Communicating and managing aspirational talk-action tensions: An integrated approach of CSR discourse analysis

Angela K.Y. Mak*, Zeping Huang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Inspired by propositions founded on the Communication as Constitutive of Organization literature, this paper employed a mixed method combining Cultural Discourse Analysis (CuDA) with Corpus Linguistics to investigate how companies manage aspirational talk-action tensions in corporate social responsibility (CSR) discourses for social license to operate. Ten sustainability reports of five companies in Singapore and Hong Kong were accessed to examine the emergence of CuDA discursive hubs (identity, relation, emotion, action, and dwelling), the articulation of linguistic elements via concordance analysis, and the adoption of socio-cultural dimensions in addressing tension mechanisms. Findings revealed intricate communication dynamics resulting in four strategies that companies undertook to address and manage discrepancies, thereby enabling the construction of effective narrative CSR communication. These strategies provide valuable insights for public relations practitioners who engage in sustainability reporting and seek to adequately handle aspirational talk-action tensions that can possibly cause negative impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102479
Number of pages11
JournalPublic Relations Review
Issue number4
Early online date7 Jun 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Jun 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Communication
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Marketing

User-Defined Keywords

  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • CSR communication
  • Cultural discourse
  • ESG reporting
  • Linguistic analysis
  • Talk-action relationships


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