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Processing of CSR communication: insights from the ELM

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– Based on the elaboration likelihood model (ELM), the purpose of this paper is to examine if stakeholders with high vs low corporate social responsibility (CSR) involvement differ in their processing of CSR communication, which could influence companies to adapt their CSR communication to the different ways of processing (central route vs peripheral route).


– In this study, 107 participants received information about a fictitious company. In the first phase, participants were given initial information about the company. In the second phase, participants were given the company’s CSR newsletter. To compare the differences in information processing dependent on the CSR involvement, the sample was split at the median.


– The study found that dependent on their CSR involvement, people differ in their processing of CSR communication as well as in their expectations for persuasive CSR communication.

Research limitations/implications

– To further examine how involvement influences information processing and thus persuasion, an experimental design should be used including the manipulation of the level of involvement as well as the manipulation of ability.

Practical implications

– The findings suggest that CSR involvement can be used as a base for target-group specific CSR communication in order to improve communication effectiveness.


– So far, CSR communication research has often focussed on the effectiveness of communication strategies in general. In contrast, the application of the ELM offers a theoretical basis to better understand which moderator variables influences stakeholders’ processing of CSR communication and the persuasion process.
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Keywords: CSR communication; Elaboration likelihood model; High vs low corporate social responsibility involvement; Involvement; Social responsibility; Target-group specific CSR communication

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 7, 2015

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