Department of Management

Anne Ellerup Nielsen

Reviewing corporate social responsibility communication: A legitimacy perspective

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperReviewResearchpeer-review

Purpose: This review answers the call for CSR communication research to develop and substantiate outcomes that may better explain CSR communication strategies and practices. The article takes the research a step further, exploring the role of legitimacy in CSR communication research.
Design/methodology/approach: A literature collection methodology, combined with directed content analysis was used to identify central themes in the literature.
Originality/value: The key contribution of the article lies in exploring how corporate legitimacy is anticipated and extrapolated in the CSR communication literature, including which pinpointed CSR communication strategies and practices are assumed to be more effective than others in bridging stakeholders’ perceptions of corporations’ social and environmental actions. Until date, no reviews exist of the role of legitimacy in CSR communication research.
Findings: The following categories of studies were identified: (1) perception, impact and promotion studies, (2) image and reputation studies, (3) performance studies, and (4) conceptual/rhetorical studies. Addressed from a legitimacy perspective, the study found that the most important types of legitimizing communicative practices articulated in the four types of studies were related to:
• Seeking knowledge about stakeholders through perception, impact and promotion activities
• Monitoring and controlling the environment through image and reputation activities
• Creating stakeholder value through collaboration and and engagement
• Persuading and convincing stakeholders through rhetorics, CSR models and concepts
The study also found that practices and activities related to perceiving stakeholders’ expectations, needs and requirements are assumed to be most effective for corporations aiming at building or maintaining legitimacy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCorporate Communications
Pages (from-to)492-511
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • Content analysis, Corporate communications, Corporate social responsibility, Legitimacy

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