Date of Award
Master of Arts in Communication
This paper focuses on the growing study of corporate reputation management and the potential benefits of focusing management attention on building, sustaining, and defending the corporate brand's reputation. Specifically, the purpose of the paper is to provide a logical justification for major corporations to add the role of chief reputation officer to their organizational structures in order to properly manage this significant intangible asset.
Secondary research of print and electronic news media coverage was conducted to document a case history of the reputation crisis and ultimate demise of Big Five accounting firm Andersen (more commonly known as Arthur Andersen). The case history was developed to provide a significant example of the negative consequences of ignoring corporate reputation management.
Because the study of corporate reputation management is relatively new, definitions of corporate reputation and reputation management are also presented to introduce the basic tenets of reputation management science. These definitions are drawn from the related disciplines of reputation management, corporate communications, brand management, corporate branding, identity, image, public relations, and integrated marketing communication. A review of multidisciplinary literature indicated a lack of consistency in the definitions that may be hindering the widespread adoption of formalized corporate reputation management.
Secondary research on the concept of chief reputation officer revealed two academics and one practitioner coming from the reputation management perspective who have previously argued for the adoption of the role. However, the arguments lacked a comprehensive list of responsibilities, clear and tangible support such as short case histories, and fully developed justification and rationale. To rectify the deficiencies of these existing arguments, the paper offers an executive summary for corporate senior management and boards of directors to justify the chief reputation officer by detailing the role's breadth and depth of responsibilities and providing a comprehensive list of the substantial benefits created by a good corporate brand reputation.
Further support for the chief reputation officer role and formalized reputation management is provided through analysis of unplanned communications involved during the Andersen reputation crisis. The effect of negative unplanned communications from stakeholders and negative brand associations that spilled over from the accounting industry's reputation commons added credence to the theory that poor reputations feed on themselves.
An assessment of the research and related case histories indicated that management of corporate reputation involves complex internal and external factors that are well beyond the purview of the public relations and corporate communications functions. It also indicated that reputation is affected by multidimensional relationships between corporate brands and their stakeholders that can best be managed by a full-time senior executive who is singularly focused on building, sustaining, and defending the corporate brand's reputation.
Gustafson, Stephen E., ""People Just Don't Seem to be Listening": A Case for a Functional Approach to Reputation Management" (2003). Theses. 724.
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