance

Based on a dataset of large German companies, this paper investigates the link between corporate sustainability performance and sustainability-related feedback by stakeholders. In the analysis, no a priori link between sustainability performance and related stakeholder feedback can be observed.

Using stakeholder theory as a theoretical underpinning, the authors therefore statistically investigate whether the application of stakeholder dialogues can help companies to link their sustainability performance to stakeholder feedback. They find that stakeholder dialogues indeed help to establish such a link, as companies which improve their sustainability performance and simultaneously communicate with stakeholders using stakeholder dialogues are most likely to experience a decrease in sustainability-related stakeholder criticism.

For more information see: Jacob Hörisch, Stefan Schaltegger & Sarah Elena Windolph. 2015. Linking sustainability-related stakeholder feedback to corporate sustainability performance: an empirical analysis of stakeholder dialogues.
International Journal of Business Environment, 7(2), 200-218.

Does priming affect business ethical perceptions?
The present study examines the effect of priming on business ethical decision making. Priming is based on the idea that our perceptions, actions, and emotions are distorted by unconscious cues from our environment. Subjects were primed for either “politeness” or “rudeness” using a sentence completion task. Following the priming, the subjects were asked to react to a series of ethical scenarios.

The results showed that subjects primed for “rudeness” perceived the scenarios as less unethical than subjects primed for “politeness”. Similar results were observed in both the American and the Dominican samples. The results indicate that business ethical decision making is influenced by environmental factors we are unaware of.

Read the full paper at: John Tsalikis. 2015. The Effects of Priming on Business Ethical Perceptions: A Comparison Between Two Cultures.
Journal of Business Ethics, 131(3), 567-575.

Managing impressions in CSR communication
Organisations today recognise that it is not only important to engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR), but that it is also equally important to ensure that information about CSR is communicated to audiences. At times, however, the CSR image perceived by audiences is not an accurate portrayal of the organisation’s CSR identity and is, therefore, incongruent with the desired CSR image. In this paper, Jasmine Tata and Sameer Prasad build upon the nascent work on organisational impression management by examining CSR communication from an impression management perspective.

The model developed here proposes that incongruence between desired and current CSR images motivates an organisation to decrease the incongruence through CSR communication. This relationship is moderated by four factors: importance of CSR image to the organisation; power, status, and attractiveness of the target audience; importance of CSR image to the target audience; and media attention and public scrutiny. The model also identifies four dimensions of CSR communication structure (anticipatory–reactive, assertive–protective, direct–indirect, and image enhancing–image correcting) and includes a feedback loop through which audience interpretation of the CSR communication can influence the organisation’s CSR image incongruence. Two illustrative examples are provided to indicate how the model may be applied to organisations.

This paper has several implications for research and practice. It draws connections between impression management theory and CSR and adds to the emerging literature on organisational impression management. It can also help organisations decide on the appropriate CSR communication structure to use in specific situations and be more effective in their CSR communication.

More details are at: Jasmine Tata & Sameer Prasad. 2015. CSR Communication: An Impression Management Perspective.
Journal of Business Ethics, 132(4), 765-778.

Giving voice to the silenced in crisis communication
Research exists on how a corporation communicates during a crisis, the impact on its reputation, and how well it weathers that crisis. However, crisis communication research tends to view a company’s communication efforts from the standpoint of success or failure; looking at the communication critically to determine if the company’s power influences or silences potentially alternative voices and viewpoints is not currently part of the discussion. This article argues that critical discourse analysis techniques be added to the framework of crisis communication theory in an effort to ensure that the corporation’s message or position of power does not unfairly marginalize or altogether silence alternative discourses.

Read more at: Carolyn Dunn & Michelle Eble. 2015. Giving Voice to the Silenced: Using Critical Discourse Analysis to Inform Crisis Communication Theory.
Journal of Business Ethics, 132(4), 717-735.