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The OCR Glossary

VT4 Framework of Organizational Media Salience

Craig E. Carroll

The VT4 Framework describes five dimensions of media salience for organizations. An organization’s media salience has been understood as the depth of news coverage an organization receives, measured in terms of contents (number of words, sentences, paragraphs, or total news reports) or media recall (how much audiences recall hearing or reading about an organization in the news). Media salience is important because it has been found to be related to a number of performance measures important for organizations, including corporate reputation and financial performance. For corporate reputation, media salience has been linked to overall reputation scores (both positively and negatively) and individual dimensions such as public prominence and public esteem. The five dimensions are (1) volume, (2) tone, (3) topics, (4) ties, and (5) timing. This entry describes the five key dimensions of media salience for organizations and their linkages to corporate reputation.


Volume refers to the volume of news reports about an organization, which is often called media attention, media exposure, or media visibility. Early research linking media visibility to corporate reputation was mixed. A primary explanation for the mixed findings was that studies were linking visibility to corporate reputation as a global variable rather than any of its individual dimensions. When examining media visibility connected to organizational prominence (a dimension of reputation), studies have found direct support.


Tone refers to the general sentiment or favorability toward an organization in a stream of news articles. This tone is often called media favorability. Empirical research has found support for the linkage between an organization’s media favorability and its degree of public esteem and its financial performance, measured in terms of return on assets. Tone is measured in a variety of ways. Ordered tone is measured categorically: positive, mixed, neutral, and negative, where “mixed” is the presence of both positive and negative tone and “neutral” is the absence of both positive and negative tone. Slanted tone is usually measured on a continuous scale of +1 to 0 to −1. Often, the zero is used to capture both neutral and mixed aspects.

Media favorability can be divided into two types: (1) focal media favorability and (2) peripheral media favorability. Focal media favorability concerns how a focal organization is portrayed in a stream of articles. Here, human and machine coders search for media contents directly connected to the organization and then code these contents for how the organization is portrayed, with little regard for the overall tone or topic of the news article unless it is directly applicable to the organization from the coder or machine’s point of view. In contrast, peripheral media favorability refers to the overall evaluative tone of a stream of articles where a focal organization is mentioned, with little attention to whether the organization is the focus of the article, actively discussed, or merely mentioned. With peripheral media favorability, two organizations would receive the same peripheral media favorability score for a particular news article irrespective of how the organizations themselves are portrayed. Their overall peripheral media favorability scores would differ because the organizations do not share the same full stream of news articles over time. Research has found that focal media favorability has higher levels of public esteem among audiences who have more knowledge of a focal organization, whereas peripheral media favorability has higher levels of public esteem among audiences who have little to no previous knowledge of the firm. Previous research suggests two different audiences: (1) active audiences, who seek out news articles because they want to know more about firms, and (2) passive audiences, who are exposed to firms as they read and evaluate the day’s news.

Tone is most often conceptualized in terms of the evaluative sentiment of positive, neutral, or negative, but other types of tone exist. Examples include the degree of certainty or uncertainty and active versus passive language.


Topic refers to the topic of news about organizations. Studies have examined the topics of news about CEOs, but no research has categorized all the topics of organizational news. The most common studies of topics focus on the most common corporate reputation attributes: executive leadership, workplace and employees, financial performance, products and services, corporate governance, and corporate social responsibility. Topics are often discussed in the context of specific firms, but one could also consider examining firms in the context of specific topics. Topics can also refer to the topics of news articles themselves where organizations are mentioned or discussed, but this aspect has not been studied comprehensively even though it has been identified as a research priority.


Ties refers to the objects and attributes that co-occur with organizations in news coverage, where objects refers to corporate or social actors (e.g., other organizations or individuals). The difference between topics and ties is that topics are concerned with an asymmetrical relationship where topics are examined in depth but the firm is held constant (and not counted). Or the topic is held constant, and researchers examine the media counts of organizations within the context of the topic. In contrast, ties focus on the salience of the link between an organization and some other entity, where the link refers to the co-occurrence of the two entities at the same level of frequency. An example of a tie is a study examining the relationship between companies’ co-occurrence with total quality management as a management innovation and those organizations with higher topic linkage scores receiving higher ratings for “innovation” in Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies of the Year” annual rankings.


Timing refers to the sequence of objects and/or attributes connected to an organization within a stream of coverage. Timing is relatively young in organizational studies. It can concern the sequence of organizations, degree of tone, topics discussed, or ties connected to an organization within one news article or within a stream of news articles. The sequence of tone connected to particular innovations has been conceptually linked to the adoption (and failure) rates of new innovations, and their legitimacy. Sequence can also be used for examining when and where negative tone applies to an organization—negative news listed first often is considered to be the most damaging, with negative news buried in the middle being the least damaging.

The VT4 Framework is important in corporate reputation matters because it helps organizations and evaluators understand the relationship between particular dimensions of corporate reputation and an organization’s news coverage. The framework draws attention to multiple dimensions of media salience, which must be matched to the “right” dimension of corporate reputation for the media influence to be understood. The framework also helps media monitors who pay attention to organizations’ news coverage to make predictions about how a variety of influences on news coverage can affect organizations’ news coverage, but matching these influences too to the right dimension of media salience. Understanding the influences on these five dimensions of media salience is important because organizations and those on which they depend for resources often want to distinguish what impact reputation management activities such as media relations have on their news coverage versus other factors such as whether the news organization is publicly or privately owned, the geographical distance between the company’s headquarters and the news organization’s office, advertising expenditures, or interlocking boards, meaning the organization and the news organization share common board members. Likewise, managers of corporate reputation must often distinguish their media relations efforts from other factors that affect a company’s reputation and its news coverage, such as the organization’s previous reputation, age, and size, and the number of competitors in its field.

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See Also

Agenda-Building Theory; Agenda-Setting Theory; Audiences; Balance Theory; Business Journalism; Content Analysis; Corporate Agenda Setting; Issue Ownership Theory; Key Messages; Media Effects Theory; Media Relations; Mediatization; Message Integrity; Messages; Organizational Listening; Prominence; Public Esteem; Reputation, Dimensions of; Reputation Monitoring; Research Methods in Corporate Reputation; Social Media; Spokesperson; Timing; Web Analytics

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