Public Relations Society of America
Public Relations Journal
With increased stakeholder scrutiny, it is increasingly salient to consider how corporations make the case that their CSR activities are sufficient, appropriate, and successful. The CSR report is the vehicle by which organizations communicate the breadth of activities they engage in to make a difference in society. Using rhetorical analysis and surveys, we argue that the CSR report functions as a means by which corporations manage stakeholder expectations and seek to legitimate corporate behaviors. Our findings indicate that most reports are structured based on external guidelines but include the use of classic rhetorical strategies of ethos, pathos, and logos to establish the rightness. This study shows the value of moving past a catalog of activities, a consideration of channels, and a description of message attributes to focus on the rhetorical strategies employed by corporations.