An Analysis of the Structure of Corporate Reputation: Implications for Potential Consumers, Employees, Investors and Local Communities
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There is a general consensus amongst academics and practitioners that good corporate reputation is a valuable intangible asset of organisations that influences their functioning and profitability of organisations. Consequently, corporate reputation has attracted the research interest of academics and practitioners from fields such as marketing, strategic management, organisational behaviour and human resource management. Research evidence suggests that individuals may rely on corporate reputation when making decisions with regard to contexts such as: purchasing of products and services, seeking employment, purchasing of shares or accepting the operations of an organisation in different communities. Thus, an organisation’s reputation should be managed in ways that would contribute to their ability to attract the support they need from their key constituents, such as potential consumers, employees, investors and local communities. Although it has been recognised that corporate reputation needs to be managed, there are several weaknesses in previous research concerned with corporate reputation management. First, there is limited theoretical elaboration regarding the underlying principles used by individuals in forming images of firms and overall corporate reputation. Second, there is limited theoretical understanding of the reasons why individuals rely on a firm’s reputation when making various decisions. Third, there is a scarcity of comprehensive empirical studies investigating the relationship between the structure and implications of corporate reputation for attracting the support of key constituents. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to a theoretical and practical understanding of the management of corporate reputation in a way that improves the firm’s ability to attract consumers, employees, investors and the support of local communities. To achieve this aim the research integrates corporate citizenship, institutional theory and social psychology theory in developing a theoretical framework for studying the relationship between the structure of corporate reputation and its implications for attracting constituent support. On the basis of this framework, the research developed two propositions regarding the structure of corporate reputation. A large-scale survey is used to examine these theoretical propositions. The results indicate that the variation in individuals’ ratings of the importance of the elements of corporate reputation is not related to the demographic profile of the individual. Rather, it can be attributed to differences in the decision context. Contrary to the general trend, three elements conceptualised as indicative of the patriotic appeal of a firm were rated consistently high or consistently low regardless of the relationship considered with a firm. Specifically, these elements indicated whether a firm: 1) is Australian owned; 2) provides Australian made products and services; and 3) invests its profits in Australia. Consistent with the first proposition, the set of 46 elements, which were conceptualised as relevant to the reputation of firms, significantly varied in their contribution to the decision considered by individuals with regard to firms. The findings also indicate that the reputation elements can be conceptually organised into broad dimensions. Consistent with the second proposition, most of these dimensions varied in content and importance across the four decision contexts. The above findings suggest that, similarly to stereotypes, corporate reputation structure is hierarchically organised and conveys different meaning according to the decision context considered by individuals. It is concluded that claims of universality of the structure of corporate reputation cannot be supported when we seek to explain the implications of corporate reputation for attracting various forms of constituent support.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of International Business and Asian Studies
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