Reputation continuity is defined as the integrated ability of organizations to mobilize their resources during crises and achieve an uninterrupted flow of trust while preserving the precrisis perceptions of stakeholders. It consists of the effort to isolate the problem from the actual set of consequences and ensure that it is marginalized and ultimately eliminated by the use of alternative resources and parallel channels, in this case channels of communication. As reputation is built within stakeholder groups, which observe a number of organizational action dimensions, including quality, employment, innovation, and leadership, maintaining the links of trust with stakeholders is crucial in the struggle of organizations to support flawless and untampered reputation capital.
Reputation continuity can be defined as the minimization or elimination of reputation effects propagated by negative incidents, accidents, and crises. It is based on the notion that strong engagement with stakeholders during crises may lead to a sustainable reputation performance, thus avoiding the typical reputation damage and repair model that has dominated literature. This entry discusses two streams of research on reputation continuity that contribute to corporate reputation management: (1) business continuity and (2) operational continuity as it is tied to image restoration.
In the crisis management literature, the importance of a timely, immediate, and adequate response to maintain the critical functions of an organization and keep intact the key organizational goals has been embodied in the field of business continuity. Theorists argue that business continuity’s task is to identify critical processes, assess the damage that an organization would suffer in the event of crises and disruptions, and ensure minimum effects on the overall systemic and organizational capacity. Business continuity, initially developed as an information technology concern, has grown substantially to the extent that it often replaces traditional crisis management plans and functions.
A reputation continuity approach produces interesting results for the overall task of business continuity. Business continuity may be seen as a mind-set and a value-based set of capabilities. The results are precisely how reputation continuity may reinforce these mind-sets, build a sense of trust in the organization among its stakeholders, and act as a survival resource. The opening of stakeholder communication and reputation preservation may facilitate the work of business continuity and the handling of emergencies, in the sense that the emerging networks of collaboration can potentially assist the operational resolution of issues. It is due to preserving reputation capital that organizations are able to work effectively and without a hidden agenda for the immediate and effective resolution of a crisis and the analysis of a problem.
Operational Continuity and Image Restoration
While operational continuity and image restoration have been seen as two exclusive tasks, often understood as in a linear sequence, it is part of the immediate organizational tasks to work closely with stakeholders in order to ensure that trust links are not lost and reputation is sustained. This approach requires from organizations three changes in the way crises are handled. First, they are required to embed reputation actions and consequences as part of their operational crisis-handling procedures and not neglect the stakeholders. Second, they must abandon a dedicated and exclusive communication-based perspective in favor of a more profound collaboration with their stakeholders and their audiences. Finally, organizations need to be able to monitor their reputation capital, mainly through intensive surveying, in order to make sure that they are aware of damage to reputation as soon as it emerges. The strategic view of reputation as a value that needs to be sustained and protected in times of crisis can lead to image restoration and postcrisis image recovery while empowering an active and ongoing reputation continuity approach.
This approach calls for a new reputation management approach, one that sees corporate crisis communications as an open, shared, and collective process. Most crisis communication frameworks require a high degree of centralization, information control, and a tight strategic set of boundaries. While those principles are validated in practice, a more flexible, decentralized, human-based, and relatively unstructured communication process may lead to good results, particularly when outsiders consider the organization as being in a “noncrisis” situation and normal communication continues.
Koronis, E., & Ponis, S. T. (2012). Introducing corporate reputation continuity to support organizational resilience against crises. Journal of Applied Business Research, 28(2), 283–290.