WHAT MAKES CSR AUTHENTIC TO PEOPLE WITH LOW CAUSE INVOLVEMENT? AN EXPLORATION OF INFLUENCERS’ PERSUASIVE POWER VIA DUAL-PROCESS MODELS
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
climate change;corporate social responsibility;dual-process model;influencer;public relations;social media
Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences
Public expectations for companies to make communal contributions and be more vocal and visible about what they stand for have risen, especially in terms of climate change efforts. However, CSR initiatives are often questioned and accused of seeking profits by stakeholders. To overcome such CSR skepticism and perceived self-serving motives, the study proposes social media influencers (SMI) as potential communicators to effectively appeal CSR authenticity. SMIs have organic reach on social media and authentic voices by forming a sense of community and parasocial relationships with users, which hints at their effectiveness in endorsing CSR. To investigate how individuals’ levels of social media involvement with the issue shape their judgments regarding a CSR message via taking different cognitive routes, the current study employed dual-process models which posited that people engage in a different processing route depending on the issue involvement when evaluating the persuasiveness of a message. To thoroughly examine this theoretical proposition in the contexts of SMI and CSR messaging, two studies were conducted with different methods. Study 1 employed an online experiment via Prolific (N=386) with a two (CSR argument quality: Strong vs. Weak) by two (Endorser Type: SMI vs. Brand) between-subjects design to test how the source credibility of the endorser and argument quality of the climate change promotion message can interact to positively predict CSR authenticity. To further delve into the effects of SMI’ credibility dimensions individually and outcome variables subsequently resulting from CSR skepticism, Study 2 conducted an online survey (N=1,144). This cross-validated and advanced the findings from Study 1 by exploring respondents’ actual experience with environmental SMIs rather than with a manipulated version. According to the findings, individuals with low involvement with climate change relied more heavily on source credibility cues by taking the cognitive shortcuts, while those with high involvement scrutinized the argument quality of the CSR message when making the authenticity judgment by dedicating more cognitive efforts. Although the perceived authenticity of an SMI-promoted CSR message with strong argument quality was boosted, that of a weak message promoted by SMI significantly decreased. Furthermore, among the source credibility dimensions, SMI’s expertise and trustworthiness served predominant roles in mitigating CSR skepticism, whereas physical attractiveness had a minimal effect. Finally, lowered CSR skepticism was found to increase positive attitudes toward the sponsoring brand and intentions to participate in CSR activities. Based on these findings, the study uncovers the importance of tailoring communication strategies, selecting the appropriate influencers, enhancing information specificity, and segmenting the audience based on cause involvement in social media to maximize CSR effectiveness.
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Yang, Jeongwon, "WHAT MAKES CSR AUTHENTIC TO PEOPLE WITH LOW CAUSE INVOLVEMENT? AN EXPLORATION OF INFLUENCERS’ PERSUASIVE POWER VIA DUAL-PROCESS MODELS" (2024). Dissertations - ALL. 1858.