WOKE is built on growing stakeholder expectations about the role of business in society, providing personalized research, analyses, and recommendations for meaningful issues impact.

Corporate engagement in controversial social-political issues (i.e., corporate activism and corporate social advocacy, as it has been termed) continues to become more commonplace with business leaders colle ctively flexing their muscles in promotion and protest of issues that have included climate change, health care reform, gun violence prevention, race relations, LGBTQ+ issues, gender and marriage equality, and reproductive rights, among others.

I have developed a valid and reliable measurement instrument that examines five key variables to determine how a company's issue engagement will be perceived by key stakeholders.


Melissa D. Dodd, Ph.D., APR

Owner, Consultant

Hello! I am Melissa, founder of WOKE. I have fancy research credentials and more than a decade of experience in corporate communication research and practice. You can learn more about me here: www.ladypr.com.

In 2012, I became interested in the so-called "same sex marriage boycott wars" between Starbucks and Chick-fil-A, an early indication of what has become known as "corporate activism."


Since that time, I have studied dozens of companies and controversial issues with an eye toward understanding which factors are most important to consider when a company takes an issue stance.


In my early research, I termed the widespread emergence of corporate stances on controversial social political issues -- that could isolate stakeholders and attract negative activist attention: "corporate social advocacy (CSA)." This term has been widely adopted by scholars, and research surrounding CSA continues to emerge.

In addition to scholarly publications, my research has been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, NPR, and several other mainstream media outlets.


I have developed a valid and reliable measurement instrument that examines five key variables to determine how a company's issue engagement will be perceived by stakeholders.

My major goal, in research and consulting, is to not only identify if, when, and how a company should engage in an issue, but also the ways in which positive outcomes can be achieved at both the corporate- (e.g., reputation) and societal- level (e.g., decline in gun violence) outcomes.

I  work with companies to achieve mutually beneficial company-stakeholder relationships and meaningful issues impact for a more just society.

Five Key Variables for Issues Engagement:

  1. Authenticity

  2. Congruence

  3. Controversy

  4. Relevance

  5. Salience

Industry trend research indicates that a majority of Americans believe that corporations should take action to address issues facing society (81%) and even have a responsibility to do so (71%) (Global Strategy Group, 2018).


Today, companies increasingly expend resources and engage in risk by taking public stances on controversial sociopolitical issues that transcend the particular interests of a single organization (Fesssman, 2016, 2017; Dodd, 2018; Dodd & Supa, 2014, 2015) and are often aimed at some perceived betterment of society. That is, desired outcomes may both be at the corporate- and societal- levels.


"The emergence of corporate engagement in controversial issues is not a sign of impressionable consumers mistaking their materialism for meaningful political action; it’s a sign that materialism alone isn’t enough for people—that they need their Nikes to be something more than just shoes" (In Defense of Woke Brands: Culture Wars Don't Win Themselves, 2020)

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