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Comprehending CSR messages: applying the elaboration likelihood model

Nicholas Browning (The Media School, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA)
Osenkor Gogo (Department of Communications and External Relations, Newmont Ghana Gold Ltd, Accra, Ghana)
Marvin Kimmel (Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 5 February 2018




Using the elaboration likelihood model as a framework, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the effects of cause involvement, ability to process, and motivation to process on consumer judgments of organizational image following exposure to a corporate social responsibility (CSR) message.


This study relies upon an experimental manipulation of message complexity and uses quantitative survey data. The data were analyzed via tests of means differences, hierarchical multiple OLS regression, and mediation analysis.


The authors found that CSR’s influence on image is unaffected by message complexity – at least directly. However, CSR’s influence on image is intensified by greater cause involvement and information processing ability, which indicates that central route processing is more likely to move the needle on such assessments. Additionally, involvement serves as an important mediator on the effects that ability and motivation to process have on ratings of organizational image.


The findings suggest the necessity for communicators of CSR to foster cause involvement in consumers if social responsibility efforts are to resonate and garner positive results. Additionally, should organizations wish to create deeper elaboration about CSR messages among consumers, simple, straightforward messaging appears most effective. Complex messages can, however, serve as valuable peripheral cues among certain audiences.



Browning, N., Gogo, O. and Kimmel, M. (2018), "Comprehending CSR messages: applying the elaboration likelihood model", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 17-34.



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