Carlina DiRusso, Ph.D. Candidate, The Pennsylvania State University
Carlina DiRusso is the recipient of the 2019 Don Bartholomew Award for Excellence in Public Relations Research sponsored by Ketchum

What do Patagonia, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Gillette and Nike have in common? Within the past decade, each of these companies has taken a public stance on a controversial social issue, a public relations initiative known as corporate social advocacy (CSA). Consider, for instance, Nike’s ads featuring Colin Kaepernick that address social justice, and Gillette’s videos about toxic masculinity in response to the #MeToo movement.

Brand values are an important factor in consumers’ purchasing decisions, but companies still face the challenge of properly communicating their values. One of the most notable instances of poor CSA communication is Pepsi’s 2017 ad that referenced the racial justice movement and was deemed the Fail of the Year.

So how can brands communicate about their values in a way that positively impacts both the brand and the social issue? And if several social issues are important to the brand, how can they choose which one to publicly support? To address these questions, my colleagues and I conducted an experiment which tested three features of a CSA message: emotional tone (positive vs. negative), emotional intensity (calm vs. intense), and issue salience (low vs. high). We wanted to know how these three aspects of CSA communication can impact both company-related outcomes and advocacy behavior. 

Cision explored journalists' thoughts on the factors changing the way they work, the types of stories they want, and how PR professionals can build stronger relationships with media.

A survey of 2,746 journalists was conducted in 15 countries between February 1 and March 1, 2021.

Key findings include:
  • 46% of respondents said they believe freedom of the press will deteriorate in the next three years.
  • 46% of journalists said they are looking for stories with "new angles for COVID-19 coverage."
  • 37% said they are "looking for feel good stories on how companies and communities are helping others."
  • 69% of respondents said they consider less than 25% of the pitches they receive to be relevant.
  • 66% of respondents said PR professionals can help them by providing "data and expert sources" when needed.
The Harris Poll and Adweek examined whether or not brands should be encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations.

A survey of 1,989 Americans was conducted March 26 through March 28, 2021.

Key findings include:
  • 60% of respondents said brands have an "obligation" to encourage people to get vaccinated.
  • 70% of respondents said they support brands sharing factual information about how and where to get vaccines.
  • 62% of respondents believe brands have an "obligation to go beyond information dissemination itself to dispel myths around COVID-19 vaccines."
  • 70% of Americans said they think brand rewards like Krispy Kreme's could encourage more vaccinations.
  • 60% of respondents said they'd be more likely to buy from a brand that offers promotions to encourage vaccinations.

WE Communications examined changes in leadership and how leaders view their role in a changed world.

A survey of 304 purpose leaders was conducted in the U.S., U.K., and Singapore in January 2021.

Key findings include:
  • After a year of upheaval, 86% of leaders said they have become more introspective.
  • 71% of leaders said articulating personal core values is more important than it was a year ago.
  • 69% of respondents said stakeholder engagement is one of the most important leadership behaviors for 2021.
  • 74% said being collaborative with stakeholders is more important now compared to a year ago.
  • 71% are putting more focus on learning and engagement with women and BIPOC employees and communities.

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