Graduation Year

2007

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Kelly Page Werder, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Kelly Page Werder, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kelli Burns, Ph.D.

Keywords

corporate social responsibility, theory of reasoned action, starbucks

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to further current theory-driven research in public relations by examining the influence of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives on beliefs, attitudes, and behavioral intentions. Specifically, CSR initiatives identified by Kotler and Lee (2005) were tested using Fishbein and Ajzen’s (1975, 2005) theory of reasoned action to determine their influences on individual’s belief, attitudes, and behavioral intentions toward an organization and its products. This area of inquiry is particularly relevant for public relations scholars and practitioners since creating awareness of CSR practices among key stakeholders requires accurate and timely communication.

A controlled experiment utilizing a 1x6 factorial was conducted using stimulus materials based on the Starbucks Coffee Company. The stimulus materials consisted of four Starbucks CSR messages that coincided with four CSR initiatives identified by Kotler and Lee (2005), and one Starbucks message unrelated to CSR to control for CSR initiative type. The sixth condition contained no Starbucks message as an overall control condition. All six conditions contained the same self-administered instrument to measure the variables of interest.

The results of the controlled experiment found that salient beliefs predict attitudes

and that attitudes predict behavioral intentions. Thus, the predictions of the theory of reasoned action are supported. The findings indicate that CSR initiatives do influence

individuals’ beliefs about organizations and their products, particularly beliefs about their contributions to the community and their trustworthiness. Specific findings of this study suggest that cause-related marketing may be the most beneficial to corporations in terms of its influence on consumers’ beliefs about the corporation, which in turn may have positive financial implications. However, this study found that CSR initiatives did not influence attitudes or behavioral intentions.

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