Ethical challenges in an evolving digital communication era: Coping resources and ethical trainings in corporate communications

Abstract: This study investigated the ethical challenges facing public relations professionals in today’s digital communication environment. Our research found nearly 60% of surveyed professionals reported that they faced ethical challenges in their day-to-day work, and there is a wide range of ethical challenges in digital practices. Results also revealed that professionals use various resources to deal with ethical issues. As common as experiencing ethical challenges, over 85% of surveyed professionals reported that they have participated in communication ethics training. However, only 30% of participants indicated that their ethics training took place in the past year. Our research provides solid evidence that the digital communication environment generates more ethical challenges while it creates new ways of delivering content in corporate communications. Professional associations and organizations shall dedicate efforts in providing timely ethics training to PR professionals at all levels of leadership within and beyond corporate communications.  

Leadership excellence in corporate communications: A multi-group test of measurement invariance

Abstract: This study aims at advancing leadership research in corporate communications by introducing a more rigorous statistical approach to test whether communication professionals of different hierarchical reporting levels, years of experience, and educational backgrounds would ascribe the same meanings to the construct of leadership excellence in corporate communications via survey research. By using an established measurement model of leadership excellence in corporate communications, the study uses three samples, including senior communication executives/leaders, mid-level communication professionals, and senior college students majoring in communication and/or public relations, to conduct the measurement invariance tests. By imposing constraints to different parameters in a sequence of nested models, findings indicate that the measures of leadership excellence in corporate communications can be equivalent across multiple groups. Measurement invariance was confirmed at multiple levels, including the higher-order measurement model, configural invariance, metric invariance, scalar invariance, and error invariance as explained in Cheung & Rensvold’s (2002) research. This study deepens our understanding of measurement invariance when applying multi-group comparison in testing leadership excellence. Such evidence can also be used as central principles when developing corresponding leadership training and development modules by organizations in supporting multicultural and multi-group sensitivity in leadership development.

Best Practices for Corporate Communication Research Collaboration between University Research Groups and Industry Businesses and Organizations: A Structure and Function Analysis

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to identify the best practices for corporate communication research collaboration between a university research group (URG) and outside businesses or organizations that systematically foster academic-industry idea exchange. Despite the challenges for sustainable partnership building, successful URG-industry collaboration models can be mutually beneficial. URGs’ research benefits organizations and contributes to industry-wide problem solving; organization support (e.g., research funding, professional networks, etc.) enhances the URGs’ ability to conduct research. Two theoretical frameworks are used to analyze and guide the research: transaction cost economy theory (e.g., Argyers & Zenger, 2012; Gancarczyk, 2017) and social network analysis theory (e.g., Freeman, 2004; Sommerfeldt & Kent, 2015). Interviews conducted with global URGs and partnering organization practitioners provide practical implications that help enhance URG/organizational relationship understanding and further engage industry-academic research collaborations.

Mobile Corporate Social Responsibility (mCSR): Examining Publics’ Responses to CSR-Based Initiatives in Natural Disasters

Abstract: As social media use on mobile devices has been integrated in people’s daily lives, corporations began to target the publics on corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities on mobile devices. In the context of a natural disaster, this study examines how publics respond to CSR-based initiatives by way of mobile corporate social responsibility (mCSR), including gratifications, social media engagement, perceived CSR motives, and the relationship outcomes as associated with mCSR practice. An online survey was conducted by sampling with 1,433 nationally representative adults in the United States. Findings indicated that four broad types of gratifications, such as technological convenience, social interaction, recreation, and information exchange, significantly influenced relationship outcomes such as satisfaction, commitment, distrust, trust, and control mutuality. Results also demonstrated that perceived CSR motives and social media engagement on mobile devices were significantly related to relationship outcomes, providing empirical evidence for the important role and potential mCSR communications can play in engaging publics and cultivating relationships during natural disasters.

How Financial Crisis History Informs Ethical Corporate Communication: Insights from Corporate Communication Leaders

Abstract: This study explored how financial crisis history can inform corporate crisis communication practice across industries and over time. Thirty-eight interviews with chief communications officers (CCOs) and their counselors were conducted to explore what lasting lessons these corporate communication leaders learned from their crisis communication practice during the 2008 Financial Crisis.  Key lessons learned include: 1) the importance for corporations to tailor their financial communication strategies according to victim vs. perpetrator perception and ethical response expectations held by stakeholders; 2) the importance of stakeholders, and employees in particular, when creating and implementing the plan; 3) the balance between speed and legal concerns, as well as the need for reducing complexity by making sure stakeholder communications are delivered with clarity and accessibility; and 4) a recipe for success includes honesty, transparency, trust/integrity, taking action to reform questionable practices, and abiding by one’s own personal morals. Insights from this study shed light on how learning contributes to ethical corporate communication practice in times of crisis and crisis spillover.