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Transparent Communication Efforts inspire confident, even greater, employee performance

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The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between organizational leaders’ internal communication efforts, employees’ work engagement, and their public relations performance. Findings from a survey of public relations agency employees in South Korea (N = 100) indicate that transparent employee communication, having three dimensions of sufficient and accessible information, accountability/authenticity, participation/openness, would not only enhance employees’ reputation perceptions toward their own organizations (B = .54), but also foster job engagement (B = .41), and their willingness to adopt an accommodative stance to public (B = .41). Findings are discussed in terms of how organizational leaders (i.e., that include top management, managers, and unit supervisors) can inspire greater workplace performance.
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Vol.1, No.1
Asian Journal of Public Relations
Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
ISSN: 2586-2812
Publisher: Yungwook Kim(Ewha Womans University)
Editor-in-chief: Miejeong Han (Hanyang University)
Associate Editor: Hong-Lim Choi (Sunmoon University)
Associate Editor: Jungeun Yang (Pyeongtaek University)
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Jangyul Kim (Colorado State University), Jeong-Nam Kim (University of Oklahoma), Yungwook Kim
(Ewha Womans University), Moon-Jung Lee (University of Florida), Joon-Soo Lim (Syracuse University),
Yunna Rhee (Hankuk University of Foreign Studies), Hochang Shin (Sogang University), Minjung Sung
(Chung-Ang University), Thomas Hove (Hanyang University), Sung-Un Yang (Indiana University).
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Editor’s Comment 5
Editor’s Comment
e are delighted to publish the first issue of the Asian Journal of Public Relations
(AJPR), which contains three outstanding papers. We launched this journal
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The first paper by Bokyung Kim, Eunhae Park, and Glen T. Cameron addressed the
importance of leaders’ communication efforts in encouraging greater workplace
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data was collected from Korean PR practitioners. Cui Meadows conducted a content
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Whereas Meadows dealt with organizational perspectives on CSR, Holly Ott and
Anli Xiao examined US and China consumers’ perspectives on CSR, and it emphasized
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6Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
email address is kaspr2017@naver.com and AJPR’s website is: http://www.kaspr.net/su
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Warm wishes,
Miejeong Han, Ph.D.
Editor-in-Chief, Asian Journal of Public Relations Research
Professor, Dept. of Advertising & Public Relations
Hanyang University, ERICA campus
Ansan, South Korea
Contents
Asian Journal of Public Relations
Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
5 Editor’s Comment
Miejeong Han
9 Transparent Communication Efforts inspire Confident, even Greater,
Employee Performance
Bokyung KimEunhae ParkGlen T. Cameron
32 Culture and Corporate Social Responsibility
A Comparative Analysis of the U.S. and China’s Fortune Global 500 Company
Websites
Cui Meadows
57 Examining the Role of Culture in Shaping Public Expectations of
CSR Communication in the United States and China
Holly K. OttAnli Xiao
Transparent Communication Efforts
inspire Confident, even Greater,
Employee Performance
1)
Bokyung Kim*
Eunhae Park**
Glen T. Cameron***
Abstract
he purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between organizational
leaders’ internal communication efforts, employees’ work engagement, and their
public relations performance. Findings from a survey of public relations agency employees in
South Korea (
N
= 100) indicate that transparent employee communication, having three
dimensions of sufficient and accessible information, accountability/authenticity, participation/
openness, would not only enhance employees’ reputation perceptions toward their own
organizations (B = .54), but also foster job engagement (B = .41), and their willingness to adopt
an accommodative stance to public (B = .41). Findings are discussed in terms of how
organizational leaders (i.e., that include top management, managers, and unit supervisors)
can inspire greater workplace performance.
KEYW ORDS Transparent Leadership, Employee Communication, Work Engagement,
Employee-Organization Relationships, Organizational Transparency
* Bokyung Kim is an Assistant Professor of Department of Public Relations and Advertising, College of
Communication and Creative Arts at Rowan University.
Glassboro, NJ, 08002. (856) 256-4293. kimb@rowan.edu
** Eunhae Park is a Research Fellow in Health Communication Research Center. 140-J Walter Williams Hall,
Missouri School of Journalism, Columbia, Mo, 65211-1200. (573) 825-2701. epqk7@mail.missouri.edu
*** Glen T. Cameron is a Professor in Missouri School of Journalism. He is Maxine Wilson Gregory Chair in
Journalism Research Strategic Communication.
140-J Walter Williams Hall, Missouri School of Journalism, Columbia, Mo, 65211-1200. (573) 864-2897.
camerong@missouri.edu
T
Asian Journal of Public Relations
Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
pp.931
www.kaspr.net
10 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
Introduction
Public relations scholarship has emphasized the importance of building and
maintaining positive relationships with employees. That is, employees are not only
valuable assets, but also important stakeholders for organizations to communicate
with, given that they, in turn, shape an organizational image in eyes of public (Grunig,
1992; Hung, 2005; Ledingham & Bruning, 1998).
Early public relations studies on employee-organization relationship have
explored its values that were originated from relationship management theory (i.e.,
trust, satisfaction, control mutuality, and commitment; Hon & Grunig, 1999; Wilson,
2000); and further examined the relationships between job satisfaction and public
relations models of practice (Karadjov, Kim, & Karavasilev, 2000; Kim & Hon, 1998;
Rentner & Bissland, 1990).
Recent studies focus more on cultivating an open communication climate in
organizations. If an organization provides germane information about individual job
roles and issues in workplace and makes it visible to employees, it would lead to their
efficient job performance, enhanced organizational commitment and trust (Gallicano,
Curtin, & Matthews, 2012; Kim & Rhee, 2011; Mishra, Boynton, & Mishra, 2014; Walden,
Jung, & Westerman, 2017).
Although open communication culture is positively related to employee-organization
relational outcomes, relatively less attention has been paid to top management as a
group leader who would exemplify, promote, or interfere transparent communication
among employees. Regarding the function of leaders’ communication styles in
employee-organization communication, leadership literature conceptualizes two
commonly desired leader characteristics as charismatic and transformational, focusing
more on a leader’s exceptional traits (Bass, 1995; Conger, 1999; Conger, & Kanungo,
1987; Conger, Kanungo, Menon, & Mathur, 1997).
Particularly, we argue that a leader’s transparent communication in an organization
(Rawlins, 2009) can best reflect his or her communication efforts to provide sufficient
information to employees, and make information flow from the top downwards; thus,
should be elaborated in our study instead of leadership qualities noting their excellence.
Although leader transparency did not emerge as a significant factor in earlier research,
studies since have addressed the impact of transparent communication on public: when
an organization shares substantial information with public, welcomes public
participation in its decision-making process, and avoid secrecy, it leads to greater
relational outcomes and better reputation among its key publics (Kim, Hong, &
Cameron, 2014; Lee, & Boynton, 2017; Plaisance, 2007; Rawlins, 2009).
Transparent Communication Efforts inspire Confident, even Greater, Employee Performance 11
In addition, this study demonstrates two important benefits of leader transparency:
work engagement and willingness to accommodate toward public. Work engagement
(i.e., and its related term, “job engagement”; please see Walden, Jung, & Westerman,
2017) is the key outcome of transparent employee communication and a valid measure
to capture employees’ workplace productivity (Hakanen, Schaufeli, & Ahola, 2008;
Kanji & Sa´, 2006; Ruck & Welch, 2012; Walden et al., 2017). Distinct from organizational
commitment, work engagement means individual dedication to one’s own job, and
thus, fits into our study well (Saks, 2006).
At the same time, organizational leaders inspiring participatory communication
culture would directly influence public relations practitioners’ daily practice that
involves a strategic decision-making process (Hwang & Cameron, 2008; Zhang, Qiu, &
Cameron, 2004). That is, employers can encourage practitioners to use flexible
communication strategies to accommodate toward diverse situations and meet public
needs. To investigate the association between the leaders’ transparent communication
and the practitioners’ communication stance, this study borrows that idea from a
communication continuum proposed by contingency theory (Cancel, Cameron, Sallot,
& Mitrook, 1997).
To summarize, although scholars argue that top management should promote
transparent communication among employees, the literature has yielded little empirical
evidence of how it is transferred from leaders to employees, and what consequences it
might bring to their organizations. Therefore, this study seeks to explore how leaders’
transparent communication efforts may relate to employees’ task orientation, organizational
reputation, and their adoption of daily public relations stance, all of which, in turn,
indicate greater workplace performance.
Finally, another aim of this research is to evaluate the validity of the instrument of
leader transparency by testing the Rawlins’ (2009) transparency efforts scale. We explore
these issues through a survey of employees in South Korea, particularly in the context
of public relations industry. Situated in this context, this study can advance the
understanding of what shapes open communication between leaders and employees
and its implications with public relations professionals.
12 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
Literature Review
Open Communication with Employees and the Influence of Key Individual
As we noted above, early public relations literature conceptualizes employee- organization
relationship as the subarea of relationship management theory (Grunig, 1992; Hung,
2005); and noted that “to be effective and sustaining, relationships need to be seen as
mutually beneficial, based on mutual interest between an organization and its
significant publics” (Ledingham & Bruning, p.27, 1998). Considering employees as the
key public for employers and organizations to communicate with, recent studies focus
more on cultivating and improving employee-organization communication management.
Multiple scholars conclude from their findings that if organizations provide
relevant information and make it accessible to employees, such open communication
culture can impact their enhanced organizational commitment and trust, and greater
job performance (Kim & Rhee, 2011; Mishra, Boynton, & Mishra, 2014). In this line of
research, Walden and colleagues surveyed Millennial employees, and supported the
finding that when organizations would provide adequate and thorough information to
employees about individual job performance and workplace issues, and make such
information flow openly, which in turn, led to greater organizational commitment and
less likelihood to leave their organizations (Walden et al., 2017). From another recent
survey, 223 Millennial agency practitioners in the U.S. also pointed out “inclusive
communication, encompassing more regular and thorough communication, openness,
instructions, feedback, and definition of roles” as the most frequent recommendations
for the organization to improve its relationship with employees (Gallicano, Curtin, &
Matthews, 2012, p. 233).
Considering young practitioners’ preference for open communication and regularly
sharing information by their organization, organizations may want to understand the
function of group leaders and how that open communication culture is transferred from
the top to employees. It is noteworthy that the communication executive function is an
integral part of an organization in shaping a shared vision and inspiring employee
communication (Wright, 1995). Johansson and Ottestig (2011) also assert that practitioners
in Swedish organizations have recognized the critical role of a key individual in employee
communication, as the leader determines the overall communication management
function of his or her organization. Here, key individuals in public relations can include
not only CEOs or the highest management level of an organization, but also public
relations or communication managers, “responsible for communication but not included
in the senior management group” (Johansson & Ottestig, 2011, p. 158; see also, Swerling
Transparent Communication Efforts inspire Confident, even Greater, Employee Performance 13
& Sen, 2009).
However, the question remains; what leader communication elements would
remove obstacles that might hinder open employee communication. We browse theories
of full-range leadership and conclude that, “transformational” and “charismatic”
leadership have been recognized for decades as being critical leadership styles to the
follower (Bass, 1995; Conger, 1999). However, the two theories seem to focus more on
exceptional personal traits of a leader. For example, leaders are effective if they
articulate a strategic vision for a future and take personal risk, or if they perform the
charismatic role and display unconventional behavior (Conger & Kanungo, 1987;
Conger, Kanungo, Menon, & Mathur, 1997; Fitzgerald & Schutte, 2010; Shamir, House,
& Arthur, 1993; Yukl, 1999). Conversely, we aim to explore open communication efforts
of which employees may indorse the ideas, and an organizational leader might want to
consider adopting in the organization.
Transparent Communication Efforts by Organizational Leaders
To these points, the literature notes that employees prefer open, unobstructed access
to information about their job roles and organizational issues. Given this basic
framework, leader transparency would function as the preferred leader communication
style among employees.
Public relations and communication scholars have defined the concept of
organizational transparency as organizational value when providing more information
(DiStaso & Bortree, 2012); information disclosure and openness to earn public trust (Kim
et al., 2014); subjective value that is rooted in respectful organization-public relationships
(Lee & Boynton, 2017; Plaisance, 2007); and being honest, open, and concerned about
society (Rawlins, 2009).
Especially, Rawlins has constructed instruments for assessing stakeholders’
evaluation of organizational transparency, called transparency efforts scales (i.e., items
to measure the perceived transparent communication efforts of an organization;
Rawlins, 2009). As one of the key values of organizational transparency, scholars have
then bolstered the positive relationship between an organization’s efforts to pursue
transparent communication and its reputation among public (Bruning & Ledingham,
2000; DiStaso & Bortree, 2012; Kim et al., 2014; Rawlins, 2009). In other words, one might
behave these transparency efforts, thereby contributing to organizational reputation.
However, the previous studies did not focus on how organizational leaders’
open communication components (e.g., providing germane, balanced, and sufficient
14 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
information to employees and allowing employee participation) are transmitted within
an organization nor did they discuss the impact of the transparent communication
dimensions on the employees’ evaluations of their own organization. Thus, it is expected
that leaders’ transparency efforts would likely foster open communication culture of which
employees prefer, and enhance reputation perceptions toward their own organizations.
This leads to the study’s first hypothesis:
H1: Leaders’ transparent communication efforts will have a positive effect on
employees’ reputation perceptions toward their own organizations.
While testing the hypothesis, this study seeks to evaluate the measurement of
leaders’ transparent communication efforts. Although Rawlins (2009) describes its four
dimensions of participation, substantial information, accountability, and secrecy as a
well-defined instrument, this study adopts the scale to measure employees’ perceptions
on leader transparency. In doing so, we delete the items of secrecy because of its
redundancy to other three constructs (e.g., items include “provide information that is
unclear,” “often leave out important details in the information it provides to people like
me,” “only disclose information when it is required”; see Rawlins, 2009; Kim et al., 2014).
Hence, the first research question is proposed to validate the overall measurement:
RQ1: Are the three constructs of transparent communication efforts (e.g., participation,
substantial information, and accountability) mutually exclusive variables or are
they combining with larger constructs that measure leader transparency?
Leaders’ Transparent Communication Efforts and Employees’ Work Engagement
Transparent internal communication can lead to the employees’ satisfaction, motivation,
and greater commitment to their organizations, which ultimately determines team
effectiveness. As Ruck and Welsh (2012) point out, however, employee communication
studies tend to over rely on measuring job satisfaction and organizational commitment
as its key outcomes (Gallicano et al., 2012; Jo & Shim, 2005; Karadjov, Kim, &
Karavasilev, 2000; Kim & Hon, 1998; Kim & Rhee, 2011; Mishra, Boynton, & Mishra,
2014; Rentner & Bissland, 1990). Recently, business journals measure employee work
engagement as a distinct indicator of individual job performance, and an utmost value
of effective employee communication (Kanji & Sa´, 2006; Ruck & Welsh, 2012).
Work engagement is defined as an individual’s psychological state that consists of
Transparent Communication Efforts inspire Confident, even Greater, Employee Performance 15
three elements: dedication (i.e., greater confidence, inspiration, and enthusiasm at one’s
job), vigor (i.e., high levels of motivation, energy, and persistence at work), and
absorption (i.e., concentration and feeling happy while working; Schaufeli & Bakker,
2004; Schaufeli, Bakker, & Salanova, 2006; Schaufeli, Salanova, Gonzalez-Romá, &
Bakker, 2002). In short, work engagement refers to employees’ positive and enthusiastic
state, when completing individual tasks, “while maintaining a deeply felt connection to
their job role” (Walden et al., 2017, p. 76). Research has also found support a distinction
between work engagement and organization engagement, which is rather a form of
organizational commitment (i.e., see the example item from Saks, 2006; “one of the most
exciting things for me is getting involved with things happening in this organization”).
Concerning its unique contribution to employee communication research, scholars
has found antecedents of work engagement. For example, findings from a survey of 102
employees indicate that job characteristics (e.g., skill variety, task identity, task signi
cance, autonomy, and feedback) and perceived organizational support (i.e., supportive
and trusting interpersonal relationships, for example, “my supervisor cares about my
opinions”) were significant predictors of employees’ work engagement (Saks, 2006).
Likewise, employees are more engaged at work, if organizations would provide
ongoing feedback to employees about individual and organizational issues (Gallicano
et a l., 2012); and clarifying employees’ role in an organization and listening to them
(Ruck & Welch, 2012). This is particularly important for early to mid-career workers, as
previous studies found (Gallicano et a l., 2012; Walden et al., 2017).
To inspire work engagement, employers should provide continuing and clear
work-related information, optimizing internal information flow, and ensuring that
employees feel respect by their employers, all of which, relate to the three dimensions
of transparent communication from organizational leaders. Given the limited empirical
study on employee engagement, scholars call for further research on a potential
predictor of job engagement in the context of public relations (Ruck & Welch, 2012). In
response to the call, we propose the second hypothesis that employees will display signs
of job engagement when they experience transparent internal communication prompted
by their organizational leaders:
H2: Leaders’ transparent communication efforts will have a positive effect on
employees’ work engagement.
16 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
Leaders’ Transparent Communication Efforts and Employees’ Public Relations
Practice
Another meaningful value of leader transparency in the employee communication
management is its impact on employees’ daily decision-making and subsequent
practice. Indeed, previous studies have supported this claim that characteristics of top
management can affect subordinates’ strategic decision-making process, what they
mainly called, willingness to adopt an accommodative stance in resolving conflicts
(Hwang & Cameron, 2008; Zhang et al., 2004).
In the context of public relations, a leader’s transparent communication, encouraging
employees’ exchange of opinions and considering their criticism, may offer a room for
practitioners to brainstorm and suggest flexible communication strategies to leaders in
their organization. Allowing that opportunity to employees is crucial for a successful
and confident public relations performance. Because public relations practitioners are
the first contact people of diverse stakeholders (e.g., media outlets, government agencies,
shareholders, laypeople), their role involves not only follow their organization’s
internal characteristics, but also adjust strategic decisions by reviewing and reflecting
dynamics of a given communication situation (Cameron, Cropp, & Reber, 2001; Cameron,
Pang, & Jin, 2008; Zhang et al., 2004).
Therefore, it is important for employers to cultivate transparent communication
culture that allows practitioners to think of diverse communication strategies that can
accommodate toward a certain stakeholder’s need. Not only that, strategic communication
practitioners can serve as a communication counselor for top management, persuading
leaders to consider a value of healthy stakeholder relationships (Cameron et al., 2008).
To better serve public needs and ensure an organization’s effective strategic
planning, contingency theorists argue that its daily stance can move upwards and
downwards along the continuum ranging from pure accommodation to pure advocacy
toward a certain public group (Cancel et al., 1997); and that practitioners should
consider the following contingent factors when making their communication decisions.
For example, the factors include, but are not limited to, internal factors (e.g., top
management characteristics, organizational structure, PR department independence)
and external factors (e.g., political/social/cultural/industry environment, public power,
and organization-public relationships; Shin, Cameron, & Cropp, 2006). Despite its value
of a flexible and dynamic communication stance toward a public, there is a lack of
empirical research examining what drives public relations practitioners’ intention to
produce diverse stances. To fill this gap, we propose the following hypothesis testing
whether transparent communication efforts by leaders would influence practitioners’
Transparent Communication Efforts inspire Confident, even Greater, Employee Performance 17
adoption of flexible communication strategies:
H3: Leaders’ transparent communication efforts will significantly predict employees’
willingness to take accommodation toward public.
Finally, demographic factors can influence our outcomes. For instance, scholars
have demonstrated the influence of gender (Aldoory, Jiang, Toth, & Sha, 2008; Gallicano
et al., 2012) and ethnicity (Pompper, 2007) on employee-organization relationship
outcomes in the public relations industry. Although demographic variables are not the
focus of our study, the third research question, comparing them to leader transparency
as potential predictors, is as follows:
RQ2: What is the relative importance of leaders’ transparent communication
compared to demographic factors as it predicts perceived organizational reputation
and employees’work engagement?
RQ2b: Do additional demographic factors, particularly gender and years of work
experiences, affect outcome variables?
Method
Design
We recruited participants through a mixture of a convenience and snowball sampling.
The purpose of the study was investigating the association between leaders’ transparent
communication efforts perceived by PR practitioners, as employees of their own
organizations, and their working style and performance. Therefore, we initially
contacted a total of 129 employees working at four leading public relations agencies in
South Korea. A total of 100 questionnaires were returned from the practitioners
reflecting a 77.52% response rate. In gathering data, we first used a person-to-person
approach by hiring graduate students to visit the four agencies and recruit
respondents by asking their emails. Then, the researchers distributed a link to our
survey via email, and asked referring it to their coworkers. During our data collection
period, we sent several reminder emails, and a few entry-level employees that we
knew sent a solicitation letter on our behalf as well. The survey was opened to the
18 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
participants for five consecutive workdays. Prior to asking questionnaires, our
subjects were provided online informed consent. The survey lasted for approximately
20 minutes.
Participants
The demographics of those who responded (N = 100) show that 79% were female,
while 20% were males, indicating participants were skewed (i.e., that PR practitioners
were more female). Among them, 50% were between the ages of 30 and 39, 42% were
between the ages of 20 and 29, and only 8% were in their 40s. In terms of the type of
their organizations, 80% of them were working at PR agencies, while 19% worked at a
PR department in corporations. Most of the participants, 67%, were employees, whereas
31% were working as a manager; and only 2% were in the top-level management.
Regarding their academic background, 43% had academic degrees in PR or related
communication fields. Their average work experience was 4.10 years, indicating them
as mostly early or mid-career workers (SD = 3.558).
Measurements
Transparent Communication Efforts. The employees’ evaluation of transparent
communication by leaders was measured by the 18-items of Rawlins (2009) Transparency
Efforts Scale having three constructs: (1) Participation (i.e., “The leader of my
organization provides detailed information to people like me; asks the opinions of
people like me before making decisions; takes the time with people like me to
understand who we are and what we need; asks for feedback from people like me
about the quality of its information; makes it easy to find the information people like
me need; involves people like me to help identify the information I need.”); (2)
Substantial information (i.e., “The leader of my organization provides information
that is easy for people like me to understand; information that is complete; information
in a timely fashion to people like me; information that is relevant to people like me;
information to people like me in language that is clear; information that could be
verified by an outside source such as an auditor; and information that is reliable.”);
and (3) Accountability (i.e., “The leader of my organization provides information that
can be compared to industry standards; admit mistakes when he or she has made
mistakes; presents more than one side of controversial issues; be forthcoming with
information that might be damaging to them or an organization; and be open to
Transparent Communication Efforts inspire Confident, even Greater, Employee Performance 19
criticism by people like me.”). Responses were recorded on a scale of 1 (strongly
disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). (a = .948)
Organizational reputation. The organizational reputation was measured using the
5-item Organizational Reputation developed by Coombs and Holladay on 7-point
scales (2002): (1) “The organization is concerned with the well-being of employees,” (2)
“The organization is basically dishonest to employees,” (3) “I do not trust the
organization to tell the truth about organization-related or work-related issues,” (4)
“Under most circumstances, I would be likely to believe what my own organization
says,” and (5) “The organization is not concerned with our well-being.” (a = .789).
Work engagement. The participants’ work engagement was measured by the
employee version of the 17-item Work Engagement Scale from Schaufeli, Salanova,
Gonzalez-Romá, & Bakker (2002). This scale has been validated in various situation
having three constructs: (1) Vigor (i.e., “when I get up in the morning, I feel like going
to work,” “at my work, I feel bursting with energy,” “at my work I always persevere,
even things do not go well,” “I can continue working for very long periods at a time,”
“at my job, I am very resilient, mentally,” “at my job I feel strong and vigorous.”); (2)
Dedication (i.e., “to me, my job is challenging,” “my job inspires me,” “I am enthusiastic
about my job,” “I am proud on the work that I do,” “I find the work that I do full of
meaning and purpose.”); and (3) Absorption (i.e., “when I am working, I forget
everything else around me,” “times flies when I am working,” “I get carried away when
I am working,” “it is difficult to detach myself from my job,” “I am immersed in my
work,” “I feel happy when I am working intensely”). Each question was rated on a
7-point scale ranging from not true at all to very true. (a = .905)
Willingness to adopt an accommodative stance. Willingness to adopt accommodation
was measured by a 10-item scale suggested by Jin & Cameron (2006), having two
subscales, which are action-based accommodation (AA) and qualified rhetoric mixed
accommodation (QRA): (1) AA (i.e., “given situation, I will be to yield to the public’s
demands; to agree to follow what the public proposed; to accept the public’s propositions;
to agree with the public on future action or procedure; and to agree to try the solutions
suggested by the public.”); and (2) QRA (i.e., “I will be to express regret or apologize to
the public; to collaborate with the public in order to solve the problem at hand; to change
my own position toward that of the p ublic; to make concessions with the public; and to
admit wrongdoing.”). Responses were recorded on a scale of 1 (completely unwilling)
to 7 (completely willing). (a = .898)
20 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
Results
As for a descriptive purpose, we included the first question asking the scope of
“organizational leaders” in PR agencies. It revealed that, most of our respondents,
47%, perceived that a leader of their company can include communication leaders
(e.g., PR managers) as well as CEOs. Surprisingly, those who responded consider
even supervisors in one’s own unit as their leaders (19%), while 32% of the subjects
indicated that they would regard just CEOs as organizational leaders.
Hypothesis Testing
Before testing hypotheses, the first research question asked whether our data were
identical to the original factor loadings of the three constructs of leaders’ transparent
communication efforts scale (i.e., participation, substantial information, accountability;
see Rawlins, 2009). The 18 items were factor analyzed by Promax rotation, because
variables were highly related with each other; Sufficient/Accessible Information and
Accountability/Authenticity (r = .66, p .001), Sufficient/Accessible Information and
Participation/Openness (r = .63, p .001), and Accountability/Authenticity and
Participation/Openness (r = .66, p .001). Principle components extraction was used
prior to principle factors extraction to ensure the number of factors. With an a=.001,
cutoff level, the data yielded 16 items with three factors. After oblique rotation
performed, loadings under .45 were replaced by zeros. 61% of variance in the data set
is accounted for by the three factors, while Sufficient/Accessible information factor
account for the most variance (51.17%). All factors were internally consistent.
However, the specific factor loadings were somewhat inconsistent with the previous
research. Specifically, the first factor was labeled Sufficient/Accessible information
(Cronbach’s α = .91). Items that loaded on this factor are identical to Rawlins (2009) such
as “Make it easy to find the information people like me need,” “Provides information
that is easy for me to understand,” “The organization provides information to me in
language that is clear,” and “Provides information in a timely fashion to me.” However,
items loaded high on this factor also include “Provides detailed information to me” or
“Takes the time with people like me to understand who we are and what we need,”
which was extracted as a Participation variable from Rawlins (2009).
The second factor was named Accountability/Authenticity (Cronbach’s α = .85).
Items loaded high on this factor include the original items such as “Admit mistakes
when he or she has made mistakes” and “Be forthcoming with information that might
Transparent Communication Efforts inspire Confident, even Greater, Employee Performance 21
be damaging to them or an organization.” On the other hand, items loaded for
Substantial Information variable in the previous study loaded high on here: “Provides
information that is complete,” “Provides information that is relevant to people like me,”
and “Provide information that is reliable.”
The third factor was named as Participation/Openness (Cronbach’s α = .86). Only
three items were extracted for this third factor. Among them, while the two highly
loaded items were consistent with the initial factor loading such as “Ask for feedback
from people like me about the quality of its information,” and “Asks the opinions of me
Rotated factor matrix
Factor
Sufficient
/ Accessible
Information
Accountability
/ Authenticity
Participation
/ Openness
Make it easy to find the information people like me need 0.880
Provides detailed information to me*0.822*
Provides information that is easy for me to understand 0.754
The organization provides information to me in language that is
clear 0.717
Takes the time with people like me to understand who we are
and what we need*0.703*
Provides information in a timely fashion to me 0.568
Provides information that can be compared to industry standards*** 0.532***
Provides information that could be verified by an outside source 0.520
Provide information that is relevant to me** 0.815**
Provide information that is reliable** 0.712**
Admit mistakes when he or she has made mistakes 0.627
Be forthcoming with information that might be damaging to
them or an organization 0.605
Provide information that is complete** 0.518**
Asks the opinions of me before making decisions 0.781
Asks for feedback from me about the quality of its information 0.662
Be open to criticism by people like me*** 0.618***
Note.
*
Items were loaded as “Participation” variables,
**
Items were loaded as “Substantial Information,”
***
Items were loade
d
as “Accountability” variables by Rawlins (2009)
Extraction Method: Principle Axis Factoring
Rotation Method: Promax with Kaiser Normalization
Table 1. EFA on Transparent Communication Efforts based on arrangement of Rawlins (2009)
22 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
before making decisions,” the item of “Be open to criticism by people like me,” originally
loaded for Accountability, also appears on this factor. Table 1 show the results of the
exploratory factor analyses.
H1 pertains to assessing the prediction of organizational reputation perceptions
with the respondents’ ratings of leaders’ transparency efforts. Simple linear regression
analysis was used to test the prediction. The result demonstrated that transparent
communication efforts by organizational leaders was a significant predictor of their
own organization’s reputation, F (98) = 40.660 p .001, accounting for about 29% of the
variance in reputation perceptions (R2
adj = .0.288). Our data illustrated that as an
employee’s evaluation of leader transparency increased by 1 point, his or her
organizational reputation perception was enhanced by about .619 point within a given
scale (β = 0.543). Thus, hypothesis 1 was supported.
As a critical outcome of leaders’ transparent communication on employees’
workplace performance, there was a significant relationship between the participants’
job engagement and transparent communication efforts, F (98) = 19.641, p .001, while
accounting for 16% of the variance in individual engagement. As transparent communication
scale increased by 1 point, the work engagement was estimated to increase about .304
(β = 0.409); therefore, H2 was supported.
H3 predicted that leader transparency would also be a significant predictor of
the employees’ likelihood to accommodate toward public when deciding their
communication stance. The result revealed that the practitioners’ willingness to adopt
an accommodative stance was significantly predicted by their leaders’ transparent
communication efforts, F (98) = 19.701, p .001. In other words, if employees perceive
greater transparent communication efforts from their leaders, they are more likely to
consider adopting flexible communication strategies and accommodation toward
public, while accounting for about 16% of the variance in one’s accommodative stance
(R2
adj = .0.159). Thus, the third hypothesis was supported. Table 2 illustrates the findings
Reputation Work engagement Accommodation
Leader Transparency 0.619*** 0.304*** 0.319***
F
40.660 19.641 19.701
R
2
adj
0.288 0.158 0.159
Note. Hypothesis
df
= 1, error
df
= 98 for all
F
tests. ***
p
.001. Multiple regression analyses with demographics as predictor
variables are omitted due to its insignificance.
Table 2. Simple regression analysis of Transparent Communication Efforts factor on organizational
reputation, work engagement, and accommodation
Transparent Communication Efforts inspire Confident, even Greater, Employee Performance 23
of separate regression analyses.
RQ2 tested whether employees’ demographic factors influence our dependent
variables. To better predict our dependent variables and to avoid any unexpected bias
from individual differences such as gender or one’s working experiences (i.e., most of
our employees were entry-level practitioners), the current study conducted a stepwise
multiple regression with all demographic information. The subsequent analysis
revealed that one’s demographic variables were not significantly predicting any of
dependent variables. Only leaders’ transparent communication efforts, however, was
a significant predictor of employees work performance, degree of accommodation that
they might employ in practice, and their ratings of organizations, t (97) = 4.408, p .001,
controlling for the other variables in the model.
Discussion
The main purpose of this study was exploring the relationship between open and
transparent internal communication efforts by organizational leaders and employee-
related variables such as their work engagement and organizational reputation perceptions.
Transparent Internal Communication to Foster Employees’ Work Engagement
To accomplish this, we argued and found support for a positive association between
leader transparency efforts and work engagement among entry-level employees in
major PR agencies in South Korea.
Guided by the literature in this area (i.e., Ruck & Welch, 2012; Walden et al., 2017),
our data illustrates the importance of the leaders’ contribution to internal communication
climate as predictors of employee workplace performance. As Walden and colleagues
(2017) describe, employees’ work engagement can be understood as an individual
attachment at their daily job roles, which ultimately, bring positive consequences to
organizations. In general, individuals who are more engaged are likely to have not only
greater individual outcomes (i.e. quality of people’s work; Saks, 2006), but also, greater
commitment to their organization and less likelihood to quit their job (Schaufeli &
Bakker, 2004); and ultimately, contribute to the growth and productivity of their
organization (Saks, 2006; Walden et al., 2017).
Our findings illustrate that fostering employees’ work engagement requires
24 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
open and transparent communication from one’s employer, especially, initiated by
organizational leaders. In other words, employees’ strengths at work, their enthusiasm
and inspiration to work, and concentration on their daily practice can altogether be
affected by leader transparency.
Another interesting finding is the perceived boundary of organizational leaders
among public relations agency employees. Our subjects responded, “an organizational
leader” as the concept to include not only a CEO or top management (32%), but also
communication leaders such as a PR manager (47%) and even, a supervisor at their own
unit (19%). Past work has focused on CEOs and dominant coalitions and their managerial
influence on employees’ practice (Hwang & Cameron, 2008; Shin et al., 2006; Swerling
& Sen, 2009). Our descriptive finding highlights the need to expand the scope of
organizational leaders to communication leaders and unit supervisors, reinforcing the
argument of Johansson and Ottestig (2011).
It is, however, possibly due to our study sample. We surveyed entry-level, young
employees (i.e., having an average 4 years of work experiences). Thus, these early-career
professionals might need further guidance and feedback from their unit supervisors, PR
managers, and top management, and expect greater transparent communication
compared to senior level employees, just like that past work have suggested from
surveying Millennial employees (Gallicano et al., 2012; Walden et al., 2017). Similarly,
our subjects were public relations practitioners who likely recognized the importance
of communicative leaders in encouraging open internal communication. Thus, it is
important to continue to study the scope of organizational leaders in different contexts
such as other units in corporations, governments, or non-profits; and examines how
other industry employees evaluate the role of leaders’ commutation efforts to be
transparent.
Leaders’ Transparent Communication Efforts and Organizational Reputation
In addition, these leaders’ transparent communication efforts led to our subjects’
favorable reputation perceptions on their organizations. This finding is consistent
with the literature measuring openness and transparent communication as a significant
predictor of organizational reputation perceptions among various stakeholders (DiStaso
& Bortree, 2012; Kim et al., 2014; Rawlins, 2009).
Applying it to the context of employee communication, leaders’ transparent
communication efforts are likely to transmit to employee perceptions on their own
organizations. Our second research question also confirms the relative importance of
Transparent Communication Efforts inspire Confident, even Greater, Employee Performance 25
leader transparency as the only significant predictor of employee reputations perceptions
toward their organizations over other demographic variables (e.g., age, gender, the
years of work experience, job titles, organization types, education).
One thing to note is that this study measured organizational reputation perceptions
as consequences of transparent internal communication. As Rawlins (2009) asserted,
transparent communication dimensions such as accountability are closely related to an
organization’s perceived trust among public. Also, employees as an internal public
group can directly face their organization’s communication challenges and thus, may
want to validate the leaders’ authenticity and credibility, when evaluating its overall
reputation. Hence, this study adopted the Organizational Reputation Scale (ORP) that
would primarily capture an organization’s perceived credibility (Coombs, 2013), instead
of using a general attitude scale measuring the overall impression of an organization
(i.e., how likeable the organization is; Claeys & Cauberghe, 2014; Lyon & Cameron, 2004;
Ma & Zhan, 2017).
However, one might argue that the ORP scale is not an effective proxy for
organizational reputation in the context of employee communication (Coombs, 2013;
Coombs & Holladay, 2002). From a meta-analysis of 24 crisis communication scholarly
articles, Ma and Zhan (2016) also address the issue of its measurement validity. The
association between a matching crisis response strategy (i.e., in terms of an organization’s
attributed crisis responsibility) and organizational reputation was stronger when the
ORP scale was adopted as compared to when using a general attitude scale. In other
words, the two measurements are slightly different from one another in capturing
stakeholder perceptions, because publics’ general evaluation of an organization is more
complicated, holistic, and long-term (Kiousis, Popusce, & Mitrook, 2007). In terms of
these operationalization issues, we suggest a future research that explores and evaluates
the organizational reputation measures capturing diverse dimensions such as a measure
of financial conditions, market competitiveness, good employee morale, etc.
Leader Transparency and Employees’ Adoption of Public Relations Stance
The current study also confirms the effects of transparent communication efforts by
leaders on practitioners’ strategic decision-making. According to the result, public
relations agency employees under transparent leaders tend to adopt accommodative
communication strategies toward public rather limit their communication choices.
Which means, leaders’ communication efforts have downward influence (Hwang &
Cameron, 2008; Shin et al., 2006; Zhang et al., 2004). Given that accommodation is
26 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
regarded as a critical strategic communication option that can serve diverse needs of
stakeholders, promoting transparent communication among employees can lead to
effective public relations planning.
Sufficient and Accessible Information, Accountability / Authenticity, Participation
/ Openness
Most importantly, our factor analyses and subsequent Cronbach’s alpha test provided
evidence that the 16 items measuring leaders’ transparent communication efforts are
reliable. However, some items are loaded to different factors compared to the way
they were initially described.
Specifically, this study’s results suggest that the third factor, which is labeled as
Participation/Openness, has two original items and one item indicating a leader’s
openness to criticism by followers (e.g., an item loaded for “accountability” from
Rawlins, 2009). Based on conceptualization of leader transparency, however, the item
can be categorized as a leader’s participatory and accessible behavior instead of one’s
accountability.
In the similar vein, some items of Sufficient/Accessible Information (i.e., substantial
information items from Rawlins, 2009) include the instrument of “participation” in
previous research. Conversely, we argue that the two items (e.g., offering detailed
information and having conversations of “who the employees are” and “what they
need”) may also reflect the dimension of Sufficient/Accessible Information. Likewise,
three items which were initially described as substantial information (e.g., sharing
relevant, reliable and complete information with employees; see Rawlins, 2009) appear
to explain Accountability / Authenticity of employee communication (i.e., revealing
organizational challenge and its weakness to employees).
The varying results may stem, in part, from the fact that the Rawlins’ study was
measuring transparency efforts in overall organization management, whereas this
study analyzed it in the context of internal communication. Additionally, the inconsistent
factors loading may indicate that the three constructs are conceptually intertwined and
operationally inseparable. Based on their factor analyses, Kim and colleagues (2014) also
insist on the possibility that the two constructs of Sufficient/ Accessible Information and
Accountability/Authenticity might share the ground of original definition. They
showed that the two items (“Provides information that is complete” and “Provides
information that is reliable”) could be loaded into accountability variables instead of
substantial information, which is consistent with our data.
Transparent Communication Efforts inspire Confident, even Greater, Employee Performance 27
Consequently, our data show three dimensions of transparent communication and
this study renames them to clarify meanings of each dimension as follows: Sufficient/
Accessible Information (i.e., providing sufficient information to employees and make it
accessible to them in a timely manner), Accountability/Authenticity (i.e., being authentic
and reliable in communicating with employees and offering germane information to
them), and Participation/openness (i.e., listening to employee opinions and criticism;
please see our factor loadings in Table 1; Rawlins, 2009).
There are several avenues to consider in future research. One area would be to
investigate and validate the revised measure of transparent communication efforts
having three constructs (i.e., information sufficiency and accessibility, accountability
and authenticity, participation and openness). This can be done by surveying lay public,
stakeholders, or employees in a different context.
As a more employee-centric approach, future research might also want to conduct
1) in-depth interviews of employees to examine when and how they internalize leaders’
transparent communication efforts into their daily activities; or, 2) an experiment of how
publics evaluate the organization, when they see a practitioner posting positive
word-of-mouth in social media channels (e.g., an employee’s Facebook, tweet, or his or
her own personal blog).
One limitation of our study is that all findings were based on self-report measures.
Although we highlighted the anonymity of this survey and encouraged the practitioners
to report honest evaluations, it is difficult to overcome the influence of social-desirability
bias. Thus, future research may want to fully capture the employees’ perceptions by
conducting an observation or in-depth interview. Additionally, this study only examined
a certain population of individuals, South Korean PR employees, who, arguably, might
have different political, social, and cultural background from practitioners in other nations.
Conclusion
In conclusion, to engender employees’ feelings of attachment at work, organizational
leaders including unit supervisors are necessary to provide sufficient and reliable
information to employees in a timely manner, remove obstacles to internal information
flow, being authentic and accountable in communicating organizational or job-related
issues, and listening to employee opinions and criticism. There is a significant potential
to foster transparent employee communication, if it leads to positive consequences for an
organization and confident workplace performance in the ways that our data suggest.
28 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
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Culture and Corporate Social
Responsibility
A Comparative Analysis of the U.S. and China’s Fortune
Global 500 Company Websites
1)
Cui Meadows*
Abstract
his study revealed the differences of corporate social responsibility (CSR) presentation
through a content analysis of 174 American and Chinese corporate websites. The
findings showed that websites of the U.S. companies on the Fortune Global 500 list
demonstrated more thorough CSR representation than their Chinese counterparts.
Specifically, the U.S. websites focused on the majority of the CSR topics such as environment,
diversity and equal opportunity, charitable giving, and volunteering. On the other hand,
Chinese websites seemed to focus on a limited number of CSR themes. The findings also
revealed cultural differences of the CSR communication between the two countries. Chinese
company websites display more power distance, collectivism, long-term orientation than the
U.S. company websites. On the other hand, the U.S. company websites displayed more
uncertainty avoidance than their Chinese counterparts. Theoretical and practical implications
are discussed.
KEYW ORDS corporate social responsibility; sustainability; cultural dimensions;
cross-cultural public relations
* Cui Meadows (Ph.D.) is an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at East Carolina
University.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Cui Meadows, School of
Communication, East Carolina University, 102 Joyner East, Greenville, NC 27858, USA. (252) 328-4227.
meadowsc14@ecu.edu
T
Asian Journal of Public Relations
Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
pp3256
www.kaspr.net
Culture and Corporate Social Responsibility 33
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is highly related to a company’s international
reputation (The Nielsen Company, 2014). Irresponsible practices can directly affect
the reputation of a company. For instance, a story published in The New York Times
in January 2012 harshly condemns Apple for poor working conditions in its contracted
Foxconn factories in China (Duhigg & Barboza, 2012). The media coverage highlights
extreme overtime, questionable working practices, and employee suicides. After the
story was published, Apple responded to the accusations noting the unfortunate
nature of the working conditions and outlining the steps that they had taken to
improve these conditions, including agreeing to external audits. However, Apple
continued to receive negative media coverage by major U.S. media outlets. The media
and human rights advocates viewed the audits and reports, though steps in the right
direction, as disingenuous regarding Apple’s commitment to their employees and
human rights.
Apple’s example provides an ideal case for CSR discussion from a cross-cultural
perspective. Responsible companies address the key concerns of publics regarding the
relationship between a business and society (Carroll, 1999), and CSR is an essential
component of effective relationship management with a company’s key stakeholders.
Although the concept of CSR was mainly discussed by scholars in a western context,
researchers need to examine how Chinese companies communicate CSR information as
more Chinese corporations enter the global market. Many challenges exist in communicating
CSR initiatives across cultures due to cultural, political, and socioeconomic differences.
Vermander (2014) argues that “There is a strong cultural dimension to the rise and
expression of corporate responsibility, and the concept evolves according to different
times and countries” (pp. 291). To circumvent these challenges, many multinational
companies choose to use a standard and global approach when managing and
communicating CSR in a global market (Jain & De Moya, 2013). Such a global approach,
although cost effective, may not be the best choice to effectively communicate with local
stakeholders in various international markets.
A growing body of literature investigates CSR practices across multiple countries
(e.g. Svensson, Wood, Singh, Carasco, & Callaghan, 2009; Thanetsunthorn, 2015;
Waldman, Sully de Luque, Washburn, & House, 2006). Other content analyses exclusively
examine the CSR communication in the U.S. and China (e.g., Tang, Gallagher, & Bie,
2015; Tang & Li, 2009). Ki and Shin (2015) have called for more research that examines
cultural aspects of sustainability communication in countries other than South Korea.
The present study attempts to respond to this suggestion by exploring the cultural
dimensions presented through CSR communication in the U.S. and China.
China is selected not only because of its growing economy, but also because of its
34 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
distinct culture and value systems. Hofstede’s (1980; 2001) theory of cultural dimensions
classifies the U.S. culture as individualist, low power-distanced, direct, and explicit,
whereas China’s culture is collectivist, high power-distanced, indirect, and implicit. The
U.S. and China also have distinct economic and political systems. China has had a later
development of industrialization than the United States, so China’s businesses and the
national, provincial, and local governments heavily depend on each other (García,
2014). The Chinese government has considerable influence on business communication,
public relations, and CSR by playing the role of a shareholder and regulator (Li, Song,
& Wu, 2015). While China’s economy continues to grow, its political system has
remained stable since 1949, when the Communist Party of China (CPC) took power. In
fact, the Chinese government still controls the majority of the corporate giants (Jing,
2015). On the Forbes 2016 ranking list of the World’s Biggest Public Companies measured
by sales, profits, assets, and market value, China is home to the world’s three largest
companies: Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, and
Agricultural Bank of China. All three are state-owned (Forbes, 2016). Furthermore, the
top 12 Chinese enterprises on the 2014 Fortune Global 500 list, a majority of which are
in the energy and finance sectors, are all state-owned (Cendrowski, 2015). CEOs, senior
executives, and other decision makers of state-owned enterprises often occupy
Communist Party positions (Wildau, February 2016). Fan, Wong, & Zhang (2007) find
that almost one third of CEOs in Chinese companies either have worked or were
working as government officials.
The core notion of CSR is value-driven. Scholars have made a consensus that the
CSR practice differs according to the context and culture in which the business operates
(Thanetsunthorn, 2015). Obviously, the United States and China have contrasting
cultures. Therefore, the central questions in the present study are (1) whether or not the
CSR topics differ in the two countries and (2) what cultural dimensions might be
presented on website CSR communication. From a theoretical perspective, this study
will further extend the scope of cultural dimensions useful in prior research (Ki & Shin,
2015; Singh & Matsuo, 2004) and will address several new dimensions in CSR, such as
government relations and long-term orientation. In practice, the analysis will help CSR
administrators and managers in making effective decisions when developing their CSR
strategies for stakeholders in a market that is culturally different from the United States.
Culture and Corporate Social Responsibility 35
Literature Review
Corporate Social Responsibility
The 1950s mark the beginning of the modern period of CSR (Carroll, 1999). Bowen
(1953) notes that businesses should take on a responsibility to the society. Over the
years, this declaration has expanded from a simple statement of responsibility to a
multidimensional concept. The Committee of Economic Development (1971) develops
a three-circle definition of CSR. The inner circle includes basic economic responsibilities
of a company, such as product quality and safety, jobs, and economic growth. The
intermediate circle “encompasses responsibility to exercise this economic function
with a sensitive awareness of changing social values and priorities” (Carroll, 1999, p.
275), such as environmental responsibilities, employee well-being, working condition,
customer relation, and fair treatment. The outer circle involves responsibilities to the
larger social environment, including poverty reduction and urban blight. This model
of CSR is based on the assumption that the three CSR dimensions are connected and
interwoven.
Carroll (1979) recognizes that the social responsibility of businesses “encompasses
the economic, legal, ethical, and discretionary expectations that society has of
organizations at a given point in time” (p. 500). This expanded definition of CSR includes
four components, economic (maximizing profits), legal (following laws and regulations),
ethical (following organizational, professional, and societal codes of ethics), and
philanthropic (supporting society) responsibilities. According to this concept, socially
responsible businesses should not only ensure shareholder profit and operate under
legal obligations, but also contribute to other areas of society (Coombs & Holladay, 2009;
Davis, 1973; Golob & Bartlett, 2007; McGuire, 1963; Ragas & Roberts, 2009). This
contribution is further illustrated by Jones (1980), who adds that the obligation is
voluntary.
Carroll (1991) later expends the concept of CSR based on a pyramid model, which
depicts the economic level as the foundation with the legal and ethical levels above.
Philanthropy is at the peak of the pyramid. Scholars argue that this pyramid model
misled readers to think the CSR dimensions are hierarchical in nature, with philanthropy
at the pinnacle. CSR in practice does not always follow such a linear fashion. In fact, the
four dimensions of CSR are overlapping in nature (Schwartz & Carroll, 2003). For
example, a business’ charitable giving can be considered both ethical and philanthropic.
A company’s waste-reduction program can be classified as both economic and ethical.
As researchers map the topics and themes of CSR, corporations realize the benefits
36 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
of proactively implementing CSR activities both domestically and internationally.
Consumers have more favorable beliefs about socially responsible companies, are more
likely to identity with them, and are more likely to engage in positive word-of-mouth
communication (Rim & Song, 2013; Werder, 2008). CSR efforts can also enhance a
company’s perceived sincerity (Ragas & Roberts, 2009).
CSR Reporting on Corporate Websites
Reporting CSR, including corporate citizenship and sustainability to stakeholders, has
become an essential strategy to build beneficial relationships with a company’s key
publics. CSR information is no longer of interest to only investors and customers, but
to a wide range of publics including employees, governments, communities, opinion
leaders, and decision makers. An increasing number of stakeholders demand a socially
responsible company to disclose CSR activities via accountable and transparent
communication (Devin, 2016), and corporate websites are where these activities are
reported. CSR themes, focuses and presentations are often dependent on local culture,
values, political systems, and societal norms.
CSR has historically covered a wide range of issues in building and maintaining
relationships with the communities, employees, and the environment (Salomon, 2016).
Over the years, the concept has been defined and shaped with an ever expanding list of
topics. For example, Tang and Li (2009) examined the nature of CSR in China and
included the following topics: employee health and safety; employee welfare; employee
development and equal opportunities; product quality; product safety; financial
assistance to education, sports and culture; development and poverty reduction; disaster
relief; environmental conservation; health and disability.
Examining the CSR topics presented on corporate websites of Fortune Global 500
companies can offer insights into the CSR themes these influential companies prioritize.
Therefore, the first research question addresses the presence of most common CSR
topics on Fortune Global 500 companies.
RQ1:What are the CSR topics communicated on the U.S. and Chinese Fortune
Global 500 companies’ websites?
The Presentation of CSR Topics in the U.S. and China
CSR topics are often prioritized based on “the stakeholders whom corporations need
Culture and Corporate Social Responsibility 37
to satisfy” (Tang et al., 2015, p. 210). U.S. companies have had decades to develop a
comprehensive array of CSR practice and communication (Tang et al., 2015). It is still
in an early stage in China (Gao, 2009; Ramasamy & Yeung, 2009). In their study of
companies operating in China, Tang and Li (2009) find that global companies are more
likely to communicate CSR information on their websites than Chinese companies. A
follow-up study of Tang and colleagues reveals that the U.S. companies present a
more comprehensive picture than their Chinese counterparts in terms of CSR topics
(Tang et al, 2015). Jiang and Wei (2013) also find U.S. companies were more likely than
Chinese companies to address CSR on their websites. Kim, Nam, and Kang (2010) find
that compared to Asian companies, North American companies are more likely to
have a standalone section for environment initiatives.
Another body of research has examined the differences of CSR communication and
practice across countries from a political stand point, as the political system plays a key
role in the strategic development and prioritization of corporate responsibilities (e.g., Li
et al., 2015). In today’s China, the CSR understanding, communication, and implementation
involves the government (Vermander, 2014). Based on the findings from a longitudinal
study, Li and colleagues (2015) note that political connections and ownership are related
to firms’ charitable giving. They report that politically connected firms are more
involved in philanthropic activities than non-politically connected firms in China. Also,
state-owned companies are less likely to donate than non-state-owned companies. A
stronger relationship exists between political connections and corporate philanthropy
in non-state-owned companies.
Given that the majority of Fortune Global 500 Chinese companies are state-owned,
the CSR focus on corporate websites may show a distinction from their U.S. counterparts.
Previous research provides preliminary insights into different presentation of CSR
topics in the U.S. and China. The two comparative content analysis by Tang and
colleagues (Tang & Li, 2009; Tang et al., 2015) examine Chinese and foreign companies
with a sample size of 73 companies. The current analysis adopts a more updated top
company list and larger sample size, which includes all American and Chinese
companies in the Fortune Global 500 list, in the hope of getting a more complete and
more accurate understanding of the CSR topics presentation. This leads to the second
research question:
RQ2: Are there any differences in terms of the presentations of CSR topics
between U.S. and Chinese Fortune Global 500 companies?
38 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
Cultural Dimensions Displayed in CSR Communication of the U.S. and China
To understand the differences of CSR communication and practices in the U.S.
and China, one must consider the specific social and cultural values where CSR is
implemented. CSR is value-driven, and companies’ CSR strategies need to be
consistent with the cultural values of host countries. As Vermander (2014) suggests,
traditional and contemporary Chinese values such as Taoism and social harmony,
influence CSR practice and implementation. Hofstede’s (1980) theory of culture
dimensions is widely used by scholars as a theoretical framework to examine culture’s
influence on CSR communication and performance (Thanetsunthorn, 2015). Hofstede
(2001) characterizes different cultures based on several dimensions, including power
distance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty avoidance,
and long-term/short-term orientation.
Power distance pertains to the extent to which people accept the inequality of power
distribution in a particular culture (Hofstede, 2001). Waldman et al. (2006) define power
distance as “the extent to which societal members believe that power should be
concentrated in the hands of only a few people in a culture, and that those people should
be obeyed without question and afforded special privileges” (p. 826). High power
distance cultures accept the hierarchy between superiors and subordinates. China is a
high-power distance country with a score of 80 on a 0-100-point scale (Hofstede, 1980;
G. Hofstede, G. J. Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010), whereas the U.S. is low-power distance
country with a score of 40 (Hofstede, 1980; Hofstede et al., 2010). Collectivism/individualism
refers to the extent to which people in a society value interdependence and connection
to each other. Collectivism is a concept based on the idea that “the self should be
interdependent with others and should have duties and obligations to the greater
collective that outweigh personal concerns” (Waldman et al., 2006, p. 826). Members of
a collectivist culture also show emotional dependence on organizations and institutions
(Hofstede, 2001). By contrast, members of an individualist culture value independence
as well as personal achievement and freedom. The U.S culture is regarded as highly
individualist with a score of 91 (Hofstede, 1980; Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010),
whereas Chinese culture is considered collectivist with a sore of 20 (Hofstede, 1980;
Hofstede et al., 2010). Masculinity/femininity refers to the drive for success in a culture as
well as the distribution of gender roles (Hofstede, 2001). A masculine culture is typically
driven by competition and success, whereas a feminine society emphasizes caring for
others and tends to avoid competition. The scores of the U.S. and China on this
dimension are both relatively high, with 62 and 66 respectively, suggesting that that
both societies are oriented around success and competition. Uncertainty avoidance is
Culture and Corporate Social Responsibility 39
characterized by the extent to which a society tolerates ambiguity or unknown
situations (Hofstede, 2001). In a culture high on the avoidance of uncertainty, people
believe they need to seek clarity and avoid high-risk situations, whereas people in a
culture with low uncertainty avoidance index tend to easily accept and tolerate
ambiguity (Hofstede, 2001). The U.S. scores higher (43) of uncertainty avoidance
compared to China (30). The last dimension, long-term/short-term orientation explores
the extent to which a culture stress the importance of the past, present, and future. China
has a culture with long-term orientation that stress the importance of future plans (with
a score of 118 according to Hofstede, 2001), whereas the U.S. is a country with short-term
orientation (with a score of 29 according to Hofstede, 2001). American companies tend
to measure performance on a short-term basis such as a quarter, and employees tend to
seek quick results (Hofstede, 2001). Chinese companies, on the other hand, tend to
evaluate results on a long-term basis, and tend to plan for what is in the future. According
to Hofstede (2001), the U.S. is low power-distanced, individualist, masculine, and
short-term oriented. China, on the other hand, is hierarchical, collectivist, competitive,
and long-term oriented.
A growing body of comparative analyses is attempting to explain the differences
in CSR or sustainability communication across countries from a cultural perspective
(e.g., Ki & Shin, 2015; Y. Kim & S. Kim, 2010). For example, Waldman and colleagues
(2006) argue that a relationship exists between a country’s culture as a whole and
companies’ CSR values among top management teams. Using individualism/collectivism
and power distance as two indicators of cultural differences, Waldman and colleagues
(2006) survey managers in 561 firms across 15 countries and find that institutional
collectivist values (societal level) have a positive relationship with CSR values of
managers (organization level). Power distance is negatively related to organizational
CSR values. Thanetsunthorn (2015) finds that cultural dimensions could influence CSR
performance. In particular, companies in European countries outperform those in
Eastern Asian cultures in all the facets of CSR practice. The findings reveal that high
power distance and individualist cultures tend to demonstrate less concern about social
issues related to employees, communities, and the environment (Thanetsunthorn,
2015). This study confirms the impact of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions on socially
responsible corporate performance across countries, whereas it limits itself to only three
themes of CSR (employee, community, and environment). Ki and Shin (2015) examine
how cultures are displayed in the U.S. and Korean sustainability reporting on corporate
websites. They report that Korean corporate websites have displayed more collectivism
and high power distance values, such as harmony, environmental heritage, family
theme, hierarchy information, vision statement, and proper titles, whereas the U.S.
40 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
company websites are more likely to display uncertainty avoidance values, such as
guided navigation, customer service, and links.
The previous studies provide useful insights into the cultural difference of
corporate CSR or sustainability communication across countries. However, more
research is necessary to compare how the culture values are displayed on the U.S. and
Chinese websites when reporting CSR. This leads to the third research question:
RQ3: What are the differences between how U.S. and Chinese companies display
cultural elements in their websites’ CSR communication?
Methods
Sampling
The companies were selected from the Fortune Global 500 list of companies of
2017. This list was employed for two reasons. First, the Fortune Global 500 list was
considered credible among practitioners and researchers and had been commonly
used in previous research (Kim et al., 2010). Second, the list ranked the world’s largest
companies worldwide by revenue, a list that included both U.S. and Chinese
companies (Fortune, n. d.). The U.S had 132 companies on the 2017 list, and China had
109 companies. The initial screening excluded unusable websites (i.e., websites that
did not work, or websites that did not contain CSR information). This resulted in a
sample of 174 websites for analysis, with 97 (55.7%) U.S. company websites and 77
(44.3%) Chinese company websites. In searching for CSR statements on the websites,
the author looked for tabs including corporate social responsibility, social responsibility,
corporate responsibility, corporate citizenship, and sustainability. In some cases, if
CSR information was not displayed on the company’s homepage, then other content
categories such as “about us” and “company information” were searched for CSR
information. For those companies that provided downloadable CSR or sustainability
reports, the latest reports were downloaded and saved for analysis.
Coding Scheme
The CSR topic coding scheme was developed based on Carroll’s (1999) concept and
use of CSR, as well as the coding schemes used by Tang and Li (2009) and Tang and
Culture and Corporate Social Responsibility 41
Topic Description
Economic
responsibilities
Anti-corruption
behavior A company’s efforts to prevent corruption within the organization.
Anti-competitive
behavior The company’s viewpoint on anti-trust, and monopoly practices.
Economic
performance
Financial reporting and financial statements. This may include statements
of direct economic value generated or revenues.
Indirect economic
impacts
Impacts of infrastructure investment extending beyond the scope of an
organization’s own operations. Example investments can include transport
improvements, utilities, community facilities, health centers, and sports
centers.
Procurement
practices
Describing the means by which a company is supporting local suppliers.
Local sourcing can be an indicator of the company’s efforts to support a
stable local economy, and maintain community relations.
Product quality Any instance where the organization mentions the importance of product
quality and/or the steps that it takes to insure it produces a quality product.
Legal
Responsibilities
Child labor
If a company addresses the issue of child labor and the steps that it is
taking to prevent the hiring of children under a certain age to perform
work that may harm their health, safety, or psychological status.
Law compliance Whether the company follows all laws and regulations within the country
it operates.
Product safety Any instance where the organization mentions the importance of product
safety and/or the steps that it takes to insure it produces a safe products.
Ethical
responsibilities
Business ethics The importance of ethics discussion and how employees are expected to
hold the same ethical standards.
Diversity and equal
opportunity Any mention of how a company promotes diversity and equality.
Employment Any i nformation regarding an organization’s hiring, recruitment, and retention
practices, such as vacation time, paid leaves, benefits and insurance.
Health and safety Information outlining how the company addresses the prevention of harm,
and subsequently how it promotes health and well-being in the workplace.
Human rights Any mention of the importance of human rights, and discussion of how
they support the protection of human rights.
Non-discrimination Any mention of treating individuals fairly and equally. This also includes
steps to eliminate workplace harassment and discrimination.
Training and
education
An organization’s training, education, and advancement programs to its
employees.
Working
conditions
Describe how the company is providing satisfactory working conditions
for its employees.
Table 1. CSR Topics and Explanation
42 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
colleagues (2015), including their four categories of responsibility: economic, legal,
ethical, and philanthropic levels of responsibilities. The items from the Global Reporting
Initiative (GRI) was another resource for CSR topic coding scheme. GRI had been
providing sustainability reporting standards on issues such as economic performance,
environment, and social impact since 1997 (GRI, n. d.). Its international guidelines
were used by a large number of organizations for their sustainability reports, including
many companies in the current analysis.
A total of 25 CSR topics were developed and coded. Economic responsibilities
included the following six CSR topics: anti-competitive behavior, anti-corruption,
economic performance, indirect economic impacts, procurement practices, and product
quality. Legal responsibilities included child labor, law compliance, and product safety.
Ethical responsibilities included business ethics, diversity and equal opportunity,
employment, health and safety, human rights, non-discrimination, training and education,
and working conditions. Philanthropic responsibilities included the following seven
CSR topics: charitable giving, disaster relief, education, environment, health, poverty
reduction, and volunteering. (The CSR topics and explanation are depicted in Table 1.)
If the CSR statement addressed any of the company’s CSR initiatives or responsibilities,
then the CSR topic was coded “present.” The topics were not mutually exclusive, which
means multiple themes could be coded “present” for one statement. For example, if a
company stated that they have donated to support earthquake disaster relief, then their
CSR activities were coded in both the “charitable giving” and “disaster relief” themes.
Topic Description
Philanthropic
responsibilities
Charitable giving Any mention of how the company allocates financial assets to charities
and people in need. Donation.
Disaster relief A company participates in efforts to relieve human suffering after a
disaster.
Education Education initiatives that the company supports in local or foreign
countries.
Environment The importance of environmental sustainability. This may include safe
drinking water, forest conservation, fighting air pollution, etc.
Health A company highlights the value of health and illustrates how it is promoting
health.
Poverty reduction A company explains how it engages in poverty reduction in specific
geographical regions.
Volunteering The company encourages employees to volunteer their time in local
communities.
Culture and Corporate Social Responsibility 43
The culture coding items were based on Hofstede’s (1980) initial concept and the
coding schemes developed by Ki and Shin (2015) as well as the corporate website
analysis of Singh and Matsuo (2004). The current coding scheme extended prior studies’
codebooks by incorporating more cultural values specifically related to CSR
communication. Four cultural dimensions were examined: power distance, collectivism,
uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation. Masculinity cultural dimension was
excluded in the comparison because of the similar ratings of this item between the U.S.
and China. Power distance included the following coding items: government presence,
hierarchy information, vision statement, CEOs and high-level managers, and positioning
as a leader. Collectivism included emotional attachment, harmony, family theme, and
collaboration. Uncertainty avoidance included the following four items: visual explanation,
specific labeling, public feedback, and free downloads. The last cultural dimension
long-term orientation included terms such as future outlook and measure performance
on a long-term basis. If the website statement indicated any of the cultural value items,
then the value was coded “present”. The values were not mutually exclusive. The items
and explanations are depicted in Table 2.
Coding Procedure and Intercoder Reliability
Two coders with mass communication backgrounds were trained and conducted the
coding following the coding scheme. Several training sessions was conducted, during
which each coding item was carefully explained and any ambiguity was clarified.
Then the coders coded 15% of the sample independently to examine the inter-coder
reliability. Overall, inter-coder reliability was above .80 using Scott’s Pi. Then the two
coders split the coding work, with one primary coder (who spoke both English and
Chinese) coding 60% of the websites, and the secondary coder (who spoke English
mainly) completing 40% of the websites. The Chinese companies provided English
langue websites. Therefore, CSR information was accessible for English speaking
coders.
Results
In general, the majority of websites (n = 126, 72.4%) used “corporate social responsibility,”
“social responsibility,” “corporate responsibility,” or “responsibility” for CSR
44 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
information labeling. A small portion of the websites used “sustainability” or
“sustainable development” (n = 23, 13.2%). Another 17 (9.8%) websites used “corporate
citizenship,” and 2 (1.1%) companies used “sustainability and social responsibility” to
label CSR information. The majority of the company websites provided downloadable
reports (n = 124, 71.3%).
Theme Description
Power
distance
CEOs and high-level
managers
The website includes information related to CEO or other executives. For
example, the website may feature a transcript of the CEO’s speech, other
high-level managers, Vice President or Chairman.
Government
presence
The company identifies any over-arching guidelines that are being promoted
at a national or political party level. For example: the 13th Five-Year Plan
for Eco-Environmental Protection.
Hierarchy information The company includes hierarchy information of CSR governance.
Positioning as a leader The company highlights its efforts in becoming a leader in the industry.
Vision statement The website provides a vision statement for CSR.
Collectivism
Collaboration Efforts of the company working with partners to achieve collective results
(not individual efforts). Example keywords: Win-Win Cooperation, partnership
Emotion attachment
with the group
The company employs empathic language to identify with groups. An
example keyword: love.
Family theme The company recognizes the importance of families and describes its
responsibilities to those families.
Harmony Emphasizes the harmonious relationship between the company and its
publics, society, and nature.
Uncertainty
avoidance
Free downloads The website includes downloadable PDF documents with more detailed
information.
Public feedback
Describes any way that the company is providing means for publics to
provide feedback (i.e., contact information, phone numbers, social media
accounts, and e-mail).
Specific labeling The website features clear and specific tabs or links to each topic of corporate
social responsibility.
Visual explanation The inclusion of figures, graphs and infographics to help understand
information.
Long-term
orientation
Future outlook The company provides information regarding future CSR issues and how it
will address these issues in the future. Keywords: our way forward, outlook.
Measure performance
on a long-term basis
Performance is examined on a two-year basis or longer compared to a yearly
or quarterly basis. For example: statements are issued every other year.
Table 2. Cultural Dimensions and Explanation
Culture and Corporate Social Responsibility 45
RQ1: What are the CSR topics communicated on the Fortune Global 500 companies’
websites?
The most commonly addressed CSR topic was environment (n = 145, 83.3%),
followed by charitable giving (n = 102, 58.6%). A half of the 174 websites addressed
health and safety (n = 87, 50.0%). The least common CSR topics were anti-competitive
behavior (n = 6, 3.4%), indirect economic impacts (n = 8, 4.6%), and child labor (n = 9, 5.2%)
(See Table 3).
RQ2: Are there any differences in terms of the presentations of CSR topics between U.S.
and Chinese Fortune Global 500 companies?
A series of Chi-square tests were conducted to determine the differences of CSR
statements on the company’s websites in the two markets. The U.S. company websites
addressed every CSR topic more often than Chinese company websites, with the
exception of “poverty reduction”. For economic responsibility, there were no significant
differences between the U.S. and Chinese website CSR statements. For legal
responsibilities, there were significant differences of product safety, χ2 (1, N = 174) =
11.68, p .001, and child labor, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 4.23, p .05. For ethical responsibilities,
the U.S. and Chinese websites differed regarding the following topics: diversity and
equal opportunity, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 71.10, p .001, business ethics, χ2 (1, N = 174) =
12.19, p .001, non-discrimination, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 41.62, p .001, human rights, χ2
(1, N = 174) = 36.09, p .001, and working condition, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 16.56, p .001.
For philanthropic responsibilities, the U.S. and Chinese websites differed regarding all
the topics: environment, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 6.38, p .05, charitable giving, χ2 (1, N = 174)
= 8.02, p .01, volunteering, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 26.62, p .001, education, χ2 (1, N = 174)
= 5.01, p .05, poverty reduction, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 11.14, p .001, disaster relief, χ2 (1,
N = 174) = 6.19, p .01, and health, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 12.59, p .001 (see Table 3).
RQ3: What are the differences between how U.S. and Chinese companies display cultural
elements in their websites’ CSR communication?
A series of Chi-square tests revealed cultural differences of the CSR communication
in the two countries. Regarding power distance, each item of this category was
statistically different between the U.S. and Chinese websites, with the exception of
“CEO and high-level manager’s statement” and “position as a leader”. Chinese companies
showed more government presence, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 45.88, p .001, hierarchy
46 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
information, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 29.32, p .001, and vision statement, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 21.58,
p < .001, than their U.S. counterparts. In terms of collectivism, Chinese companies
displayed more emotion attachment, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 36.82, p .001, harmony, χ2 (1,
N = 174) = 30.09, p .001, family theme, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 12.45, p .001, and
collaboration, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 11.14, p .001, than the U.S. companies. For uncertainty
CSR topics Total U.S. (%) China (%) Chi-square
Economic
responsibility
Economic performance 62 (35.6) 33 (34.0) 29 (37.7) 0.25
Product quality 42 (24.1) 19 (19.6) 23 (29.9) 2.48
Procurement practices 28 (16.1) 19 (19.6) 9 (11.7) 1.98
Anti-corruption behavior 18 (10.3) 10 (10.3) 8 (10.4) 0
Indirect economic impacts 8 (4.6) 3 (3.1) 5 (6.5) 1.13
Anti-competitive behavior 6 (3.4) 2 (2.1) 4 (5.2) 1.27
Legal
responsibility
Legal compliance 36 (20.7) 19 (19.6) 17 (22.1) 0.16
Product safety 21 (12.1) 19 (19.6) 2 (2.6) 11.68***
Child labor 9 (5.2) 8 (8.2) 1 (1.3) 4.23*
Ethical
responsibility
Health and safety 87 (50.0) 49 (50.5) 38 (49.4) 0.02
Diversity and equal opportunity 85 (48.9) 75 (77.3) 10 (13.0) 71.10***
Business ethics 80 (46.0) 56 (57.7) 24 (31.2) 12.19***
Training and education 77 (44.3) 41 (42.3) 36 (46.8) 0.35
Non-discrimination 53 (30.5) 49 (50.5) 4 (5.2) 41.62***
Human rights 46 (26.4) 43 (44.3) 3 (3.9) 36.09***
Employment 43 (24.7) 21 (21.6) 22 (28.6) 1.11
Working conditions 26 (14.9) 24 (24.7) 2 (2.6) 16.56***
Philanthropic
responsibility
Environment 145 (83.3) 87 (89.7) 58 (75.3) 6.38*
Charitable giving 102 (58.6) 66 (68.0) 36 (46.8) 8.02**
Volunteering 69 (39.7) 55 (56.7) 14 (18.2) 26.62***
Education 61 (35.1) 41 (42.3) 20 (26.0) 5.01*
Poverty reduction 48 (27.6) 16 (16.5) 30 (39.0) 11.14***
Disaster relief 43 (24.7) 31 (32.0) 12 (15.6) 6.19**
Health 43 (24.7) 34 (35.1) 9 (11.7) 12.59***
Note: ***
p
.001. **
p
.01. *
p
.05.
Table 3. Frequencies and Chi-square Values of CSR Topics on the U.S. and Chinese Fortune Global
500 Company Websites
Culture and Corporate Social Responsibility 47
avoidance, the U.S. companies demonstrated more visual explanation, χ2 (1, N = 174)
= 12.28, p .001, and specific labeling, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 9.01, p .01, than Chinese
companies. However, Chinese company websites demonstrated more public feedback,
χ2 (1, N = 174) = 9.87, p .01 than the U.S. counterpart. As far as long-term orientation,
Chinese companies showed more future outlook, χ2 (1, N = 174) = 47.84, p .001 than
the U.S. company websites (See Table 4).
Discussion
CSR Topics and Priorities on the Websites of the U.S. and Chinese Companies
Examining CSR presentation within each of the four categories (economic, legal,
ethical, and philanthropic responsibilities) will help us better understand the differences
Cultural dimensions U.S. (%) China (%) Chi-square
Power
distance
Government presence 1 (1.0) 32 (41.6) 45.88***
Hierarchy information 10 (10.3) 36 (46.8) 29.32***
Vision statement 17 (17.5) 39 (50.6) 21.58***
CEO and high-level managers 72 (74.2) 43 (55.8) 6.47*
Position as a leader 6 (6.2) 11 (14.3) 3.20
Collectivism
Emotion attachment with the group 1 (1.0) 27 (35.1) 36.82***
Harmony 0 (0) 21 (27.3) 30.09***
Family theme 14 (14.4) 29 (37.7) 12.45***
Collaboration 16 (16.5) 30 (39.0) 11.14***
Uncertainty
avoidance
Visual explanation 76 (78.4) 41 (53.2) 12.28***
Specific labeling 82 (84.5) 50 (64.9) 9.01**
Public feedback 30 (30.9) 42 (54.5) 9.87**
Free downloads 64 (66.0) 43 (55.8) 1.86
Long-term
orientation
Future outlook 3 (3.1) 36 (47.4) 47.84***
Measure performance on a long-term basis 9 (12.9) 12 (22.2) 1.90
Note: ***
p
.001. **
p
.01. *
p
.05.
Table 4. Frequencies and Chi-square Values of Cultural Dimensions on the U.S. and Chinese Fortune
Global 500 Company Websites
48 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
of CSR communication between the U.S. and China. For economic responsibilities,
both U.S. and Chinese Fortune Global 500 companies place limited emphasis on all
topics as there was no significant differences. For legal responsibilities, U.S. company
websites place more emphasis on the safety of products or services (19.6% vs. 2.6%)
and child labor issues (8.2% vs. 1.3%) than Chinese company websites. For ethical
issues, companies in the U.S. paid more attention to working condition (24.7% vs.
2.6%), diversity and equal opportunity (77.3% vs. 13.0%), non-discrimination (77.3%
vs. 13.0%), business ethics (57.7% vs. 31.2%), and human rights (44.3% vs. 3.9%) than
their Chinese counterparts. For philanthropic responsibilities, the U.S. corporate
websites place more emphasis on the majority of the CSR topics than their Chinese
counterparts, with the exception of poverty reduction.
In terms of the four categories of CSR, ethical and philanthropic responsibilities are
well presented on both U.S. and Chinese corporate websites, whereas economic and
legal responsibilities are underrepresented. Interestingly, companies in both markets
tend to focus on higher level of responsibilities but ignore basic level of responsibilities.
An imbalanced view on certain categories and topics may cause practical ramifications
because common publics may perceive economic and legal responsibilities as not
important to a company’s ethical conduct. Additionally, it may influence public opinion
about what constitutes CSR by misleading publics to believe corporate responsibilities
are just about ethics and philanthropy. Cho and Hong (2009) noted that “the public
accepts a company as a good citizen when it employs all four dimensions of CSR rather
than just making sporadic philanthropic donations” (p. 148). This especially holds true
for initiatives developed in response to crises. In fact, publics are more cynical toward
the philanthropic efforts after a crisis (Cho & Hong, 2009). Therefore, practitioners
should update their understanding of what comprehensive corporate responsibility is
and broaden the scope of CSR focus accordingly.
Comparing American and Chinese companies’ CSR topics reveals several noticeable
gaps. Chinese companies largely ignore issues such as product safety, diversity,
non-discrimination, and human rights. The limited inclusion of such CSR topics in
Chinese companies can possibility be attributed to nation-specific factors such as
economics, political climate, and the weaker worker legal protections. Some developing
countries have lower environmental, employee-welfare, or product safety standards
and less restrictive legislation (Schwartz & Carroll, 2003). For instance, China is much
more flexible in the execution of labor and other human rights law enforcement,
whereas U.S. has stricter laws and regulations. Regarding human rights in China, the
Labor Contract Law, which protects the rights of workers, was developed and signed
into law in 2008, less than a decade ago (Kahn & Barboza, 2007). The law or the
Culture and Corporate Social Responsibility 49
marketplace might be driving Chinese businesses to change behavior, but the
relationship between the rights of workers and CSR has yet to be established in China.
CSR administrators and managers in Chinese companies should work on all
underemphasized topics to improve their CSR communication. For instance, Chinese
publics have an increasing need for safe products. Due to the increasing number of
scandals of product safety (Tang, 2012), more Chinese citizens are purchasing directly
from foreign merchants to avoid fake and unsafe products (Dong, 2014). Leading
companies should stress their responsibility to produce safe products on their websites,
and incorporate this element into the company’s overall public relations strategies to
gain trust from the Chinese public.
Poverty reduction is the only topic that suffered lower representation on the U.S.
company websites than their Chinese counterparts. Nearly half of Chinese companies
address poverty reduction on their CSR website communication, whereas only 16.5% of
the U.S. companies place emphasis on this issue. This gap is not surprising. According
to the Central Intelligence Agency, American’s GDP per capita is almost four times as
much as China’s ($57,400 vs. $15,400). It seems as though it is urgent for Chinese
companies to care about the need for reducing poverty rate. However, the U.S.
companies may misunderstand the influence of poverty reduction initiatives. In fact,
more than 10% of the U.S. population lived in poverty in 2015, and one in ten people in
the world live in poverty in 2013 (The World Bank, n. d.). As such, upper-level
administrators in the U.S. companies should extend their traditional approaches to such
underemphasized but important CSR topics to both domestic and global areas. Effective
CSR practices can help raise awareness of poverty issues worldwide, as well as deepen
companies’ commitment to helping solve poverty issues.
Cultural Differences and CSR Communication
The findings clearly show that CSR content on corporate websites in the two markets
are culturally specific. Regarding power distance, the current study produces similar
results of previous research examining sustainability communication in the U.S. and
South Korea (i.e., Ki & Shin, 2015). Companies’ websites in a high-power distance
country like China displayed more vision statement, hierarchy information and
government presence than their U.S. counterparts. The finding demonstrates that
Chinese companies are more likely to accept that power is not distributed equally,
whereas the U.S. place much emphasis on equal rights in society and government.
This result could be attributed to the Chinese belief in a hierarchical society operating
50 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
based on ranks, status, and orders.
The current analysis further extended the coding schemes of prior research
regarding power distance (i.e., Ki & Shin, 2015; Singh & Matsuo, 2004), and examined
the presentation of Chinese government and the CPC in the CSR communication.
Almost half of Chinese company websites displayed the government and the CPC
leadership while very few U.S. companies addressed the government’s presence. For
instance, in its CEO’s message about CSR, Everbright International, a Chinese company,
explicitly states that the company’s development aligns with “the country’s latest policy
direction, cooperating [with] the promulgated national regulations on environmental
protection such as the 13th Five-Year Plan for Eco-Environmental Protection”(Ever
bright International, 2016, p.5). Beingtheabsoluteauthority, Chinesegovernments
“havethepowertoapproveorrejectorganizationalrequests”(Taylor & Kent, 1999, p. 140).
As articulated by Hofstede (2001), in a high-power distance culture, businesses are more
likely to attach importance to a certain public’s power, resources, and status in a
hierarchical fashion. As the state has considerable impact on business practices in China,
most firms’ CSR practice is government-oriented (Gao, 2009). The respect of
government power has also shown in previous studies. For example, Tang (2012)
reports one in five of the news articles about CSR quote the Chinese government as a
direct source. Taylor and Kent (1999) find that government became one of the most
important publics in Malaysia, a high-power distance country. They further note that for
newly industrializing countries, “public relations may be best understood as
government relations” (Taylor & Kent, 1999, p. 140). Sriramesh and Enxi (2004) also note
that government is the only public for most public relations initiatives in Shanghai,
China. Altogether, the findings show that in a high power distance country,
organizations tend to respect and maintain hierarchy and authority.
Maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with key stakeholders important to
an organization is crucial for the survival and success of companies operating in a
competitive market like China. To this end, CSR plays an important role in enhancing
such relationships with the government, Practitioners should recognize this important
cultural and political background. Chinese companies are influenced by formal
authority and people respect leadership and power of the government. Companies,
especially state-owned companies, rely heavily on authorities for support. Thus, CSR
initiatives that coincide with government policy and follow the CPC’s guidelines may
be more likely to be successful and receive more resources and support in China. The
U.S. and China do not differ in terms of the item “positioning as a leader”. One possible
explanation is that both countries’ CSR practices can be success driven. Hofstede (2001)
ranks both U.S. and China as masculine, which means both cultures tend to peruse
Culture and Corporate Social Responsibility 51
success and competitiveness.
In terms of collectivism and individualism, the CSR communication of the Chinese
company websites demonstrated more harmony, collaboration, family theme, and
emotional attachment than the U.S. counterparts. This finding is consistent with
previous similar content analysis (i.e., Ki & Shin, 2015), which demonstrates an
important role of collectivist culture in corporate responsibility communication in
Asian countries. For example, in the long history of Chinese cultural development,
harmony has been a highly valued virtue, and still remains a central concept in Chinese
culture. This value has been clearly applied in corporate responsibility practice in China.
Former Chinese president Hu Jintao had consistently promoted the idea of building a
harmonious society, which has profoundly influenced Chinese companies’ CSR
practices (Vermander, 2014). For example, to describe its CSR model and CSR practice
mechanism, China Shenhua, a Chinese company, has set “mutual benefits and
harmony” as the ultimate goal of CSR. In its Sustainability Statement, Country Garden
states that the company is a harmonious family. These messages emphasize the
harmony value of Chinese culture.
Understanding the differences of CSR communication regarding collectivism and
individualism cultural dimension enables practitioners to effectively develop and
communicate CSR strategies and initiatives. Given the collectivist cultural character of
Chinese stakeholders, CSR strategies in China should put interdependence into
consideration, conveying companies’ willingness to focus more on harmony, partnership,
loyalty, care and love to common people, as well as referring to “we” as a group. In
contrast, CSR initiatives that focus on individualist values, such as stressing individual
employee ability and achievement, personal freedom, rights as an individual, as well as
“I” as an independent entity, may be more effective in an individualist country like the
U.S.
Regarding uncertainty avoidance, the CSR reporting on their websites suggests
that Chinese companies tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity. Leading Chinese companies
provided less specific labeling and less visual explanation than their U.S. counterparts.
The inclusion of figures, graphs and infographics can help publics’ understand of a
company’s complex CSR information and increase persuasiveness. In addition, the
website’s featuring clear and specific tabs or links to each topic of CSR can help with easy
navigation.
In terms of long-term and short-term orientation, the findings demonstrate that
companies in the two countries prioritize the goals differently. Companies in China
place more emphasis on the future than the U.S. companies, mostly through the specific
section typically called “outlook” or “future plans.” As noted by Hofstede (2001), the
52 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
U.S. companies measure their performance on a short-term basis and expect immediate
results. Practitioners in China should devote some of their attention to future plans to
meet the needs of local publics, whereas U.S. companies should show more short-term
results and effectiveness of their CSR programs given the short-term orientation of the
U.S. stakeholders.
In conclusion, through a content analysis of the presentation of CSR on corporate
websites of Fortune Global 500 companies in the U.S. and China, this study offers
insights into the similarities as well as differences of CSR communication in the world’s
largest two markets. Cultural differences are one of the primary factors contributing to
the dissimilarities in CSR presentation in the two countries. The current analysis
broadens the scope of CSR research from a cross-cultural perspective by analyzing
more culture variables in the display of CSR content. Cultural sensitivities can be
incorporated into the development of CSR strategies. In communicating CSR with their
unique publics, American companies should emphasize low-power distance,
individualism, specific information, and immediate results. Chinese companies, on the
other hand, should emphasize, high-power distance, collectivism, and long-term plans.
Limitations and Future Research
This study has several limitations. First, although content analysis is appropriate to
answer the current research questions, it would be useful for future studies to employ
interviews and surveys with practitioners to investigate the reasons behind the differences
between the CSR website content in the two markets. Data from such alternative
methods would help provide with deeper insights to CSR practice in a cross-cultural
context. Second, this study did not examine how companies in different industries
differed in their CSR communication. It is possible that the focus of CSR will vary in
different industries. For example, companies in the auto industry may place stronger
emphasis on product safety than companies in the telecommunications industry.
Companies that sell products to consumers may focus more on philanthropy, whereas
companies in the business-to-business industry may focus on the ethics responsibility
(Tang & Li, 2009). Future research should consider different industries as a factor
while examining CSR practice and communication across cultures.
Culture and Corporate Social Responsibility 53
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Review: September 15, 2017
Modify: October 22, 2017
Decision of publication: October 23, 2017
Examining the Role of Culture in
Shaping Public Expectations of CSR
Communication in the United States and
China
1)
Holly K. Ott*
Anli Xiao**
Abstract
his study examines the role of culture in shaping publics’ expectations for corporate
social responsibility (CSR) communication through survey research in the United States
(
N
= 316) and China (
N
= 315). Based on Kim and Ferguson’s (2014) investigation of what and
how to communicate CSR among U.S. publics, this study aims to further contribute to CSR
communication literature by examining public expectations of corporations’ CSR activities in
a global context. Furthermore, this study applies Hofstede’s cultural dimensions as adapted
by Vitell et al. (2003) to determine how various cultural elements may serve as predictors for
why and how publics in both the U.S. and China develop expectations and perceptions of
companies’ CSR efforts. Two online surveys were administered through a Qualtrics panel to
include a representative sample of general U.S. consumers and general Chinese consumers.
The English survey was administered to the U.S. sample, while the Chinese survey (translated
and examined by two bilingual researchers) was administered to the sample in China.
Questionnaire items measured participants’ expectations of companies’ CSR communication
and several cultural dimensions that could potentially impact participants’ expectations of
effective CSR communication. Results highlight differences in each public’s expectations of
what and how companies should communicate CSR. Specifically, this study found that
Chinese consumers seem to place higher importance on CSR communication content (e.g.,
* Holly K. Ott (Ph.D.) is an Assistant Professor in University of South Carolina.
University of South Carolina, 800 Sumter St. Columbia, SC 29208, USA. 803-777-5238. ott@sc.edu
** Anli Xiao is Ph.D. candidate in The Pennsylvania State University. The Pennsylvania State University, 15
Carnegie Building, University Park, PA 16802. 573-864-6546. axx102@psu.edu
T
Asian Journal of Public Relations
Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
pp5783
www.kaspr.net
58 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
what to communicate) than U.S. consumers. Also, U.S. consumers prioritized communicating
about who is benefitting from a company’s CSR activities while Chinese consumers felt that
it was most important to communicate the consistency of the company’s commitment to its
CSR initiatives. Both samples felt that message tone was the most important factor when
considering how companies should communicate CSR information. Among Hofstede’s
cultural dimensions, uncertainty avoidance and masculinity are identified as the strongest
predictors for CSR variables, but results regarding what and how publics expect from
companies’ CSR communication efforts highlight different items that participants in each
country rate as the most important factors to them. Overall, results suggest that the role of
culture might be slightly stronger in shaping CSR expectations in China than in the U.S. since
there were more predictor variables and stronger coefficients in the Chinese sample than in
the U.S. The study broadens theoretical developments in CSR and public relations research and
provides insight for public relations practitioners and companies who continue to search for
best practices to effectively communicate about social responsibility with key publics on a
global level.
KEYW ORDS CSR communication, culture, Hofstede’s cultural measurements,
relationship management, public relations
Examining the Role of Culture in Shaping Public Expectations of CSR Communication in the United States and China 59
As a key ingredient in business strategy and execution, corporate social responsibility
(CSR) has become more than a societal expectation of a company “doing good”it has
become a representation of a company’s corporate culture. Developing an effective
CSR communication strategy is critical for a company’s CSR effort. CSR, broadly
defined as the voluntary actions a company implements to pursue goals (Chandler &
Werther, 2014; Coombs & Holladay, 2012), has become a vital part of a business
strategy for companies across the globe. A growing number of scholarly investigations
have examined company motives for and outcomes of CSR communication, revealing
several potential benefits impacting the financial performance of an organization
(Joyner & Payne, 2002; Page & Fearn, 2005) and favorable perceptions and behavioral
intentions among publics (David, Kline, and Dai, 2009; Hong & Rim, 2010; Lee & Shin,
2010; Kim, 2011). Therefore, CSR has become a key practice for developing positive
relationships with stakeholder groups and consumer-publics (Chu & Lin, 2013).
However, scholars argue that actually knowing what and how to communicate to
meet publics’ CSR expectations is a challenge that companies continue to face as they
develop their CSR communication strategy (Kim & Ferguson, 2014). Furthermore,
there has been little framework development for understanding what publics’
expectations are with regard to companies’ CSR communication efforts and what
factor(s) contribute to perceptions and expectations that are developed.
As Bortree (2014) noted, both scholars and practitioners are still seeking strategies
to determine what information publics want to know about CSR initiatives, what their
expectations are about company performance in this realm, and how to effectively reach
audiences with CSR information. As CSR activities have become a higher priority
among global companies (Tang & Li, 2009), there is an increasing need for scholarship
that examines various aspects of CSR in a global context. However, most CSR
communication research has focused on practices and outcomes in Western contexts
(Chu & Lin, 2013), leaving several unanswered questions for multinational companies
seeking to improve global CSR strategies. For example, scholars have found that
cultural differences can play a role in public expectations of companies’ CSR
communication (Maignan & Ralston, 2002), specifically between European and U.S.
publics (Matten & Moon, 2004), but this area remains largely unexplored, especially in
eastern cultures. Therefore, there is a need for research that further examines CSR
expectations and the factors that shape them.
The current study aims to fill a gap in CSR communication literature by examining
publics’ expectations for CSR communication through survey research in two different
countries: the United States (U.S.) and China. Given that several of Fortune’s Global 500
companies have shared consumptions for multinational brands, a goal of the study is to
60 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
enhance theoretical and practical knowledge about CSR communication efforts across
the globe. This study also examines the role of culture and how various cultural
elements may serve as predictors for why and how publics develop expectations and
perceptions of companies’ CSR efforts. Ultimately, the purpose of this study is to
broaden theoretical developments in CSR and strategic communication research and to
provide insight for public relations practitioners and companies who continue to search
for best practices to effectively communicate about social responsibility with key
publics on a global level.
Literature Review
Public Perceptions and Expectations of CSR Communication
According to relationship management theory, relationships should be at the center of
public relations research (Ferguson, 1984). Dozier, Grunig, and Grunig (1995) emphasized
how relationships with stakeholders influence an organization’s mission, goals, and
objectives, while Ledingham and Bruning (1998) argued that strategic goals are
developed around relationships with publics. Therefore, companies have embraced
the importance of developing CSR strategies that help facilitate relationships with key
publics. Scholars have examined several aspects of CSR communication, including
what and how to communicate (Kim & Ferguson, 2014; Morsing & Schultz, 2006),
message strategies (Morsing & Schultz, 2006; Morsing, Schultz, & Nielsen, 2008;
Waters & Ott, 2014) and message channels (Kim & Ferguson, 2014; Pomering & Dolnicar,
2009; Schlegelmilch & Pollach, 2005), the role of internal and external stakeholders in
the communication process (Chong, 2009; Korschun, Bhattacharya & Sen, 2009; You,
Huang, Wang, Liu, Lin, & Tseng, 2013), the role of third-party endorsers (Morsing &
Schultz, 2006; Morsing et al., 2008; Pomering & Dolnicar, 2009), and CSR promotion
cost (Schlegelmilch & Pollach, 2005).
While some research investigations have examined CSR communication from the
publics’ standpoint (Kim & Ferguson, 2014), more research is necessary to more fully
understand public expectations of CSR communication. Kim and Ferguson’s (2014)
investigation provided implications for how corporations should communicate about
their CSR activities with consideration to arguments scholars have made about factors
that can impact effective communication such as communication sources (Pomering &
Dolcinar, 2009) and the message channels that are used to share information with the
Examining the Role of Culture in Shaping Public Expectations of CSR Communication in the United States and China 61
public (Tonello, 2011; Waters & Ott, 2014). While previous research has offered strategies
and communication best practices, companies must continue to refine strategies and to
overcome challenges with CSR messaging especially in a global context.
Examining the Role of Culture in Strategic Communication Research
Strategic communication scholars have been arguing and that our understanding of
public relations and strategic communication practices would be much more advanced
if we investigated the impact of culture (Sriramesh, 1996; Sriramesh, Kim & Takasaki,
1999; Williams & Zinkin, 2008), and some scholars have explored how culture shapes
communication practices. For example, Sriramesh (1992) found that culture “defines”
public relations practices in India. Grunig et al. (1995) conducted a meta-analysis on
public relations models in India, Greece, and Taiwan and identified that aside from
the widely known four models of public relations, two additional models, personal
influence and cultural translation models, exist, and suggest that the cultural translation
model “may be unique to an organization that conducts business in another country”
(p.183) and that it may also be found in organizations with diverse groups of people.
Sriramesh, Kim & Takasaki (1999) further examined the cultural translation model
in India, Japan, and Korea, and found that culture impacted public relations practices
in three countries. Rhee (2002) examined the excellence theory and Hofstede’s cultural
values in South Korea and found that Confucianism and collectivism culture enhanced
the excellent public relations practices in South Korea. Wu et al. (2001) also examined
Hofstede’s cultural dimensions in Taiwan and found that collectivism and the two-way
symmetrical model were strongly correlated. Haruta and Hallahan (2003) discovered
that in crisis situations, people preferred public apology in Japan whereas people in the
U.S. did not. The authors attributed the difference to the larger power distance, high
uncertainty avoidance, and the masculinity culture in Japan (Haruta & Hallahan, 2003).
More recently, scholars have examined cultural differences among U.S. and Chinese
consumers (Ramasamy & Yeung, 2009) and how they evaluate companies’ strategic
communication practices (Chu & Lin, 2013) to provide insight into the role of culture in
this body of research.
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
Spillman (2016) defined culture as “the processes and products of meaning-making”
(p. 427). This definition implies that different attitudinal and behavioral outcomes are
62 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
not the sole expressions of culture; rather, that culture might be implicitly reflected in
people’s motivations and thought process without tangible, attitudinal or behavioral
outcomes. That is, people in different cultural environments could hold similar attitudes
or express similar behaviors, and people in the same culture may also very likely
express different attitudes and behaviors, but the reasons and motivations as to why
people think or behave in certain ways might be different.
According to Hofstede (1984), culture “distinguishes the members of one human
group from another” (p. 25). His framework categorized culture into five dimensions:
power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/
femininity, and Confucian dynamism. Power distance refers to “the extent to which the
less powerful members of institutions and organization accept that power is distributed
unequally” (Hofstede, 2001, p. 98). Countries of high power distance experience
vertically distributed levels of power status (Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005). Uncertainty
avoidance explains how much people are threatened by ambiguity and how much
people try to avoid ambiguities (Hofstede, 1984). High endurance of uncertainty usually
results in more rules and regulations being imposed on individuals (Hofstede and
Hofstede, 2005). Individualism/collectivism explains how much an individual is
connected to the group. In individualistic cultures people tend to value individuals over
the collective groups (Kim & Kim, 2010), while in collectivistic cultures people tend to
form more cohesive groups, and group values and obligations usually triumph personal
values and interests. Most Western countries such as the U.S. and the United Kingdom
are examples of individualistic cultures, while many Eastern countries such as China,
Japan, and South Korea are representatives of collectivistic cultures. Masculinity/femininity
describes the gender characteristics of the society. In masculine cultures, people are
more “assertive, tough, and focused on the material success,” while in feminine cultures
people are “more modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life” (Hofstede,
2001, p. 297). Confucian dynamism is also called long-term and short-term orientations.
This dimension was found in the China Value Survey, and it is independent from the
previous four dimensions that were identified in Western culture. Cultures rated high
in Confucian dynamism value long-term benefits and emphasize perseverance and
thrift (Kim & Kim, 2010; Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005).
According to Hofstede’s (Hofstede, Hofstede & Minkov, 2010; Hofstede, 2001)
cultural dimension scores, the U.S. experiences fairly low power distance and it is one
of the most individualistic cultures in the world. The U.S. society is also fairly masculine,
and people in the U.S. are of below average tolerance to uncertainty, meaning people are
more receptive to risks and new ideas. They are also more likely to value short-term
success, profits, and performance. China, however, is different in many aspects in that
Examining the Role of Culture in Shaping Public Expectations of CSR Communication in the United States and China 63
Chinese culture experiences much higher unequal distribution of power and that China
is a typical collectivistic country. Similar to the United States, China is also a fairly
masculine country and people in China have lower tolerance to uncertainty and ambiguity
compared to people in the United States. People in China also value long-term gain and
benefits rather than short-term success, as the country has a very high score in Confucian
dynamism.
Examining the Role of Culture in CSR Research
Few studies have studied how culture affects CSR in a global context. Kim and Kim
(2010) applied Hofstede’s cultural dimensions to public relations practitioners in
South Korea and found that culture significantly affects practitioners’ perceptions of
CSR, although their perceptions might be more strongly affected by their understanding
of the roles of corporations in a society. Peng, Dashdeleg, and Chih (2012) explored the
relationship between national culture and CSR by using Hofstede’s culture dimensions
and corporations’ data from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and Compustat Global
Vantage database. The researchers found that companies’ commitment could be
positively predicted by individualism and uncertainty avoidance and negatively
predicted by power distance and masculinity. Williams and Zinkin (2008) applied
Hofstede’s cultural dimensions to the publics’ attitudes toward CSR and found that
the publics’ tendency to punish companies with irresponsible behaviors were associated
with culture variables. They suggested that cultural values among stakeholders may
exert great influence on how people see and think about CSR.
While a small number of studies have examined the role of culture in CSR
communication research, very few have examined the role of culture in more than one
country. Kim and Choi (2013) examined young publics’ perceptions of CSR practices in
the U.S. and South Korea, highlighting differences in how publics in each country
evaluated practices. While the study provided interesting insights about effective CSR
practices of multinational corporations through measuring organization-publics
dimensions, the researchers note that more detailed measurements are necessary. Chu
and Lin (2013) conducted survey research in the U.S. and China to measure cosmetic
consumers’ CSR perceptions from a cultural perspective. However, cultural dimensions
were not actually measured in the study. The researchers call for more research to
examine the role of culture in shaping perceptions (e.g., attitudes and behaviors) of
companies’ CSR efforts globally. To address the gap in literature, this study aims to
further examine the role of culture in CSR communication expectations among publics
64 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
in different countries by asking the following research questions:
RQ1: What do publics in the U.S. and China expect from companies doing CSR
activities in terms of what they communicate about their CSR efforts?
RQ2: What do publics in the U.S. and China expect from companies doing CSR
activities in terms of how they communicate their CSR efforts?
RQ3: What role does culture play in shaping publics’ expectations of effective
communication in the U.S. and China?
Method
Study Design and Participants
This study employed an online survey methodology to examine public expectations
for organizations’ CSR communication in the U.S. and China and the potential impact
of cultural dimensions on shaping public perception. Two online surveys were
administered through a Qualtrics panel to include a representative sample of general
U.S. consumers and general Chinese consumers. The English survey was administered
to the U.S. sample, while the Chinese survey (translated and examined by two bilingual
researchers) was administered to the sample in China. Each participant was given a
consent form, which had been approved by the university’s institutional review
board. Data collection was completed in one week.
A pretest was conducted for each survey using a convenience sample in each
respective country (N = 60 for the U.S. survey; N = 59 for the survey in China) to test
measurement wording and overall survey flow. Three attention check items were
added to the questionnaire as a quality check measure. Participants who failed any
attention check items were automatically directed to a disqualification page and
responses were not recorded. Also, based on average response completion time and
pretest completion time results, Qualtrics implemented a quality check measure where
participants who completed the survey in under 13 minutes were removed from the
final sample. Participants from the pretest sample were not included in the final sample.
The final sample consisted of 316 U.S. participants and 315 Chinese participants
who successfully completed the surveys. The U.S. sample included 158 females (50%)
Examining the Role of Culture in Shaping Public Expectations of CSR Communication in the United States and China 65
and 158 males (50%) with the average age of 45.29 (SD = 19.71, N = 316). The majority
(81.3%) of participants reported being Caucasian/White (N = 257), followed by 7.9%
Black/African Americans (N = 25), 4.7% Asian/Pacific Islanders (N = 15), and 3.8%
Hispanic/Latinos (N = 12). An additional 2.2% of the sample identified as “Other” (N =
7). The sample in China included 159 females (50.5%) and 156 males (49.5%) with the
average age of 36.21 (SD = 13.23, N = 315). The majority (97.1%) of participants reported
being Han (N = 36). However, the sample also included 1% Man people (N = 3), 0.3%
Mongolian (N = 1), 0.3% Hui people (N = 1), and 0.3% Zhuang people (N = 1). One percent
identified as “Other” (N = 3).
Procedures
Respondents in each sample were directed to the appropriate questionnaire on
Qualtrics. Upon agreeing to participate, the respondents were first directed to read a
short definition of CSR and a description of common CSR activities. After reading the
information, respondents were asked to complete a questionnaire to measure their
expectations of companies’ CSR communication and several cultural dimensions that
could potentially impact participants’ expectations of effective CSR communication.
At the end of the survey, participants answered a few demographic questions.
Survey Instrument
Survey instrument items related to CSR were adapted from Kim and Ferguson’s
(2014) study. A total of 43 items were included to measure participants’ general
expectations of CSR communication (what and how to communicate about CSR). All
items were measured using Likert scales where participants were asked to rate their
responses on a scale of 1 = “strongly disagree” and 7 = “strongly agree.” Based on Kim
and Ferguson’s (2014) study, four measures were included to answer “what to
communicate” about CSR: CSR information-sharing (basic CSR information), third-party
endorsement presence, personal relevance, and cost-related information sharing
(disclosure of CSR communication cost). In addition, four measures were included to
answer “how to communicate” about CSR: transparency, message tone, consistency
and frequency, and approval of increasing CSR promotion cost. Because each of the
items was reliable for each measure, the respective items measuring each dimension
were averaged and combined to form a single index for each measure (see Table 1 for
a list of combined scale measures and values for each survey). Example items for each
66 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
measure are provided below (see Table 3 for a list of all items for each measure).
CSR information-sharing (Info). Thirteen items were used to measure CSR
information-sharing. Items like “I want to know what a company is doing for
communities such as how much they donate” and “I want to know why a company is
doing good for society” were included.
Third-party endorsement presence (TPE). Nine items were used to measure third-
party endorsement presence. Items like “I want to know if any other organizations or
public figures endorse the company’s CSR initiatives” were included.
Personal relevance (Rel). Three items were used to measure personal relevance. Items
like “I want to know how a company’s CSR initiatives are personally relevant to me”
were included.
Cost-related information sharing (Cost). Three items were used to measure cost-
related information sharing. Items like “How much money a company spends on CSR
communication is important to me” were included.
Transparency (Trans). A total of four items were used to measure transparency.
Items like “I want to know both good and bad information about the company’s CSR
Variables U.S.
M
(
SD
)
U.S. Sample a
(
N
= 316)
China
M
(
SD
)
China Sample a
(
N
= 315)
Info 5.14 (1.18) .96 5.80 (.73) .92
TPE 4.94 (1.33) .95 5.71 (.75) .91
Rel 5.38 (1.22) .92 5.68 (.98) .87
Cost 4.80 (1.27) .94 5.33 (1.09) .89
Trans 5.44 (1.16) .92 5.83 (.78) .81
Tone 5.78 (.93) .71 5.94 (.75) .66
C&F 5.02 (1.07) .85 5.71 (.68) .83
Prom 4.26 (1.27) .81 5.33 (.99) .64
UA 2.47 (1.01) .83 5.77 (.76) .80
IND 3.42 (1.13) .79 5.48 (1.02) .84
MAS 2.78 (1.18) .80 5.75 (.81) .80
PD 3.71 (1.00) .65 4.21 (1.06) .78
CD 4.67 (1.39) .77 5.57 (1.22) .71
Table 1. Descriptive statistics (mean, SD) and internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha) for effective
CSR communication measures (scales)
Examining the Role of Culture in Shaping Public Expectations of CSR Communication in the United States and China 67
activities” were included.
Message tone (Tone). A total of three items were used to measure message tone. Items
like “I like a company’s CSR messages to focus on facts” were included.
Consistency and frequency (C&F). Six items were used to measure consistency and
frequency. Items like “Consistency in CSR communication of the company is important
to me” were included.
Increasing promotion cost (Prom). Two items were used to measure increasing
promotion cost. Items like “I think companies should spend more money on CSR
communication” were included.
Participants’ preferences for CSR communication media channels and sources
were also measured. All items were measured using Likert scales where participants
were asked to rate their responses on a scale of 1 = “strongly disagree” and 7 = “strongly
agree” (see Table 4 for a list of measured items and values for each survey).
Hofstede’s culture dimensions. Culture difference was measured by using Hofstede’s
culture dimensions. The instruments were adapted from Vitell et al. (2003), in which the
authors adapted Hofstede’s measurements to examine professionals’ perceptions of
social responsibility. All questions were asked using 7-point Likert scales, with 1
representing “strongly disagree” and 7 representing “strongly agree. Because each of
the items was reliable for each measure, the respective items measuring each dimension
were averaged and combined to form a single index for each measure (see Table 1 for
a list of combined scale measures and values for each survey). Example items for each
measure are provided below.
Uncertainty avoidance (UA). Uncertainty avoidance was measured by using five
items adapted from Hofstede (1984), Norton (1975), Voich (1995) and Budner (1962).
Respondents were asked to rate their agreement on statements such as “I like to work
in a well-defined job where the requirements are clear,” where a high score in uncertainty
avoidance means high tendency to avert risks and to desire stability and certainty.
Individualism (IND). Individualism was measured using three items adapted from
Hofstede (1984), Triandis et al. (1988), Voich (1995) and Yamaguchi (1994). A sample
statement reads “it is better to work in a group than alone.” This scale was later reverse
coded so that respondents rated high in this dimension are more individualistic, while
those who rated low in this dimension are more collectivistic.
Masculinity (MAS). Four masculinity items were adapted from Hofstede (1984) and
Voich (1995). An example question asks respondents to rate their agreement on the
statement “It is important for me to have a job that provides an opportunity for
advancement.” A higher score on this dimension indicates higher desire for assertiveness,
competitiveness, and achievement.
68 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
Power distance (PD). Five items were used to measure power distance; they were
adapted from Hofstede’s (1984) power distance scales and Gordon’s (1976) greater
conformity scale. A sample question included asking the level of agreement on the
statement “my supervisor should make most decisions without consulting me.” Higher
scores in power distance scales denote higher acceptability of unequally distributed
power in the society.
Confucian dynamism (CD). Confucian dynamism was measured using four items
adapted from the Chinese Culture Connection (1987) study and Schwartz (1992). An
example statement includes “I am always careful to avoid doing what is improper.”
Respondents with higher scores have strong tendency to follow Confucian principles.
Demographic questions included age, gender, education, political affiliation, race,
employment, household income, and marital status.
Results
To answer the first research question, independent t-tests were employed. As Table 2
shows, significant differences were detected between respondents from the two
countries. Chinese respondents, on average, rated significantly higher in all four “what
to communicate” factors than U.S. respondents, meaning Chinese consumers might
place higher importance on the content of CSR communication than U.S. consumers.
CSR variables
tdf
(
SD
) China
Mean
(
SD
) U.S.
Mean
Info .20** .02 .39** .12** .15*
TPE .31** .05 .24** .07 .15*
Rel .15*.02 .32** .07 .04
Cost .03 .01 .32** .15** .09
Trans .25** .03 .23** .06 .24**
Tone .26** .04 .13*.12*.28**
C&F .07 .00 .29** .17** .10
Prom .03 .02 .24** .17** .11
Note.
**
p
.01. *
p
.05. U.S.
N
= 316. China
N
= 315.
Equal variances not assumed for all the t-tests in the table. Approximated t-ratios were reported.
Table 2. Independent sample t-test results of U.S.
China comparison on CSR variables
Examining the Role of Culture in Shaping Public Expectations of CSR Communication in the United States and China 69
In the U.S., the most important “what to communicate” factor was personal relevance
(M = 5.38, SD = 1.22) and the least important was cost-related information (M = 4.80,
SD = 1.27) while for Chinese respondents, basic CSR information sharing was the most
important (M = 5.80, SD = .73) and cost-related information was also the least
important (M = 5.33, SD = 1.09).
To delve deeper, as Table 3 shows, for U.S. respondents, the most important items
for “what to communicate” were “who is benefitting from a company’s CSR activities”
(basic CSR information; M = 5.59, SD = 1.40), whether “non-profit organizations are
partners of the company’s CSR activities” (TPE; M = 5.18, SD = 1.47), “how a company’s
CSR initiatives are personally relevant to me” (rel; M = 5.39, SD = 1.32), and “how much
money a company spends to promote its CSR activities” (cost; M = 4.84, SD = 1.48). For
Chinese consumers, the highest rated items for each measurement were “the consistency
of the company’s commitment to its CSR initiatives” (basic CSR information; M = 6.08,
SD = .94), “if I can be confident in supporting the company’s CSR” (TPE; M =5.82, SD =
.96), “how a company’s CSR initiatives are personally relevant to me” (rel; M =5.89, SD
= 1.01), and “how much money a company spends on communicating about its CSR”
(cost; M = 5.47, SD = 1.17).
To answer the second research question, t-tests were employed to compare the
differences between the four “how to communicate” variablestransparency, message
tone, consistency and frequency and approval of increasing promotion cost. As Table 2
shows, Chinese respondents rated all four variables significantly higher than the U.S.
respondents, while they both agreed that message tone was the most important factor
(U.S. M = 5.78, SD = .93; China M = 5.94, SD = .75). For both U.S. and Chinese consumers,
the least important factor was approval of increasing promotion cost (U.S. M = 4.26, SD
= 1.27; China M = 5.33, SD = .99). Specifically, as Table 3 shows, for U.S. respondents, the
most important items include “know both good and bad information about the
company’s CSR activities” (trans; M = 5.61, SD = 1.21), “CSR communication messages
from a company should be based on facts” (tone; M = 6.15, SD = 1.06), “what the company
is communicating about its CSR activities should be consistent” (C&F; M = 5.84, SD =
1.12) and “it is OK to spend more money on promoting a company’s CSR activities”
(prom; M = 4.39, SD = 1.39). Chinese respondents also agreed on the same items for
message tone (should be based on facts) (M = 6.16, SD = .95) and approval of increasing
promotional cost (M = 5.50, SD = 1.08). The most important items for transparency was
“how much money a company spends on communicating about its CSR” (M = 5.47, SD
= 1.17), and for communication consistency and frequency was “consistency in CSR
communication of the company is important to me” (M = 5.71, SD = 1.04).
In terms of communication media channel and communication sources, as Tables 3
70 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
Label Measures
U.S.
(
N
= 316)
M
(
SD
)
China
(
N
= 315)
M
(
SD
)
I
want
to
know
Info1 What a company is doing for communities such as how much they
donate. 5.05 (1.47) 5.67 (1.12)
Info2 A specific social cause that a company supports (e.g., environmental,
public education). 5.22 (1.43) 5.90 (.97)
Info3 A company’s expertise to support a specific CSR initiative. 4.81 (1.42) 5.97 (.90)
Info4 What kinds of things a company has achieved from its previous
CSR activities. 5.05 (1.42) 5.92 (.97)
Info5 Potential results of a company’s current CSR activities. 5.06 (1.45) 5.90 (.93)
Info6 Why society needs a company’s CSR initiative. 4.79 (1.50) 5.51 (1.12)
Info7 Why a company is doing good for society. 5.26 (1.40) 5.76 (1.08)
Info8 A company’s motives or intentions for doing CSR activities. 5.23 (1.41) 5.75 (.99)
Info9 What the company wants to achieve by doing CSR activities. 5.30 (1.40) 5.72 (1.04)
Info10 Who is benefitting from a company’s CSR activities. 5.59 (1.40) 5.62 (1.17)
Info11 If a company has continuously been doing CSR activities. 5.03 (1.40) 5.92 (1.00)
Info12 How long a company has been supporting its CSR activities. 5.08 (1.43) 5.76 (1.01)
Info13 The consistency of the company’s commitment to its CSR initiatives. 5.23 (1.46) 6.08 (.94)
I
want
to
know
TPE1 How I can participate in a company’s CSR activities. 4.52 (1.63) 5.70 (.94)
TPE2 How my participation will affect the results of a company’s CSR
activities. 4.82 (1.59) 5.80 (.91)
TPE3 If I can be confident in supporting the company’s CSR. 5.10 (1.61) 5.82 (.96)
TPE4 If any other organizations or public figures endorse the company’s
CSR initiatives. 4.91 (1.51) 5.75 (.92)
TPE5 If non-profit organizations are partners of the company’s CSR
activities. 5.18 (1.47) 5.71 (.97)
TPE6 If non-governmental organizations are partners of the company’s
CSR activities. 5.11 (1.46) 5.61 (1.01)
TPE7
If the company has received CSR-related certifications such as
“Fair Trade” certification or “Forestry Stewardship Council” certificate
if there’s any.
5.03 (1.47) 5.62 (1.14)
TPE8 I want to be confident doing my role in helping the company’s
CSR. 5.15 (1.53) 5.72 (1.03)
TPE9 It is important to me that the company has strong partnerships
with third parties such as activist groups (e.g., Greenpeace). 4.61 (1.71) 5.66 (1.03)
Table 3. Means and standard deviations for measurement items of CSR communication
Examining the Role of Culture in Shaping Public Expectations of CSR Communication in the United States and China 71
Label Measures
U.S.
(
N
= 316)
M
(
SD
)
China
(
N
= 315)
M
(
SD
)
I
want
to
Rel1 Know of a company’s CSR activities are relevant to me. 5.34 (1.28) 5.58 (1.02)
Rel2 Know how a company’s CSR initiatives are personally relevant to me. 5.32 (1.33) 5.57 (1.20)
Rel3 Know how a company’s CSR activities affect my personal life. 5.39 (1.32) 5.89 (1.01)
Cost1 How much money a company spends on CSR communication is
important to me. 4.76 (1.51) 5.21 (1.25)
Cost2 I want to know how much money a company spends to promote
its CSR activities. 4.84 (1.48) 5.33 (1.21)
Cost3 I’d l ike to know how much money a company spends on communicating
about its CSR. 4.79 (1.48) 5.47 (1.17)
Trans1 Know information about the company’s CSR failures, not just successes. 5.39 (1.34) 5.79 (.99)
Trans2 Be informed if the company’s CSR initiative fails. 5.29 (1.31) 5.70 (1.04)
Trans3 Know both good and bad information about the company’s CSR
activities. 5.61 (1.21) 5.89 (.96)
Trans4 Know the progress of the company’s CSR activities. 5.48 (1.33) 5.93 (.92)
Tone1 CSR communication messages from a company should be based
on facts. 6.15 (1.06) 6.16 (.95)
Tone2*I like CSR messages from a company that are promotional.
Tone3*I like CSR messages from a company that are self-congratulatory.
Tone4 I like low-key CSR messages from a company. 5.13 (1.33) 5.52 (1.01)
Tone5 I like a company’s CSR messages to focus on facts. 6.07 (1.06) 6.14 (.88)
C&F1 What the company is communicating about its CSR activities
should be consistent. 5.84 (1.12) 5.56 (.98)
C&F2 Consistency in CSR communication of the company i s important to me. 5 .59 (1. 29) 5.71 (1. 04)
C&F3 A lack of consistency in the company’s CSR communication is
problematic. 5.6 (1.24) 5.33 (1.28)
C&F4 I like CSR messages (communication) from a company appearing
often. 4.51 (1.49) 5.39 (1.04)
C&F5 I like to see CSR messages from a company as frequently as possible. 4.18 (1.63) 5.39 (1.04)
C&F6 I want to receive messages about how a company is doing good
as often as possible. 4.39 (1.65) 5.27 (1.18)
Prom1*I don’t like a company spending money on promoting its CSR activi ties.
Prom2 It is OK to spend more money on promoting a company’s CSR activities. 4. 39 (1.39) 5. 50 (1. 08)
Prom3 I think companies should spend more money on CSR communication. 4.14 (1.39) 5.15 (1.2 2)
Note.
*Three items were eliminated based on CFA.
72 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
U.S. (
N
= 316)
M
(
SD
)
China (
N
= 315)
M
(
SD
)
Preferred CSR
communication
media channels)
Local stores 4.06 (1.31) 5.07 (1.12)
Company’s website 4.69 (1.38) 5.42 (1.01)
Promotion events 4.45 (1.36) 5.34 (.98)
Company CSR website 4.70 (1.39) 5.56 (.99)
Annual report 4.53 (1.42) 5.28 (1.07)
TV News 4.59 (1.39) 5.47 (1.10)
Online news 4.48 (1.43) 5.56 (1.03)
Company newsletters 4.43 (1.48) 5.19 (1.05)
Company brochures 4.36 (1.46) 5.21 (1.14)
Radio news 4.16 (1.50) 5.40 (1.11)
Company convention, town-hall meetings 3.95 (1.57) 5.27 (1.11)
Offline newspapers 4.13 (1.50) 5.23 (1.09)
Print Ad 4.16 (1.45) 5.13 (1.20)
TV commercial 4.21 (1.53) 5.11 (1.27)
Company microblogs 3.59 (1.49) 5.04 (1.27)
Company emails 4.22 (1.57) 4.96 (1.26)
Company blog 3.83 (1.59) 5.08 (1.18)
Company direct mails 4.13 (1.65) 4.83 (1.39)
Experts’ blogs 3.81 (1.58) 4.95 (1.20)
Experts’ microblogs 3.65 (1.56) 5.02 (1.23)
Friends’ microblogs 3.55 (1.57) 5.08 (1.25)
Friends’ blogs 3.62 (1.62) 5.05 (1.32)
Communication
Sources
CSR beneficiaries 4.69 (1.35) 5.39 (1.15)
Non-profit org 4.92 (1.35) 5.55 (1.02)
Company 4.82 (1.43) 5.29 (1.11)
CSR Participants 4.90 (1.32) 5.57 (.95)
Activist groups 4.20 (1.60) 5.40 (.98)
Other stakeholders 4.21 (1.44) 5.19 (1.18)
Company employees 4.43 (1.43) 5.36 (1.18)
Company CEO 4.47 (1.54) 4.96 (1.22)
Public Relations Spokesperson 4.33 (1.49) 5.06 (1.25)
Table 4. Means and standard deviation of preferred CSR communication media channels and
communication sources
Examining the Role of Culture in Shaping Public Expectations of CSR Communication in the United States and China 73
and 4 show, Chinese respondents rated all of the channels higher than U.S. respondents.
The most preferred media channels for U.S. consumers were a company’s CSR website
(M = 4.70, SD = 1.39), a company’s website (M = 4.69, SD = 1.38), and TV news (M = 4.59,
SD = 1.39). The least important ones were friends’ microblogs (M = 3.55, SD = 1.57), a
company’s microblog (M = 3.59, SD = 1.49) and friends’ blogs (M = 3.62, SD = 1.62). For
Chinese consumers, the most preferred communication media channels were a
company’s CSR website (M = 5.56, SD = .99), online news (M = 5.56, SD = 1/03), and TV
news (M = 5.47, SD = 1.10). The least preferred media channels were company emails (M
= 4.96, SD = 1.26), experts’ blogs (M = 4.95, SD = 1.20), and a company’s direct mails (M
= 4.83, SD = 1.39).
Chinese respondents also gave higher scores for all of the communication sources
than U.S. respondents. U.S. respondents’ most preferred sources included nonprofit
organizations (M = 4.92, SD = 1.35), CSR participants (M = 4.90, SD = 1.32), and the
company itself (M = 4.82, SD = 1.43). The least favored were activist groups (M = 4.20, SD
= 1.60), other stakeholders (M = 4.21, SD = 1.44), and public relations spokesperson (M
= 4.33, SD = 1.49). Chinese respondents preferred CSR participants (M = 5.57, SD = .95),
nonprofit organizations (M = 5.55, SD = 1.02), and activist groups (M = 5.40, SD = .98). The
top three least favored ones were company’s CEO (M = 4.96, SD = 1.22), public relations
spokesperson (M = 5.06, SD = 1.25), and other stakeholders (M = 5.19, SD = 1.18). There
are some overlaps between the U.S and China samples, but both samples also shared
two most preferred and two least preferred communication sources.
To answer the third research question and to determine the predictive power of
cultural dimensions, multiple regression tests were employed. Tables 5 and 6 show the
regression results for the two countries. Bolded numbers indicating the strongest
cultural predictors for different CSR variables. In both countries, the five cultural
dimensions together accounted for significant proportions of the variances in all “what
to communicate” and all “how to communicate” variables (ps .01).
In the U.S. sample, among four “what to communicate” variables, masculinity was
the strongest predictor of basic CSR information sharing, third-party endorsement, and
cost-related information sharing (info: b = .28, p .01; TPE: b = .25, p .01; cost: b
= .25, p .01), while uncertainty avoidance was the weakest, significant predictor for
the three variables (info: b = .21, p .01; TPE: b = .20, p .01; cost: b = .09, p .01).
Uncertainty avoidance was the strongest, and only significant predictor for personal
relevance (b = .28, p .01).
Among Chinese respondents, however, masculinity and uncertainty avoidance
showed positive effects on the four variables, with masculinity being the strongest
predictor of basic CSR information sharing, personal relevance and cost-related
74 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
information sharing (info: b = .39, p .01; rel: b = .32, p .01; cost: b = .32, p .01), and
uncertainty avoidance being the strongest predictor of third-party endorsement (b = .31,
p .01). The weakest predictor for basic CSR information sharing and cost-related
information sharing was power distance (info: b = .12, p .01; cost: b = .15, p .01).
The weakest predictor of third-party endorsement was Confucian dynamism (b = .15, p
.01) and the weakest predictor for personal relevance was uncertainty avoidance (b
= .15, p .01).
For the four “how to communicate” variables, in the U.S. sample, uncertainty
avoidance was the strongest predictor of transparency (b = .22, p .01) and message
tone (b = .22, p .01), while masculinity was the strongest, and negative predictor for
consistency and frequency (b = .29, p .01) and approval of increasing promotion cost
(b = .19. p .01). The weakest predictor for transparency was masculinity (b = .18,
p .01), and for message tone and consistency and frequency was Confucian dynamism
(tone: b = .12, p .05; C&F: b = .11, p .05). And the weakest predictor for approval of
increasing promotional cost was uncertainty avoidance (b = .08, p .01).
In the Chinese sample, however, uncertainty avoidance was only the strongest
CSR
variables
b
UA IND MAS PD CD
Info .21** .02 .28** .004 .01
TPE .20** .01 .25** .04 .01
Rel .28** .03 .10 .01 .06
Cost .09 .03 .25** .00 .07
Trans .22** .02 .18** .05 .09
Tone .22** .03 .05 .11 .12*
C&F .20** .03 .29** .03 .11*
Prom .08** .07 .19** .17** .06
Note.
All regression coefficients are standardized. Bolded numbers indicate the strongest
predictors. **
p
.01, *
p
.05.
N
= 316
Info:
F
(5, 310) = 11.87, Adjusted
R
2 = .15,
p
.01
TPE:
F
(5, 310) = 9.79, Adjusted
R
2 = .12,
p
.01
Rel:
F
(5, 310) = 8.53, Adjusted
R
2 = .12,
p
.01
Trans:
F
(5, 310) = 8.81, Adjusted
R
2 = .12,
p
.01
Tone:
F
(5, 310) = 5.67, Adjusted
R
2 = .08,
p
.01
C&F:
F
(5, 310) = 16.32, Adjusted
R
2 = .21,
p
.01
Cost:
F
(5, 310) = 7.15, Adjusted
R
2 = .09,
p
.01
Promo:
F
(5, 310) = 7.43, Adjusted
R
2 = .09,
p
.01
Table 5. Predictors of CSR variables in U.S. sample
Examining the Role of Culture in Shaping Public Expectations of CSR Communication in the United States and China 75
predictor of transparency, and the direction was positive (b = .25, p .01). Masculinity
was the strongest, and also positive predictor of consistency and frequency (b = .29, p
.01) and approval of increasing promotional cost (b = .24, p .01). Confucian dynamism
was the strongest predictor of message tone (b = .28, p .01). The weakest predictors of
transparency and message tone was masculinity (b = .23, p .01) and power distance
(b = .12, p .05), respectively. The weakest predictor for consistency and frequency
and approval of increasing promotional cost was power distance (C&F: b = .17, p .01;
prom: b = .17, p .01).
Discussion
This study examined publics’ perceptions and expectations of companies’ CSR
communication efforts in the U.S. and China. By applying Kim and Ferguson’s (2014)
developed measures for effective CSR communication, results from the study provide
CSR
variables
b
UA IND MAS PD CD
Info .20** .02 .39** .12** .15*
TPE .31** .05 .24** .07 .15*
Rel .15*.02 .32** .07 .04
Cost .03 .01 .32** .15** .09
Trans .25** .03 .23** .06 .24**
Tone .26** .04 .13*.12*.28**
C&F .07 .00 .29** .17** .10
Prom .03 .02 .24** .17** .11
Note
. All regression coefficients are standardized. Bolded numbers indicate the strongest predictors. **
p
.01. *
p
.05.
N
= 315
Info:
F
(5, 308) = 40.50, Adjusted
R
2 = .39,
p
.01
TPE:
F
(5, 309) = 34.60, Adjusted
R
2 = .35,
p
.01
Rel:
F
(5, 309) = 15.94, Adjusted
R
2 = .19,
p
.01
Trans:
F
(5, 309) = 33.64, Adjusted
R
2 = .34,
p
.01
Tone:
F
(5, 309) = 29.22, Adjusted
R
2 = .31,
p
.01
C&F:
F
(5, 309) = 15.07, Adjusted
R
2 = .18,
p
.01
Cost:
F
(5, 309) = 13.63, Adjusted
R
2 = .17,
p
.01
Promo:
F
(5, 309) = 10.72, Adjusted
R
2 = .13,
p
.01
Table 6. Predictors of CSR variables in China sample
76 Asian Journal of Public Relations, Vol.1, No.1, Nov. 2017
insight about how publics’ CSR communication expectations can help multinational
companies evaluate effective CSR communication practices. This study is novel in its
approach to measuring the impact of cultural dimensions on shaping the perceptions
and expectations in two countries.
Results indicated that people in the U.S. and China have different expectations for
what companies should communicate about CSR. The data suggest that expectations
are generally high in both countries, but that participants in China had significantly
higher expectations in all four “what to communicate” categories. However, by comparing
individual items for each measure within each of the two samples, the results highlight
different items that participants in the two countries rate as the most important factors
to them, which provides deeper insight about what they expect from companies’ CSR
information.
Participants in the U.S. identified “who is benefitting from a company’s CSR
activities,” whether “non-profit organizations are partners of the company’s CSR
activities,” “how a company’s CSR initiatives are personally relevant to me,” and “how
much money a company spends to promote its CSR activities” as the most important
items to communicate while participants in China rated “the consistency of the
company’s commitment to its CSR initiatives,” “if I can be confident in supporting the
company’s CSR,” “how a company’s CSR initiatives are personally relevant to me,” and
“how much money a company spends on communicating about its CSR” as top items.
The top item in Kim and Ferguson’s (2014) study was also “who is benefitting from a
company’s CSR activities,” thus showing similarities over time with the U.S. sample.
However, overall, it appears that at least in the U.S., there has been a shift in priorities
from a preference in knowing more about specific commitments and achievements/
results from CSR efforts in the 2014 study to an emphasis on perceived relevancy of
initiatives and resources spent on CSR efforts in the current study.
The second research question, also adapted from Kim and Ferguson (2014), asked
what publics in the U.S. and China expect in terms of how companies communicate their
CSR efforts. Participants in both samples rated message tone as the most important
factor and approval of increasing promotion cost as the least important factor. These
findings are consistent with Kim and Ferguson’s (2014) findings. With regard to
preferred media channels, participants in both countries rated a company’s CSR website
as the most preferred channel for receiving information, which differs from Kim and
Ferguson’s (2014) finding that companies’ local stores ranked the highest, followed by
other company-controlled media channels including company websites, promotion
events, company CSR websites, and then annual reports. For the present study,
participants in the U.S. different types of blogs ranked the lowest, which raises a
Examining the Role of Culture in Shaping Public Expectations of CSR Communication in the United States and China 77
question about possible source credibility preferences. Participants in China generally
ranked uncontrolled media sources as most preferred sources (aside from the top-ranked
CSR website preference). With regard to communication source preferences, Kim and
Ferguson’s (2014) found CSR beneficiaries as the top ranked communication source,
followed by non-profit organizations and then the company itself. Findings from the
present study suggest similar trends in both samples, but ranked CSR participants and
non-profit organizations as top rated preferred communication sources. This finding
provides companies with important insight about how to communicate their CSR
efforts. It appears that companies should devote efforts toward enhancing their content
on CSR websites (rather than a general website) and that messages from CSR participants
and non-profit sources would best serve the company’s interest to build relationships
with publics.