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virtue signaling

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Virtue signaling is making a public statement that specifies or implies laudable behavior or attitudes which may not correspond to the actions of the person making the statement.

Both individuals and organizations frequently make such statements to promote a positive image of themselves, whether warranted or not. Essentially a low-key and low-cost public relations (PR) effort, virtue signaling is common in mission statements, vision statements, “About us” content and social media messages.

In addition to providing a platform for virtue signaling, the pervasion of online content and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter has also made it possible for people to quickly and easily share information about individuals and corporations, and those messages may be at odds with any positive images. A disconnect between espoused values and actual behavior can damage a reputation much more than bad behavior alone.

Nevertheless, consumers increasingly expect corporations to communicate their core values, and for those values to be socially responsible. Such messaging can also play a part in fostering a more ethical culture, particularly when paired with congruent behaviors.

This was last updated in July 2019

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