This research explores corporate advocacy and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Using organizational legitimacy theory as a theoretical framework, this research employed thematic analyses in order to study statements issued by Fortune's 50 most admired companies in response to the re-energized Black Lives Matter movement. These statements were studied using thematic content analysis in order to gauge corporate engagement with the movement, as well as indicate themes of authenticity or hypocrisy apparent in the statements. The study revealed major themes of support and authentic engagement, as well as highlighted the missing components that may indicate hypocritical stances to stakeholders. This research contributes to public relations scholarship through its examination of how practitioners strategically communicate around racial or social justice issues in the context of corporate social advocacy. Stakeholders grant legitimacy to companies and cyclically, that legitimacy is earned and reinforced by ongoing corporate actions, to include perceptions of authentic corporate engagement with controversial social-political issues. This study expands on public relations research about communicating corporate commitment to social advocacy, specifically as it pertains to contentious social justice issues. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed. This paper is broken into five chapters. The first chapter includes an introduction to the study, a mention of the theoretical frameworks employed in the study, and a description of the study's relevance. Chapter Two includes an in-depth literature review of the theoretical frameworks relevant to the research, as well as background on the Black Lives Matter movement and its recent resurgence. The second chapter also highlights how organizations have responded to the BLM movement. Next, Chapter Three describes the study's methodology, a qualitative content analysis of official corporate statements about the BLM civil rights movement. Chapter Four then outlines results in the form of common themes identified across corporate statements. Last, Chapter Five provides the discussion, future research suggestions, and practical implications of the research conducted.


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Graduation Date





Dodd, Melissa


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Sciences


Nicholson School of Communcation and Media

Degree Program





CFE0008922; DP0026201



Release Date

November 2021

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)