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Corporate social responsibility, new activism and public relations

Kristin Demetrious (Lecturer in Public Communication at the School of Communication and Creative Arts, Faculty of Arts, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia.)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 7 March 2008




This paper aims to analyse why some contemporary corporate organisations are reluctant to articulate the effect of their market positioning behaviour on the unwilling communities that oppose their activities. It describes the communicative interactions between several large corporate organisations and the grassroots activist groups opposing their activities, in Victoria, Australia.


Extensive secondary data were collected, including extensive newspaper and radio transcripts from the campaign periods, web site downloads, letters and other campaign documents. The research design applied to the data, a qualitative, interpretative analysis, drawing on key theoretical frameworks.


The research findings suggest that powerful protest strategies, combined with the right political and social conditions, and a shift in the locus of politics and expertise, bring to light public concerns about the ethics of corporate practices, such as public relations, used egocentrically by organisations, to harmonise their activities in late modern Western society. It finds that no serious overhaul of business ethics can occur until the unity of public relations is critically scrutinised and reformed. It helps define an alternative holistic communicative approach which could be applied more widely to business practice that helps avoid the limitations and relativism of public relations.


The research flags new ways of thinking expressed in the notion of public communication that could lead to creative and unusual coherences vital to deal with the apparent ecological challenges for society in late modernity.



Demetrious, K. (2008), "Corporate social responsibility, new activism and public relations", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 4 No. 1/2, pp. 104-119.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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