The Evolution of Online Activism and CSR: Preview of Five In-Depth Interviews with Experts

This summary post appears courtesy of the study’s authors Dr. Melissa Dodd and Sasha Dookhoo. This post is a preview based on the preliminary findings presented at the International PR Research Conference on March 11, 2017.

Online activism ignites progress in organizations and encourages them to be good corporate citizens. Many companies accomplish this through their corporate social responsibility (CSR). The correlation between online activism and corporate social responsibility is detailed in depth in a new study coming soon by Sasha R. Dookhoo, M.A., Senior Account Executive at PAN Communications, and Melissa D. Dodd, Ph.D., APR, from the University of Central Florida.

Their methodology included conducting five in-depth phone interviews with corporate social responsibility experts located across the U.S. Participants gave their insights as to what role activists play in corporate social responsibility. Their insights are recorded below.

One of the key findings of this research is that when it comes to CSR, online activists and offline activists are viewed the same way. No matter in which category activists fall, they serve similar purposes: to create a dialogue with a company and to invoke a change.

History shows that social movements can make a difference in the world. Today, activists give voices to consumers and are there to speak up when they believe a business is not operating responsibly.

CSR has already become an essential piece of every business – it has transformed from something a company could do, to something a company must do. Consumers expect transparency and a sense of well-being from companies they trust. It is for this reason more organizations need to make corporate social responsibility more organic and part of the identity of a brand.

It is important for an organization to listen, engage and be open-minded. The worst approach would be ignoring an activist. There may be disagreements, but sometimes activists can see what organizations don’t recognize and vice versa. Organizations must continue to scrutinize themselves and operate responsibly.

Activism creates a system of checks and balances for CSR. The concepts of activism and CSR have a reciprocal relationship and help each other. In addition, organizations must pay close attention to online activists who can use the power of social media to reach a wide audience.

Activists have power to create organizational changes if there are valid concerns. However, that doesn’t mean an organization always has to make a change every time there is a concern from their audience.

Organizations have power too in that corporate social responsibility is a strategic business function. It is a necessity for organizations, as they have to meet the responsibility that comes with running a business. Practitioners must integrate this responsibility in order to remain transparent to their publics.


Brianna Hayes is a senior majoring in Public Relations at the University of Florida (UF). She is the Managing Director of Alpha PRoductions at UF. Follow her on Twitter @bri_hayes101.

Posted in [Research Library], Corporate Social Responsibility.

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