OCR Glossary

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Craig E. Carroll
Accountability is a concept that refers to the state of being liable and answerable to someone for something. Accountability is important in democratic societies because it seeks to redress power differentials and information asymmetry by institutionalizing rights to information. In organizational settings, accountability is important because, according to agency theory, managers cannot be expected (or, rather, trusted) to provide full disclosure of information in all stakeholders’ interests. Without accountability, managers and organizations are assumed to resort to opportunism. This entry covers the types of corporate accountability, the ingredients of accountability, questions of measurement, organizations’ responses to the need for accountability, and the linkages between accountability and corporate reputation.
Accreditation and Certification
Josef Pallas & Jennifer Bartlett
Accreditations and certifications are crucial mechanisms through which organizations and organizational practices gain acceptance and appreciation within their relevant fields or contexts. Accreditations concern meeting standards of acceptable behavior. Certifications concern the quality of specific products, services, or other forms of performance. They both operate through legal and informal requirements and the monitoring of different aspects of organizational life, and influence an organization’s ability to operate within a given social context. This entry examines the social context of accreditations and certifications and the ways in which they are produced and diffused. The entry concludes by examining how accreditation and certification relate to corporate reputation, including through legitimacy and status.
Action and Performance
Dean E. Mundy
The concepts of action and performance refer to the dual responsibility of individuals and firms alike to increase positive tangible, measurable works and demonstrate observable long-term responsible behavior, while simultaneously decreasing negative impacts and behaviors. Put another way, even if individuals or organizations succeed in achieving work objectives, they put themselves at risk if they simultaneously exhibit bad behaviors. In this sense, positive and negative behaviors exist on two continuums. Not only must individuals and organizations exhibit positive behaviors and pursue positive works, but they also must eliminate negative behaviors and actions. This entry discusses individual and organizational action and performance, reputation building through corporate social responsibility (CSR), variables affecting action and performance, and the role of public relations (PR) in organizations’ action and performance.
Activist Campaigns
Frank G. A. de Bakker
Activist campaigns involve a combination of tactics applied in opposition to or support of a cause. From sweatshops to shale gas, from tax evasion to genetically modified organisms, many corporate activities nowadays are heavily scrutinized. Issues of corporate social responsibility (CSR) have received a lot of attention, as have activists’ campaigns to try and influence CSR issues and practices. These campaigns often target companies’ image, trying to influence corporate reputation and legitimacy. CSR has become a prominent theme, both in theory and in practice. As Western nation-states appear to retreat from many markets, or at least significantly alter their approaches toward regulation on themes such as CSR, issues of governance are increasingly debated: How could and/or should corporate conduct be governed, and who should do so? Activist groups, also referred to as civil society organizations, protest groups, or secondary stakeholders, try to play a role in governing corporate conduct. In dealing with issues of CSR, both firms’ initiatives and activists’ campaigns often aim to have an impact on corporate reputations. This entry focuses on activist campaigns surrounding the broad area of CSR. How do activists try to influence firms over issues of CSR? How do firms respond to these pressures? And what exactly is the link to corporate reputation? First, attention for activist campaigns and tactical repertoires from a social movement perspective is discussed. Then some forms of activist campaigns relating to CSR are presented, focusing on the importance of interests, identity, and ideology. The entry concludes with the implications of activists’ tactics and campaigns for corporations and some areas for further research.
Actor-Network Theory
Hagen Schölzel
Actor-network theory (ANT) examines the relatedness and interaction of diverse entities in so-called actor-networks. It develops new basic concepts for a sociology of translation and hybrid associations relevant to all subfields of sociology, which may also be employed to understand matters of public relations. This entry first elucidates ANT’s basic ideas and discusses its development. It then discusses criticisms of the theory and implications of the theory for public relations.
Ad Hominem Argument
Sergei A. Samoilenko
Argumentum ad hominem (“argument directed at the man”) is a logical fallacy that involves irrelevant responses directed at the personality of an opponent instead of the content of his or her claim. An ad hominem attack is intended to steer attention away from the issue under debate and toward the debater or the person addressing the issue. Attacks may include derogatory statements about personal traits or characteristics, condemnation of the person’s behavior, or speculation about the individual’s motives or special interests. This entry discusses ad hominem attacks and related fallacies, plus their impact on corporate reputation since most smear campaigns in modern politics and business follow this kind of pattern.
Jaishri Jethwaney
Advertising traditionally has been used as a tool of marketing to inform and persuade potential customers to buy a particular product or service. Advertising is also used to reinforce beliefs among existing customers. Advertising typically is seen as brand communication using various persuasive strategies and tactics to enthuse or entice the target audience through paid space and time by using one or more mass media channels. At the same time, one sees many advertising campaigns that are not really talking about any brand per se but about companies that manufacture or service those brands. This is so because the potential of advertising has been recognized in helping position an organization in a manner that its reputation is enhanced. Some recent empirical research studies suggest that a good corporate image and reputation may lead to better customer loyalty.
Africa,Corporate Reputation in
William Newburry
While sharing a continental affiliation, the 54 countries of Africa cover a broad geographic region often subdivided into northern Africa, the Horn of Africa, eastern Africa, central Africa, western Africa, and southern Africa. With a lengthy heritage extending into antiquity, Africa is home to some of the world’s oldest recorded cultures, including those associated with Egypt, Nubia, Carthage, and Aksum, among others. Consistent with a social constructivist view of reputation, this long history reflects not only on the reputations of the countries within the region but also on the region’s firms as they are viewed from other countries. The institutions and culture of a society establish expectations regarding companies, which, in turn, influence corporate reputation assessments. Given Africa’s unique cultural background and history, firm reputations within the region will also contain distinctive dimensions derived from Africa’s complex cultural climate. This entry overviews several factors associated with the region that potentially influence reputation development.
Agency Theory
Michael Bednar
Agency theory helps explain the relationship between principals and agents. An agency relationship occurs whenever an individual or entity (the principal) hires an agent to act in the principal’s best interest. Agency relationships can occur in many contexts. For example, athletes and movie stars often hire agents to promote their interests, including their financial interests in contract negotiations. Agency theory is primarily concerned with for-profit organizations and explains how shareholders act as principals by hiring managers to serve as agents on their behalf. In some cases, the owners and the managers can actually be the same individuals. But in large, publicly traded corporations, there is almost always a separation between the owners and managers of the firm. Because of this separation of ownership and control, there is the potential for agency costs to rise, where managers (agents) may act in ways that are not in the best interests of the owners (principals) of the firm. Agency theory largely deals with diagnosing and resolving these issues that inherently arise in agency relationships in most firms. Agency theory has implications for corporate reputation because agency problems can potentially lead to actions by management that harm the reputation of the firm. The following sections outline the agency problem in more detail and explain how this problem is overcome.
Agenda-Building Theory
Sun Young Lee
Agenda-building theory seeks to answer the question of who builds the media agenda, the public agenda, and the policy agenda. For example, stakeholders can attempt to build the media agenda through activism or media relations strategies, and journalists can attempt to build the public agenda and the policy agenda through investigative reporting. Some might ask how agenda-building theory differs from agenda-setting theory, which deals with the effects of the media on setting the public agenda and the policy agenda. The difference is one of focus: agenda-setting theory emphasizes the power of the media in setting the public and the policy agenda, whereas agenda-building theory posits a reciprocity between the media and other sources or society in general in building the public and the policy agenda. Applying this to corporate reputation, agenda-building theory suggests that corporate reputation can be formed by various information sources, including monitoring groups, activist groups, corporations themselves, and bloggers, as well as the news media. This entry gives an overview of the two different roots of agenda-building theory, the common view of agenda-building theory in the field of mass communication, criticisms of the common view, and the implications for corporate reputation.
Agenda-Setting Theory
Xiaoqun Zhang
Agenda-setting theory explains how news media influence the public’s attention and perceptions of certain objects or issues. Publics need to get information to know what is happening in the world, to understand the world, and to make decisions to better their lives. Due to the limitation of first-hand information from direct experience, people obtain much of their information from second-hand sources. News media are one of the major sources from which people can get the information they need. According to agenda-setting theory, when people use the information from news media to know and understand the world and to make decisions, news media will have influences on them. Agenda-setting theory explores these influences and argues that news media have the power to focus public attention on a few key objects and issues and affect their perceptions of these objects and issues. Agenda-setting theory was first proposed and has been developed primarily in the political communication settings. It has been increasingly applied in business communication settings because scholars believe that the central tenet of this theory works equally well there. This entry first briefly introduces the development of agenda-setting theory. Then, it elaborates on the application of agenda-setting theory in the exploration of the relationship between media coverage and corporate reputation.
Alignment Between Identity and Reputation
Luca Cian
Alignment is a cyclic and *negotiational* process aimed at creating synergy between the goals of a company and the needs of internal and external stakeholders. Consequently, companies need to develop a strategy for aligning their internal communications and human resource management practices with their externally projected values and goals. Alignment not only is a question of communication and (corresponding) actions but also involves the entire organizational culture, which conditions and affects the interactions between all the members of an organization. Alignment is crucial to the formation of long-term relationships with internal and external stakeholders and thus has an impact on sales, internal turnover, and productivity. This entry discusses the process of alignment between identity and reputation and how alignment is measured.
Anonymity and Privacy
Craig R. Scott
Anonymity and privacy both involve some degree of information concealment. Such concealment or the failure to keep information anonymous or private can influence various assessments of reputation. Anonymity and privacy may be especially relevant in online settings, but they are linked to reputation in various offline settings as well. This entry defines anonymity and privacy and discusses how they relate to organizations’ reputations.
Anticipatory Impression Management
Scott Graffin
Anticipatory impression management occurs when an organization or its spokesperson tries to positively influence stakeholder perceptions in an effort to enhance or preserve the organization’s social approval when that acceptance and approval face a defined threat. Anticipatory impression management differs from impression management in that the former occurs before the trigger becomes known to stakeholders whereas the latter takes place after the trigger becomes known. Thus, impression management by itself is reactive. Organizational leaders have the opportunity to engage in anticipatory impression management when (a) they anticipate that a trigger will occur and may become known to stakeholders or (b) a trigger, as yet unknown to stakeholders, has already occurred and organizational leaders anticipate that it may become known to stakeholders. In such instances, the firm’s leaders may engage in tactics meant to influence the frame that will serve as a basis for subsequent stakeholder interpretation if and when the trigger becomes known. Once the trigger does become known to the stakeholders, some of their interpretations of it are apt to be unaffected by the organization’s attempts to frame the situation, but the intent of anticipatory impression management is that the organization’s frame will be a lens through which the stakeholders view and interpret the trigger, thus leading to reactions that are more favorable to the firm than they otherwise would have been. This entry describes the advantages of anticipatory impression management over reactive impression management and then discusses how the two may work together.
Apologia Theory
Matthew W. Seeger & Timothy L. Sellnow
Apologia theory, or theories of apology, was developed from rhetorical theory. It describes a specific form, class, or genre of communication behaviors and messages that occur after a crisis or following an accusation of wrongdoing. The accusation of wrongdoing may involve an individual, group, or organization. An apology is a general expression of regret and remorse and often includes a request for forgiveness. These communication behaviors seek to explain what happened and improve, repair, or restore a damaged image or reputation. Theories of apology are associated with crisis communication, public relations, and political communication. This entry describes several different theories of apology.
Asia,Corporate Reputation in
Mark Chong
It is convenient but misleading to think of Asia as a monolithic entity. Indeed, the historical, cultural, political, economic, and religious differences between Asian nations—even those within a single economic bloc, such as ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)—are significant. Nonetheless, there are several characteristics that define corporate reputation in Asia. This entry discusses the importance of corporate reputation in Asia, challenges for multinational companies operating in Asia, challenges for Asian companies in maintaining a good reputation, and effects of a good corporate reputation on companies in the region.
At-Risk Populations
Damion Waymer
At-risk population is a term that is broadly used but has varied definitions. Fields that commonly use the term are public and environmental health; medical, risk, and emergency management; and civil rights and civil liberties. Although definitions of the term vary, a generally agreed-on definition considers at-risk populations to be populations whose members may have additional needs before, during, and after an incident or event of magnitude in functional areas, such as maintaining independence, communication, transportation, supervision, and medical care. Those members in need of additional response assistance may include but are not limited to people with disabilities, those who live in institutionalized settings, the elderly, children, people from diverse cultures, those who have limited language proficiency, or those who are transportation disadvantaged. This entry discusses how corporations’ interactions with at-risk populations can leave them vulnerable to threats to their corporate reputation and how corporations can protect against or minimize this risk.
Sabine Einwiller
Attitudes are evaluations that persons hold with respect to different kinds of entities, ranging from abstract ideas (e.g., capitalism) to concrete objects (e.g., a specific make of car). In the area of corporate reputation, companies and organizations are the entities, or attitude objects, of focal interest. As attitudes can be strong predictors of behavior, they serve as indicators of whether people support a company, for example, by purchasing its products or shares, or whether they instead support a competitor toward which they hold a more favorable attitude. This entry starts with outlining the attitude concept before discussing attitude formation and the notion of attitudes in the field of corporate reputation.
Attribution Theory
W. Timothy Coombs
In the 1950s, Fritz Heider posited that people were naive psychologists who try to make sense of the world around them. Part of that quest for sense making involves people seeking to explain how and why events happen. For instance, a person sees a news story on television about a plane crash and automatically seeks to explain the cause of the crash. People can generate cause-and-effect relationships based on little evidence and may create such relationships where none actually exists. Returning to our example, the person might think the crash was a result of terrorist activities based simply on limited evidence from initial reports about the crash. Right or wrong, people regularly assign causation to events they encounter. Heider noted two trends about the attribution of causes. The first is that when people explain the behavior of others, they tend to attribute the cause to internal factors. It was something about the person that caused the event. The second is that when people explain their own behaviors, they tend to attribute the cause to external factors. It was something about the situation that caused the event. For example, two friends do poorly on a driving exam. One friend is likely to attribute the other’s failure to the friend’s poor driving skill but his or her own failure to poor weather conditions, a biased evaluator, or some other situational factor. This set of observations became known as the fundamental attribution error or correspondence bias. Heider’s ideas stimulated the development of research that examined perceptions of causation and the effects of those perceptions. Most of that research has been conducted in the area of social psychology. The research falls under the general heading of attribution theory. Attribution refers to the inference or perception of a cause. Attribution theory is a collection of theories rather than one, integrated theory. These theories all involved a cognitive approach to understanding how people make causal attributions about events and the implications of those causal inferences on subsequent affect and behavior. It should be noted that not all events are equal in initiating a causal explanation. Negative events are much more likely to trigger a causal search and analysis than positive events. This entry reviews two major lines of research in attribution theory: (1) the work of Harold Kelley and (2) the work of Bernard Weiner. Both individuals have developed distinct and influential research lines in attribution theory. After reviewing their work, the entry considers the way in which crises link attribution theory to corporate reputations.
Juan-Carlos Molleda
From an organizational perspective, authenticity is the degree to which an organization’s behavior is guided by its true self and its persona or identity and demonstrates consistency with its core values in making decisions, carrying out actions and operations, and planning and implementing strategic communications to build relationships with consumers, clients, and a variety of internal and external stakeholders. “Claimed” authenticity is not the same as “perceived” authenticity. That is, consumers, clients, and internal and external stakeholders are exposed to, engage with, and evaluate organizational claims and promises that reflect the organization’s true self and persona/identity against the organization’s behaviors and actions to form perceptions of authenticity. Harvard Business School professor Stephen Greyser notes that authenticity as a construct can be approached from four perspectives: (1) communications (talking authentically), (2) corporate core values and track record or behavior (being authentic), (3) corporate stewardship of core values (staying authentic), and (4) reputational reservoir and long-term generated trust (defending authenticity). Authenticity as a construct is relevant to the study and practice of corporate reputation because ideally organizations develop a public persona based on their core principles and values. This allows the formation of a corporate reputation that is sustainable over time. Any inconsistency between what the organization claims itself to be and the way it behaves may jeopardize its relationships with a multiplicity of stakeholders and tarnish the quality of these relationships. This entry discusses a strategic model of communication corporations use in conveying their authenticity, reveals the five genres of authenticity, and provides an example of an organization’s authenticity efforts in relation to external stakeholders’ perspectives.
Autocommunication Theory
Lars Thøger Christensen
Autocommunication takes place whenever senders act as receivers of the messages that they are conveying. This is often the case in the context of organizations because members are senders as well as receivers of messages from their own workplace. Autocommunication is therefore highly relevant in the context of corporate reputation. An organization’s reputation depends not only on the evaluations of external stakeholders but also—and perhaps increasingly so—on the perceptions and opinions of its own members. Members usually know their workplace better than other audiences and are, therefore, able to develop more sophisticated viewpoints and judgments of organizational reality than the typical external constituent. As such, members have the potential to influence how outsiders view the organization. Conversely, organizational reputations matter most to the people who actually work for or otherwise feel associated with the organization in question. People take pride in working for companies that are positively evaluated by the general public and use such reputations to boost the images they hold of themselves. Thus, for internal audiences the reputation of their organization is a mirror in which they communicate with and evaluate themselves as social beings. This latter point was clearly illustrated in Jane Dutton and Janet Dukerich’s (1991) now classic study of the New York Port Authority, in which employees used external perceptions of their workplace to judge their individual characters. This entry covers the theory of autocommunication and its implications for corporate reputation and managerial applications.
Sergio Godoy
The term benchmarking refers to a systematic, quantitative comparison between one or more key aspects of an organization and a referent considered the best example of that type of organization. Its purpose is to enhance the organization’s own performance and competitiveness. Well utilized, benchmarking can contribute decisively to a firm’s reputation by improving the quality of products and services—normally the most important driver of corporate reputation—as well as other relevant reputational drivers, such as innovativeness, a committed workforce, a well-tuned strategy, sound leadership, and a socially responsible governance structure. Additionally, leading companies that excel in one or more relevant aspects of their corporate performance—such as Google, Apple, BMW, or Lego—can become benchmarks in their own right across different industries worldwide, further enhancing their prestige and reputation platform. This entry first covers the key characteristics of benchmarking, the origins of benchmarking, and the pros and cons of benchmarking. It then describes the types of benchmarking most commonly used to determine corporate reputation.
Best Practices
Sarab K. Kochhar
Best practices can be simply defined as the processes, rules, or procedures that have attained a level of success. Best practices are accepted or even prescribed as being the most effective for a given situation or problem. Best practices are usually developed by professional associations, research groups, or other authoritative entities and are comprehensive, measurable, notably successful, and replicable. Measurable means that the goals are clear and the progress toward them can be measured. Replicable means that the practices are structured and documented clearly enough so they can be reproduced by other organizations. Some of the key advantages of using best practices are that they help set standards for organizational performance both internally and externally and can even bolster the credibility and reputation of an organization. This entry describes best practices as a way to provide organizations with solutions and a set of rules that can be adapted or used in a given situation. It also discusses some best practices in corporate reputation and how organizations can use those as benchmarking for their work.
Big Fish in Little Ponds
Erin E. Makarius & Steffanie L. Wilk
A big fish in a little pond is defined as an individual with a more positive reputation than the larger group (work unit or organization) within which he or she resides. The big fish in a little pond paradigm is important because it highlights the significance of multilevel reputation effects by including group perceptions of reputation along with individual ones. Specifically, the effects of the reputational context, or perceptions of the greater entity in which an individual is working (e.g., unit, group, team, organization), are important to take into consideration in combination with individual reputation perceptions because they can have different and joint effects on attitudes and behaviors in organizations.
Branch Identity
Klement Podnar
Branch identity can be defined as a mix of properties or characteristics common to all companies inside a particular industry. For instance, organizations in the same industry share many of the same goals, core competencies, shareholders, products or services, and other characteristics, which makes them not only competitive and distinctive but comparable as well. As such, branch identity, also known as industry-wide identity or industry identity, refers to common characteristics of companies operating within a respective industry. The key question is not what the distinguishing characteristics of a company are but, rather, what the shared features are among companies in a particular branch. In addition, customers and other stakeholders share similar expectations and demands of the companies that directly compete for their attention and affection. That forces companies not only into differentiation but into uniformity as well. For example, an airline must have its own planes, competent crews, the right to fly in and out of airports, safety and security as a number one priority, and reliable services. By not having these features, a company fails to meet the basic elements for being competitive in the airline industry. When a company’s goals are based on its knowledge, resources, capabilities, and core competences, the public is willing to accept the company as a competent, qualified, and relevant supplier of a particular product or service. In general, a particular company has to have these similarities in order to gain a license to operate inside the respective branch or industry. This entry covers the interrelationships between branch identity and corporate identity and discusses how branch identity relates to corporate reputation.
Stuart Roper
A brand is a mark, symbol, logo, design, or other form of distinguishing feature that identifies a manufacturer’s product from other brands or generic versions of the same. However, although product brands are perhaps still the most recognizable branded offerings, brands can also be services, people, or places. A product and a brand are not the same thing. A brand is a combination of functional and psychological values. The product may satisfy the functional values necessary for the customer (i.e., a car that transports someone from A to B). The psychological benefits, such as a feeling of success or prestige, may make a consumer choose to drive a Mercedes, for example, despite the additional expense. One of the purposes of branding is to gain a sustainable competitive advantage for the organization. The brand is a crucial element in the study of corporate reputation as it is the brand that is the repository of the reputation of the organization. This entry will now discuss the elements that help us recognize a brand, before giving a brief history of brands. It will then go on to discuss the benefits of brands from both the consumers’ and the organization’s perspective (brand equity), the importance of brand personality, and ideas on different approaches to managing brands. The increasing importance of the corporate brand will be detailed before this entry concludes with considerations of brand valuation.
Brand Bully
Dean E. Mundy
The terms brand bully and trademark bully refer to large corporations that use legal intimidation techniques to harass and threaten smaller companies when they perceive that smaller companies are trying to infringe on their trademark, such as with a similar product name or branding element. Often, brand bullies threaten litigation through cease-and-desist (C&D) letters, hoping that the smaller organization(s)—with fewer resources to enter into an expensive, drawn-out legal battle—will be cowed into discontinuing use of the trademark in question. Often, these large corporations argue that they are simply protecting important trademarks and brand elements, but the public typically views the larger corporation as a bully, unfairly wielding its power on a much smaller organization that is not a realistic threat. One of the additional challenges facing smaller organizations is that these cases are frequently not reported by the media. Lack of media coverage can benefit the brand bully, which does not want to bring public attention to its intimidating legal actions. Some traditionally cited examples of brand bullies include McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Disney. This entry discusses the legal decisions and laws related to brand bullying, the relationship of brand bullying to corporate shaming, and alternative ways in which the term brand bully is used.
Brand Co-Creation Model
Majken Schultz & Mary Jo Hatch
Co-creation is a relatively new concept emerging simultaneously in multiple fields including branding, community, and innovation studies. Co-creation arises in the mutual relationships organizations and their stakeholders form when brand is engaged. Co-creation can involve a multiplicity of stakeholders, such as nongovernmental organizations, business partners, and consumers, but is most often defined in relation to consumers, where it is seen as a new source of value creation. Value is created when consumers move from being passive receivers to active co-creators of the brand. Outcomes of co-creation range from participation in reconstructing brand meaning to collaboration on new product and service innovations. Co-creation has been facilitated by the spread of digital communication, which has encouraged brand co-creation by enabling companies to reach a broader range of consumers. Similarly, it enables consumers to engage in conversations with one another, which can also affect brand meaning and value. Co-creation challenges well-established brand management principles that emphasize taking corporate initiative to shape brands, and thus some regard it as a new brand logic. The rest of this entry describes the four “building blocks” that must be met for co-creation to succeed, and provides an example of a successful brand co-creation.
Brand Communities
Joshua M. Bentley
Brand communities are networks of consumers united by a desire to share their interest in, knowledge of, or enthusiasm for a particular brand. Brand communities can be based in particular geographic locations, or they can exist purely online through social media sites. In some cases, members of brand communities come together for special events like festivals or trade shows. Because brand communities are made up of people communicating about a brand, they have the potential to affect the brand’s reputation both inside and outside the brand community. Corporations often try to encourage or influence brand communities in the hope of generating positive word of mouth for their brand. This entry gives examples of brand communities and discusses why consumers participate in them. It also explains how brand communities affect corporate reputation and what corporations can do to support these communities.
Brand Journalism
Jennifer D. Greer
Brand journalism is a tactic used by companies and organizations to target and provide useful information to customers while promoting a company, product, or service. The term brand journalism is linked to a number of similar terms, including custom publishing, native advertising, corporate journalism, and branded or sponsored content. Marketers are increasingly relying on these techniques as they seek to build brands and brand values. As of 2013, marketers were investing a third of their budgets on average into direct-to-consumer content. Brand journalists are employed by news organizations, public relations (PR) and marketing firms, and large companies in in-house corporate newsrooms. Brand journalists use the techniques of journalism as part of an overall strategic communications plan to strengthen relationships and build trust with consumers. Consumer trust is a key component in perceptions of an organization’s reputation. This entry examines the evolution of brand journalism, the criticisms expressed against brand journalism, and the steps that can be taken to alleviate those concerns.
Brand Orientation
Magnus Fredriksson
The term brand orientation was coined in the beginning of the 1990s as an attempt to single out how brands could be used as a strategic resource rather than as an “add-on” to products. The concept was an answer to the prevailing idea—captured in idioms like “Customer is king” or “The customer is always right”—that corporations should establish an understanding of customers’ needs, get to know what it is that influences these needs, and thereafter engage themselves in activities that are intended to meet the needs of the most important customer groups. That is to say, they should be market oriented. In contrast to this, brand orientation highlights the importance of giving integrity to brands and sees it as a part of a corporation’s strategic intent, which ultimately affects its reputation. The rest of this entry describes eight activities that determine a corporation’s brand orientation, and discusses differences regarding the importance of brand orientation between corporations and public administration.
Business History
Rowena Olegario
Business history is the study of how business ventures evolve. Researchers in the field analyze the decisions made by business owners and managers, over time, within the physical, regulatory, political, cultural, and technological constraints imposed by their environments. This entry first recounts the emergence of business history as a distinct field. It then examines the link between reputation and business history and how those linkages can affect business leaders and their firms.
Business Journalism
Chris Roush
Business journalism refers to reporting and writing about businesses and about the economy. It commonly includes other beats such as labor, workplace, technology, personal finance, investment, and consumer reporting, in addition to investigative reporting focusing on these topics. It is also known as financial journalism. Business journalism is important to corporate reputation because what is written about companies often determines how a company is perceived by its outside constituencies, such as customers and potential employees. The rest of this entry provides a review of the early history of business journalism and newspaper financial pages, a discussion about how economic changes have affected business journalism, and an evaluation of the perception of business journalism.
Capability Reputation
Yuri Mishina
Capabilities are generally defined as a firm’s ability to use and combine resources to do something valuable or useful, such as produce a product or develop an innovation. Because stakeholders, whether they are customers, investors, suppliers, competitors, or someone else, do not have access to perfect information about a firm and its capabilities, they must instead use direct and vicarious observations of the firm’s actions and outcomes to make inferences about what its underlying capabilities are. Based on these inferences, stakeholders form beliefs about a firm’s skill sets and performance characteristics, such as its ability to innovate, produce high-quality products or services, provide quality management, and have strong financial performance, in addition to other aspects about what a firm can do or what it is likely to be able to accomplish. These stakeholder group–specific beliefs are referred to as *capability reputations*, and a firm may have numerous capability reputations that can vary depending on the specific aspects being evaluated. For example, it may be viewed as being able to produce high-quality products and being able to meet the expectations of the financial markets, but not for being particularly innovative or having very high-quality managers. These capability judgments are then used by stakeholders to make decisions about whether and how to interact with a particular firm. The rest of this entry briefly reviews the history of capability reputation research, how capability reputations are built or lost, and the implications of having a good or bad capability reputation.
Case Studies
James S. O’Rourke IV
A business case study is a narrative describing a problem, challenge, or opportunity in an organization that can be used to illustrate broader issues and generate discussion. For nearly a century, case studies have been a vital learning tool in business schools around the world and central to how many MBA (master of business administration) programs prepare managers to analyze and take action on real-world business situations. Moreover, corporate reputation research has advanced based on numerous case studies in the field. Case studies can help students develop the intellectual and analytic skills to solve problems that they have not yet encountered. This entry covers the characteristics of a business case, a description of the different types of cases, and the steps in the case-writing process.
Timothy Robert Hannigan
A categorical view of corporate reputation explains how organizations are grouped together in an economic market according to the attributes they share. Relevant stakeholders as audiences evaluate the reputations of these organizations based on their commonly shared features. This entry explains the coupling of criteria and audiences, meaningfully bound in a social category. It first discusses categories in management and organizational theory and then how criteria bond reputations to categories.
Cause-Related Marketing
Minette E. Drumwright
Increasingly, companies are supporting myriad causes through diverse marketing activities that are intended to enhance a company’s reputation. Cause-related marketing is an umbrella term that is often used to encompass these activities. A variety of other terms are used as well, including corporate social marketing, corporate societal marketing, cause branding, cause advertising, mission marketing, and passion branding. Irrespective of the term, these activities are marketing initiatives in which the resources of companies are used in the service of a cause. The resources may include professional time and know-how (e.g., marketing or advertising expertise) and/or other resources including access to media, money, in-kind contributions, and grassroots volunteer support. It is important to differentiate cause-related marketing from social marketing, which is the marketing of causes by nonprofit or public organizations without company involvement. This entry will provide background on the development of cause-related marketing, describe common forms, and address issues of effectiveness and ethics.
C. Erik Timmerman
The term *channel* is commonly used in at least two different ways. The first is to describe the format into which information is encoded for transmission between a sender and a receiver. For example, the entries in this encyclopedia utilize primarily a text-based channel. As a text-based message, the encyclopedia entries may be read in a variety of formats, whether in an electronic format (e.g., on one’s computer monitor, tablet, or smartphone) or printed into hard copy (e.g., as a page from a printer or in a bound book). With any of these methods, the information retains the original text-based channel that is perceived visually to be processed by the reader. The second way the term is used is to characterize the mechanism that carries a message from sender(s) to receiver(s). Often used in a manner synonymous with *medium*, this use of the term describes the methods and devices used for transporting information. For instance, contributors of these encyclopedia entries encoded their messages using a text-based format; however, readers can choose from a variety of different methods for reading the information, which could include different devices for reading, such as one’s tablet or a printed page. The different methods that readers can select represent their choices of a channel for receiving each contributor’s message. Understanding either usage of the term is important for corporate reputation scholars and practitioners because channels are essential for any form of information exchange. When considering channel as an information format, the way a message is encoded can affect the degree to which a recipient interprets the message as intended (or not intended) by the message designer. And when considering channel as medium, the method used for delivering a message can have a meaning of its own (e.g., some communication methods are viewed as more formal while others are informal) and simultaneously influence the degree to which a recipient is able to interpret the message as intended.
Chaos Theory
Carl Brønn
Chaos theory is a branch of mathematics that falls under complex systems theory and is concerned with the behavior of a special type of dynamic system. The distinguishing feature of this type of system is its extreme sensitivity to initial conditions in determining the system’s behavior. The well-known term butterfly effect describes a chaotic pattern studied by meteorologist Edward Lorenz in his work on predicting weather patterns in the early 1960s. The roots of chaos theory, however, go back to Isaac Newton and the concept of determinism and deterministic systems. In this perspective, a system’s initial conditions completely describe the system’s future behavior. In his studies of weather prediction in the early 1960s, Lorenz found that his very simple weather system models generated wildly different outcomes even though the initial conditions for two identical models differed only slightly. Lorenz summarized chaos theory as “when the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future” (Danforth, 2013). These conditions have since been found in systems from a broad range of disciplines and have important implications for the prediction and control of complex systems. Systems that are susceptible to chaotic behavior have a number of distinguishing features, including nonlinearity, feedback, strange attractors, and extreme sensitivity to initial conditions. This entry explains these features and discusses their implications for reputation management.
Character Assassination
Sergei A. Samoilenko
Character assassination is a deliberate and sustained effort to damage the reputation or credibility of an individual. The term could also be selectively applied to social groups, institutions, and corporations, which could all experience loss of reputation due to character assassination. Character attack is an inclusive concept that can be addressed from various academic perspectives, such as rhetoric, political science, propaganda studies, and others. This entry first examines the history of the study of character assassination and then highlights the fundamentals and typologies of character attacks. It concludes by discussing application areas of character assassination.
Co-Creation Theory
Maureen Taylor
Organizational reputations are socially constructed, and many different factors influence an organization’s reputation. The types and quality of a firm’s products and services will influence its reputation, as will the words and actions of its employees, consumers, stockholders, and other stakeholders. There are many types of reputations (actual, conceived, ideal, desired), but they all involve some kind of communication in their creation, maintenance, and sustainment. This entry covers the co-creation of value, the evolution of value creation, the chance of devaluation, and implications for reputation management.
Codes of Conduct
S. Prakash Sethi
Voluntary codes of conduct were created at the initiative of individual corporations, single and multi-industry groups, and regional and global organizations in response to globalization and the gap between existing regulatory regimes and the scope of corporate conduct that regulations are intended to cover that arises from the growth in the number of multinational corporations. From the perspective of public policy and corporate strategy, voluntary codes of conduct allow companies to create a proactive stance as to how they plan to address issues pertaining to environment and sustainability, social aspects of human resource utilization, and governance—specifically the transparency and accountability of corporate actions. The primary focus of these codes of conduct is to (a) address public concerns and build further trust in corporate assertions and (b) take actions that would ameliorate these concerns without unduly restricting corporate managers in the conduct of their business or imposing onerous regulatory oversight and heavy financial burdens. This entry covers the intellectual foundations underlying voluntary codes of conduct, the private law character of voluntary codes of conduct, three types of voluntary codes of conduct, and the deep void between the rhetoric and the reality of voluntary codes of conduct.
Cognitive Dissonance
Karen Freberg
Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable state of mind resulting from discrepancies between attitudes and past behavior or between two conflicting attitudes. Typically, people like to think that their attitudes are consistent or congruent with each other and with their behaviors. A person who values honesty should not cheat on an exam. When people behave in ways that are in contradiction with their attitudes or when they face two conflicting attitudes, they experience an unpleasant state of arousal, due at least in part to feelings of guilt and responsibility for contributing to a negative situation. People are motivated to reduce this stress. Dissonance can be reduced in a number of ways: (a) by changing the behavior, (b) by changing the conflicting cognition, (c) by changing the importance of the cognition, (d) by adding new cognitions, or (e) by ignoring or denying the information that produces conflict. Cognitive dissonance can be a powerful tool for influencing attitude and behavior changes, which, if done successfully by a firm, can affect a corporation’s reputation. The remainder of this entry provides examples of how dissonance can be reduced, how corporations can utilize cognitive dissonance to change stakeholders’ attitudes and behaviors, and how emerging media and endorsers can influence cognitive dissonance.
Alan Watkins
Paradoxically, coherence is both simple and extremely complex. Conceptually, it is a stable, dynamic pattern of variability within a complex system. It is this stable, dynamic pattern of variability that then facilitates healthy, functional change and evolution within that system. Coherence is therefore an integral part of sustaining a great corporate reputation because the state of coherence, in business and in biology, influences great leadership. This entry explains the characteristics of a coherent system and how coherence allows an organization to thrive.
Collective Intentionality
Christopher W. J. Steele
People often ascribe intentionality to collective actors, such as nations, corporations, and groups. Implicitly or explicitly, they assume that these actors have their own interests, dispositions, and habits, as well as their own distinctive orientations toward the world. A large body of social theory and research justifies this approach. Over time, collectives do develop typical ways of doing things, which shape the cognition and behavior of their memberships. This intentionality of a collective (i.e., its orientation to action or character) can play an important role in shaping its external reputations. In turn, such reputations influence the future character of the collective by making its members proud and inclined to maintain its character, for example, or by making them ashamed and keen to change it. The remainder of this entry addresses perspectives on the emergence and operation of collective intentionality and the relationship between collective intentionality and collective reputation.
Commercial and Political Speech
Karla K. Gower
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right of speech from government interference. Although the First Amendment was written in absolute terms—“Congress shall make no law”—the U.S. Supreme Court has never treated it as absolute, allowing the government to regulate some types of expression to varying degrees. Two such types or categories of speech that receive different levels of protection are commercial and political speech. Political speech, which is speech about issues of public importance, receives the greatest First Amendment protection from government regulation because such speech is seen as essential to self-governance and the protection of the democratic process. It is feared that the threat of government sanctions will “chill” individuals and cause them not to speak out on political issues. Commercial speech, on the other hand, is speech involving business or economic transactions. It receives lesser First Amendment protection under the premise that some government regulation of such speech is necessary to protect consumers from unscrupulous businesses. It is also believed that government regulation of commercial speech will not chill businesses; they will just find other ways to promote their products and services if their speech is restricted. Until the second half of the 20th century, commercial speech was not considered worthy of First Amendment protection at all. Not long after the U.S. Supreme Court extended the First Amendment’s reach to commercial speech, the Court recognized the political speech rights of corporations. Today, corporate speech can be either commercial or political, with both types receiving at least some protection from government regulation. But deciding whether corporate speech is commercial or political can be problematic. This entry will begin by talking about commercial speech and its treatment under the First Amendment. It will then discuss the tests used to classify corporate speech as either commercial or political. It will end with a discussion of how the courts treat political speech cases under the First Amendment.
Communication Strategy
Paul A. Argenti
Communication strategy is defined as an approach to communication within organizations focused on key constituencies and the appropriate channels to reach them, and measured in terms of meeting the organizations’ objectives. Strategic communication helps define and execute the strategy of the firm. A strategic approach to communication is critical not only to the execution of the organization’s strategy but also for presenting a sense of alignment from the organization to internal and external constituencies. This entry covers the importance of communication in executing the organization’s strategy, outlines the key components of communicating strategically, and discusses the impacts that communication strategy can have on corporate reputation.
Communicatively Constituted Organization Theory
Stefania Romenti
Communicatively constituted organization theory (CCO) concerns the idea that organizations are products of the communicative actions of the constituents involved. Organizations are built on individual and social processes of development of meanings, perceptions, social norms, and internal trust relationships. Since organizational reality is created through the cognitive processes of interpretation rooted in individual mental maps and shared among people, as Karl Weick wrote in the 1970s, communication is paramount for organizational functioning and effectiveness. Communication is the fuel that makes organizations come into being and survive. That being the case, the question that needs to be asked is “How does communication do that?” This entry answers that question by first discussing what is meant by “communication constitutes organizations” and what are the four main flows of constitutive communication. Second, the links between CCO theory and reputation development are discussed.
Complex Adaptive Systems
Carl Brønn
A complex adaptive system (CAS) is a special class of systems comprising a large collection of diverse, interacting parts that are interconnected in a hierarchical manner such that the organizational system functions without centralized control. The notion of a CAS has roots in complexity and chaos theories and has the potential for contributing to better understanding of the behavioral and social sciences. *Complex* refers to the numerous attributes of the world; the most important aspect is the nonlinear nature of relationships in the world. *Adaptive* relates to the focus on change and evolution, which are central behavioral traits of agents—individuals, groups, and societies—in response to their external environments. Finally, *system* focuses attention on the interconnections between agents within defined boundaries. The all-encompassing nature of reputation makes a compelling case for looking at it through the CAS perspective. Resource-based strategic management theory regards reputation as a valuable intangible organizational resource. As such, it is important to understand how reputation is created, how it contributes to the value-creating activities of the firm, and how to maintain it and improve its quality. The standard inquiry processes applied to answering these questions are closely linked to specific levels (hierarchies) of organizational abstraction. The weakness of these methods is that they individually provide a fragmented understanding of reputation. Additionally, management prescriptions tend to have a narrow focus. Consequently, a CAS can provide a holistic understanding of how reputation affects the entire organization. This entry discusses the unique properties of CASs, discusses reputation as an emergent systems property, and then addresses the implications of CASs for the “managing” of reputation.
Complexity Theory
Carl Brønn
Complexity theory is a relatively new intellectual endeavor that has its roots in the development and growth of systems theory. It is not a single body of knowledge in the sense that, for example, economics is. Rather, the theory has developed as an interdisciplinary study of systemic behavior. It includes fields such as economics, meteorology, biology, chemistry, and geology, as well as Kenneth Boulding’s idea of “multisexual” disciplines, such as biochemistry and behavioral economics. The hierarchical classification of different types of systems proposed by Boulding in 1956 implied that systems from different disciplines can share characteristics and thus be seen as “similar,” even though the language and units of measure are quite different. The emerging recognition that there were interesting resemblances, overlaps, and behaviors among systems in these diverse disciplines resulted in the establishment of the Santa Fe Institute in 1984 to formally explore the nature of complex systems behavior. Social systems and institutions, including modern business organizations, are classic examples of complex systems. Applying insights from complexity theory for understanding and influencing these entities typically results in recommendations that differ considerably from those proposed by perspectives that are anchored in traditional disciplines. This entry examines the central concepts of complexity theory and its ties to corporate reputation.