At the European Public Relations Education and Research Association’s (EUPRERA) annual congress in London (12th – 14th October 2017), our colleague Irina Lock received the award for the best PhD thesis in the last two years in Public Relations in Europe. Her PhD thesis on “Credibility in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Communication: Concepts, Methods, Analyses” (Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, CH, supervised by prof. Peter Seele) deals with the issue of credibility in CSR communication and studied this topic from a corporate and a stakeholder point of view.

In her thesis, Irina gives an overview of the different tools of CSR communication companies have at their disposal to communicate about their ethical responsibility to society, such as CSR websites, CSR reports, weblogs, or stakeholder roundtables (see the article here). Then, the thesis tackles the alleged “credibility gap” that opens up between companies and stakeholders when companies do not communicate credibly about their social and environmental commitment. In particular, she studied CSR reports from major European companies in terms of their credibility and found that credible reports first and foremost need to be understandable to their readers. This idea is expressed in the two-phase model of reporting credibility (take a look at the article here). From a stakeholder perspective, the thesis investigates the perception side of the credibility gap by developing a measure of perceived credibility of such CSR reports that can be used by academics and organizations alike.

The jury headed by former program group prof. em. Betteke van Ruler and prof. em. Günther Bentele (University of Leipzig) found Irina’s thesis to be outstanding, because it is methodologically and empirically rigorous and had important implications for CSR communication theory and practice.

Read more about the award ceremony.