Dr. Craig Carroll, Lipscomb's Communication and Journalism Dept. chair, says companies need to lose the ego when communicating CSR
By Jayne Flannery
Name: Dr. Craig Carroll
Born: Nashville, Tennessee
Current position: Associate Professor and Department Chair of Communication and Journalism at Lipscomb University
Favorite CSR book: The Market for Virtue, David Vogel
Favorite saying: Begin with the end in mind
Dr. Craig Carroll is one of the nation’s leading research scholars noted for his achievements in explaining how media coverage impacts corporate reputation. He is a man with a singular ambition: the recurrent theme of years of research is to change the way in which corporations perceive themselves and the media environment they operate in.
Having taught widely at a number of the world’s leading universities, including the University of North Carolina and the University of Southern California, he took up his current position to run Lipscomb University’s Communication and Journalism Department in 2010. At the same time, he published his first book, the culmination of six years of international study.
Corporate Reputation and the News Media, published by Routledge Press, set out to explain and define the influence news media had on corporate reputation across 22 countries, covering a wide spectrum of geo-political and cultural contexts. His conclusions were grounded in agenda-setting theory, which states that through the daily selection of news stories and topics, editors and news directors focus audience attention, thus influencing perceptions of the critical issues of the moment.
One of the book’s most fascinating discoveries is the extreme oscillation that can occur between public perception of the same company on a country-by-country basis. He believes companies are blinded by their own self-definition of identity.
“Corporate entities exist to make a profit via the sale of products and services, it is not core to their sense of identity to understand the impact their very existence has on the society around them, which means they are often blind to the purpose of groups other than their own,” he states.
“Whether they are communicating to an internal or external audience, this blind-spot is magnified once operations transcend national boundaries. There needs to be more decentralisation of communications, giving responsibility to people on the ground who can fully grasp the nuances of the local news media environment and what it wants to achieve,” he continues.
“Companies need to relinquish their ego or sense of self-identity, rid themselves of the common view that theirs is the only voice that counts and recognise that the media is not a homogenous entity. It has an identity of its own with many diverse functions, goals and objectives, which are shaped by the national environment. In global contexts, there can be no one approach that works in all situations,” he explains.
Prior to the publication of the book, he was elected as chair of the public relations division of the International Communication Association (ICA), a professional association with NGO status within the United Nations. Carroll completed his term in May. Carroll also teaches graduate classes at the IE Communication School in Madrid, Spain, and at the University of Lugano (Switzerland) in its Executive Masters of Science in Communication Management.
His latest book chapter is on the news media’s role in reporting CSR around the globe. Published in The Handbook of Communication and Corporate Social Responsibility, released in August 2011, his chapter builds on his earlier work on the relationship between companies’ media exposure and their CSR efforts. The handbook includes 28 contributions from top scholars in public relations, organizational communication, marketing and management and represents the definitive research collection for corporate social responsibility communication, according to publisher Wiley-Blackwell. Carroll’s conclusions have recently been the focus of a plenary discussion panel with international experts at the Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility conference in Amsterdam.
Following the publication of this latest work, I asked if there were one over-riding piece of advice he could offer to companies in relation to their dealings with the media: “Let the media do their job by embracing a larger view of the world that does not begin with your own self-identity. It is not about positive or negative stories, but understanding you are one small part of the global picture and that the media has the task to relate issues of the day to the world at large, not to convey a specific self-image that you have contrived to construct. It is your actions as a corporate citizen on the ground that will ultimately shape how or where you fall within that picture, not how you try to influence the media,” he states.
About Craig Carroll
Carroll was a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the director of the Carolina Observatory on Corporate Reputation before joining Lipscomb's faculty in 2010.
About Jayne Flannery
Jayne Flannery is a first-rate writer who contributes regularly to a range of business-to-business titles, news websites and corporate publications and websites. With interests in politics and current affairs, Jayne became President of Pierdo el Sentio, a Woman's Association in Spain.
This commentary is written by a valued member of the CSRwire contributing writers' community and expresses this author's views alone.