Through a cross-sectional online survey, this study examines the moderated mediation model of public skepticism toward organizational altruism and public distrust of CSR messages in the process of corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication. Focusing solely on CSR communication elements rather than CSR practice, this study sheds light on the significant role that effective CSR communication elements play in attenuating public skepticism and further inducing positive public evaluations of an organization. Our results suggest that skepticism toward altruism is significantly reduced by the six effective CSR communication elements—CSR informativeness, transparency, objectivity, consistency, personal relevance, and a less promotional tone. In turn, an organization is able to restore the publics’ positive evaluation of it. Although this study confirms the moderating role of public distrust in the process, it also reveals this moderating role to move in an unexpected direction. That is, the positive effects of effective CSR communication elements are much greater for people who have stronger distrust of CSR messages than those with less distrust. This indicates that public distrust of CSR messages (developed over time) may be overcome with quality CSR communication.
- corporate social responsibility communication
- message tone
- moderated mediation