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Opinion

A Brief Reflection on Societal Issues and Corporate Messaging, 1997–2017

By Irving Schenkler

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But perhaps the most noticeable—and vigorous change—has been the willingness of U.S. corporations (usually underlined by CEO presence) to affirm, challenge, or speak out about societal issues.

Over the past 20 years, several identifiable tropes have emerged in the study and practice of reputation management. There was the decline of ‘‘public relations’’ as a label used to describe what organizational communication was all about (and concurrently, ‘‘reputation management’’ became the more generally accepted term of use.) The concept of corporate identity moved away from brand to a broader (and deeper) exploration of how an organization is perceived and how it perceives itself. Coupled with this reciprocal conceit was the recognition that managing for stakeholders could complement the effort of ensuring shareholder value.

But perhaps the most noticeable—and vigorous change—has been the willingness of U.S. corporations (usually underlined by CEO presence) to affirm, challenge, or speak out about societal issues. As current events following the demise of the so-called Trump ‘‘business advisory councils’’ highlight, the public personae of corporate actors have stepped into the limelight, offering symbolic (if not entirely tangible) broadsides about values, moral choice, and the recognition of essential civic virtues in the face of ethnic, racial, and anti-Semitic extremist groups, most notable in the Charlottesville, Virginia altercation. But also within the past year, corporate ‘‘voices’’ have weighed in on climate change, transgender rights, and same-sex marriage (both for and against) among other societal issues such as the manipulation of information (‘‘fake news’’) and immigration. How has this come to occur?

Read the full article as published by Corporate Reputation Review.  
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Irv Schenkler is a Clinical Professor and Director of the Management Communication Program at New York University's Stern School of Business.