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Managing CSR communication: A study of legitimacy-seeking strategies adopted by service and product companies

Agostino Vollero (Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche Sociali e della Comunicazione, Università degli Studi di Salerno, Fisciano, Italy)
Maria Palazzo (Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche Sociali e della Comunicazione, Università degli Studi di Salerno, Fisciano, Italy)
Alfonso Siano (Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche Sociali e della Comunicazione, Università degli Studi di Salerno, Fisciano, Italy)
Domenico Sardanelli (Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche e Statistiche, Università degli Studi di Salerno, Fisciano, Italy)

The TQM Journal

ISSN: 1754-2731

Article publication date: 30 May 2018

Issue publication date: 23 July 2018

1706

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyse how service and product-based industries communicate their efforts in corporate social responsibility (CSR) as legitimacy-seeking strategies. The service companies are thus compared to product companies in their use of different rhetorical strategies and associated legitimacy approaches on their corporate websites.

Design/methodology/approach

A thematic content analysis of the websites of companies belonging to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index was conducted, to identify different rhetorical strategies (institutional, political and strategic), each associated with modes companies use to gain legitimacy (cognitive, moral and pragmatic).

Findings

The study shows that service and product companies differ in terms of how they symbolically manage legitimacy. Service companies are less active in communicating CSR in two out of three of the identified rhetorical strategies. Other differences are observable at an industry level.

Practical implications

The study provides an in-depth understanding of legitimacy approaches elicited by online CSR communication. Managers of service companies can benefit from suggestions on how to use CSR content to sustain specific legitimacy strategies.

Originality/value

This study represents a starting point in connecting the ongoing debate on legitimacy theory with different rhetorical CSR approaches. It demonstrates that the seeking of legitimacy is to some extent restrained within the service industry.

Keywords

Citation

Vollero, A., Palazzo, M., Siano, A. and Sardanelli, D. (2018), "Managing CSR communication: A study of legitimacy-seeking strategies adopted by service and product companies", The TQM Journal, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 621-637. https://doi.org/10.1108/TQM-11-2017-0131

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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