The Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation researches how reputations of organisations are created, sustained, destroyed and rehabilitated.
Our work is rooted in the following core themes:
- Reputation is relational: firms do not own their reputations – these are owned by others. Corporations and institutions can influence this, but they do not control it.
- Multiple reputations: organisations do not have a single reputation; they have a reputation for something with someone, which can mean several different, even competing, reputations. There is no single measure of reputation.
- Reputation intermediaries: reputations are influenced in different ways and to differing degrees by intermediaries, including the media, regulators, ratings agencies and professional advisers.
- The importance of reputation lies in its signalling power: in the absence of full information, it can create enduring – and distorted – perceptions.
The following is a list of published research for 2014-2022. Research conducted or written up while the authors (in bold) were funded by the Centre. Those marked with an * are or were Postdoctoral Research Fellows.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
'We put forward a framework enabling organizations to diagnose the reputational risk of AI failures and to develop their response strategies more systematically.'
- Holweg, M., Younger, R., Wen, Y.*: 'The Reputational Risks of AI'. California Management Review, January 2022.
A themed symposium in the Journal of Business Ethics (163, pages173–181; 2020), co-edited by our Senior Research Fellow Rowena Olegario, 'to explore the limits and possibilities of corporate reputation for enabling corporate accountability' - 'Pathways to Corporate Accountability - Corporate Reputation and Its Alternatives' (articles 1-6).
'We study the effects of actors’ audience-specific reputations on their levels of success with different audiences in the same field. Extending recent work that has emphasised the presence of multiple audiences with different concerns, we demonstrate that considering audience specificity leads to an improved understanding of reputation effects.'
- Ertug, G.,Yogev, Tamar*, Lee, Y. G., Hedström, P.: 'The Art of Representation: How Audience-specific Reputations Affect Success in the Contemporary Art Field'. Academy of Management Journal, 2016.
1) 'We present a model that explains why investment bankers struggle to manage conflicts of interest. Banks can build a type reputation for technical competence by performing complex deals that may not serve their clients' interest; on the other hand, banks can sustain a behavioural reputation by refraining from doing so.'
- Chen, Zhaohui; Morrison, Alan D.; Wilhelm, W. (2015). 'Traders vs. Relationship Managers: Reputational Conflicts in Full-Service Investment Banks'. Review of Financial Studies, v. 28 (4) pp. 1153-1198.
2) 'We develop a model in which individual and institutional reputation concerns conflict with one another to study why investment bank reputation concerns may have diminished in recent years.'
- Chen, Zhaohui; Morrison, Alan D.; Wilhelm, W. (2014): 'Investment Bank Reputation and ‘Star’ Cultures'. Review of Corporate Finance Studies, v. 2 (2) pp. 129-153.
3) 'We discuss the commitment mechanisms that underpin social orderings. We categorise commitments in relationships along a hierarchy that runs from the most extralegal to the most legally intensive devices.'
- Morrison, Alan D.; Wilhelm, W. (2015): 'Trust, Reputation, and Law: The Evolution of Commitment in Investment Banking'. Journal of Legal Analysis, v. 7 (2) pp. 363-420.
'This paper develops a new social media-based brand reputation tracker by mining Twitter comments for the world’s top 100 brands using Rust-Zeithaml-Lemon’s value-brand-relationship framework, on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. The paper demonstrates that brand reputation can be monitored in real-time and longitudinally, managed by leveraging the reciprocal and virtuous relationships between the drivers, and connected to firm financial performance. The resulting measures are housed in an online longitudinal database and may be accessed by brand reputation researchers.' (The link to the data is in the title of the paper, below.)
- Rust, R.T., Rand, W., Huang, M-H., Stephen, A., Brooks, G.*, Chabuk, T.: 'Real-time brand reputation tracking using social media'. Journal of Marketing, April, 2021.
1) 'We investigate why top-down directives aimed at eradicating corruption are ineffective at altering on-the-ground practices for organisations that have adopted industry-wide “gold standards” to prevent bribery and corruption.'
- David-Barrett, E.*, Yakis-Douglas, B.*, Moss-Cowan, A.*, Nguyen, Y. (2017): 'A Bitter Pill? Institutional Corruption and the Challenge of Antibribery Compliance in the Pharmaceutical Sector'. Journal of Management Inquiry v. 26 (3) pp. 326-347.
2) 'Transparency in the extractives sector is widely seen as an important tool for improving accountability and deterring corruption. Yet for those very reasons, it is a puzzle that so many governments in corruption‐prone countries have voluntarily signed up to greater scrutiny in this area by joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).'
- David-Barrett, E.*; Okamura, K.* (2016): 'Norm Diffusion and Reputation: The Rise of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative'. Governance, v. 29 (2) pp. 227-246.
3) 'The proliferation of anti-bribery laws in recent years, particularly with the passage of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, sends a firm signal to companies that norms concerning corruption in international business have changed. With the increase in legal risk has come an increase in reputational risk. However, these laws and the cultures of enforcement around them, send conflicting messages about bribery being avoidable or indeed unethical.'
- David-Barrett, E*. (2014): 'Are Some Bribes More Harmful than Others? Exploring the Ethics Behind Anti-bribery Laws'. Journal of Interdisciplinary Economics, v. 26 (1-2) pp. 119-144.
'By exploiting variation in nationalities of foreign victims in local terror attacks, we identify distortionary effects of terrorism on country reputations and corporate sales to foreign countries. The effects of terrorism are economically and statistically significant, persistent, and more pronounced after attacks with casualties and high levels of foreign media coverage.'
- Canayaz, Mehmet and Darendeli, A. (2019) 'Guilty by Association: The Effects of Terrorism on Country Reputation and Corporate Activity.'
Employees and identity
'How does a hobby evolve into a business? This paper examines how entrepreneurs transition from freelance ventures—creating organisations “on the side” to test the entrepreneurial waters while maintaining full-time employment—to establishing formal businesses. I investigate this entrepreneurial emergence through a qualitative study of pop-up and underground restaurants.'
- Demetry, Daphne* (2017). 'Pop-up to Professional: Emerging Entrepreneurial Identity and Evolving Vocabularies of Motive'. Academy of Management Discoveries, v. 3 (2) pp. 187-207.
How communication style and role gender norms within project categories help shape evaluations by crowdfunders.
- McSweeney, Jordan J., McSweeney, Kevin T.*, Webb Justin W., Devers, Cynthia E: 'The right touch of pitch assertiveness: Examining entrepreneurs' gender and project category fit in crowdfunding' (Journal of Business Venturing, July 2022).
Hedge fund activism
1) 'We use a social network framework to study interactions between hedge fund activists and institutional investors. Actively-managed funds whose managers are socially connected to activists are more likely to increase holdings in target stocks during activist campaigns. More importantly, connected investors vote against target management more often, and the effect is more pronounced when they raise their stakes.'
- He, Yazhou (Ellen)*; Li, Tao. 'The Benefits of Friendship in Hedge Fund Activism.' (2018).
2) 'This paper utilises a rich literature on institutional investors' governance roles and develops simple measures of institutional discontent expressed through holding, trading and voice channels to predict hedge fund activism target selection.'
- He, Yazhou (Ellen)*. 'Dissatisfied Investors and Hedge Fund Activism.' (2017).
Human rights and soft law
1) 'Globalisation, largely fuelled by foreign direct investment, is undeniably associated with a wide range of benefits, particularly in terms of economic growth. However, globalisation is also accompanied by serious dangers, especially with regard to sustainability, which includes environmental and human rights (HR) issues.'
- Mota, Rita*. (2018). 'Banks as Human Rights Enforced-A Comparative Analysis of Soft Law Instruments.' Am. U. Int'l L. Rev. 34.
2) 'Public pressure is essential for providing multinational enterprises (MNEs) with motivation to follow the standards of human rights conduct set in soft law instruments, such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. But how does the public judge MNE involvement in human rights violations? We empirically answer this question drawing on an original survey of American adults.'
- Amengual M., Mota R.*, Rustler A.: 'The "Court of Public Opinion": public perceptions of business involvement in human rights violations'. Journal of Business Ethics (forthcoming).
This is a study of identity and reputation in a management consultancy, which illustrates how identity work at the individual level can buffer the identity deficit at an organisational level.
Our former Research Fellows William Harvey and Milena Mueller Santos worked with Tim Morris, Professor of Management Studies at Saïd Business School, and their paper, 'Reputation and Identity Conflict in Management Consulting', won the Colonel Lyndall F. Urwick Prize in 2017 for an outstanding piece of research relevant to management consultancy.
Reputation and identity conflict in management consulting, Harvey, W. S.*, Morris, T., Müller Santos, M.*
- Video presentation by the authors
'We study product innovation rumours and find that they shape perceptions inside and outside the firm. Product innovation rumours are used despite the debated legitimacy of technology blogs. Rumours augment validated knowledge from more legitimate sources that may not be freely available. Firms can influence external actors through selective revealing and seeding of rumours. Rumours address the paradox of openness by forming an informal means of gathering insight.'
- Hannigan, Timothy R.*; Seidel, Victor P; Yakis-Douglas, Basak*. (2018). 'Product Innovation Rumors as Forms of Open Innovation.' Research Policy, v. 47 (5) pp. 953-964.
'The possibility that economic competition puts working and employment conditions under pressure is a frequently voiced concern in debates on international trade. We provide an empirical assessment of the argument that competition for world markets has generated a race to the bottom in labor standards.'
Guasti, A.*, Koenig-Archibugi, M.: 'Has global trade competition really led to a race to the bottom in labor standards?'. International Studies Quarterly (forthcoming).
The purpose of this paper is to advance micro-level theorising of sociocultural post-merger integration (PMI) by merging insights from international business and management research on the cognitive and affective dimensions of PMI.
- 'Towards a process model of emotional sensemaking in post-merger integration: linking cognitive and affective dimensions', Schlindwein, E.*, and Geppert, M., Critical Perspectives on International Business, June 2020
'Using annual ratings from nearly 300 interest groups, we estimate the ideological locations of Republican legislators in order to map their party's factional structure.'
- Bendix, W. and MacKay, J.* (2017). 'Partisan Infighting Among House Republicans: Leaders, Factions, and Networks of Interests.' Legislative Studies Quarterly, 42(4), pp. 549-577.
Organisational body work
'In this article, we review management and organizational research that describes and explains “organizational body work”— purposeful, organizationally embedded efforts to shape human bodies. We conceptualize human bodies in terms of three dimensions—materiality, meaning, and functionality—and argue that organizational body work is constituted by programs of purposeful effort involving activities situated in and shaped by organizational life.'
Lawrence, Thomas B., Schlindwein, E.*, Jalan, R.*, Heaphy, Emily D: 'Organizational Body Work: Efforts to Shape Human Bodies in Organizations'; Academy of Management Annals, April 2022.
'We measure the influence of reputation rankings on individuals’ perceptions of firms. Through experimental design, we vary whether and how participants are exposed to a reputation ranking alongside other information about a firm.'
- Barnett, Michael L.; Leih, Sohvi. (2018). 'Sorry to (Not) Burst Your Bubble: The Influence of Reputation Rankings on Perceptions of Firms.' Business and Society, v. 57 (5) pp. 962-978.
'We propose that the media has an active role in shaping how external audiences come to understand and make sense of a scandal, independent of the actual transgressions. We investigate the evolution of meaning and its effect on Members of Parliament (MP) resignations during the 2009 British Parliamentary Expense Scandal.'
- Hannigan, T.*, Bundy, J., Graffin, S., D., Wade, J., B., Porac, J. (2015). 'The Social Construction of Scandal: the Role of Media in the British Parliamentary Expense Affair.' Academy of Management Proceedings, v. 2015 (1).
Social networks and brands
'Influencer marketing is prevalent in firm strategies, yet little is known about the factors that drive success of online brand engagement at different stages of the consumer purchase funnel. The findings suggest that sponsored blogging affects online engagement (e.g., posting comments, liking a brand) differently depending on blogger characteristics and blog post content, which are further moderated by social media platform type and campaign advertising intent.'
- Hughes, C., Swaminathan, V., Brooks, G.* (2019). 'Driving Brand Engagement Through Online Social Influencers: An Empirical Investigation of Sponsored Blogging Campaigns.' Journal of Marketing.
Social structures and big data text analysis
'We are observing a renewal of approaches to text and content analysis. By opening up the toolkit of computational linguistics methods for text analysis, Big Data may bring about fresh synthesis and reshape classic debates around social structure.'
- Hannigan, Timothy* (2015). 'Close encounters of the conceptual kind: Disambiguating social structure from text.' Big Data & Society.
1) 'This paper investigates how we infer the status of others from their social relationships. In a series of experimental studies, we test the effects of a social relationship's type and direction on the status judgements of others.'
- Betancourt, N., Kovács, B. and Otner, S.M.*(2018). 'The Perception of Status: How We Infer the Status of Others from Their Social Relationships.' Network Science, v. 6 (3), pp.319-347.
2) 'Merton’s famous essay on recognition and rewards in scientific careers, "The Matthew Effect in Science”, has reached middle age. The authors engage with Merton’s cumulative status advantage, and go further to identify downsides of increased recognition both for individuals and for the status system itself.'
- Otner, S.M.* (2018). 'Older, But Wiser? The ‘Matthew Effect’ at 50: Introduction to the Dialog.' Journal of Management Inquiry, v. 27 (4), pp. 359-361.
3) 'Current research on status hierarchy dynamics focuses on the potential for, and constraints to, individual mobility. In this essay, I argue that Merton’s Matthew Effect incorrectly categorises activity below a status threshold as linear. This misspecification calls into question existing models of competitions for social status.'
- Otner, S.M.* (2017). 'Near-Winners in Status Competitions: Neglected Sources of Dynamism in the Matthew Effect.' Journal of Management Inquiry.
Stigma and legitimacy
'Based on an in-depth historical study of how Thomas Cook’s travel agency moved from stigmatisation to legitimacy among the elite of Victorian Britain, we develop a model of organisational destigmatisation.'
- Hampel, C.E.*, Tracey, P. (2017). 'How Organizations Move from Stigma to Legitimacy: The Case of Cook’s Travel Agency in Victorian Britain.' Academy of Management Journal, v. 60 (6), pp. 2175-2207.
1) 'Our study theorises and tests why organisations engage in more external transparency as an open strategy practice and the share-price related outcomes associated with these practices.'
- Yakis-Douglas, B.*, Angwin, D., Ahn, K., and Meadows, M. (2016) 'Opening M&A Strategy to Investors: Predictors and Outcomes of Transparency During Organizational Transition.' Long Range Planning, Special Issue on Open Strategy.
2) 'We develop and test a set of hypotheses on investors' reactions to a specific form of impression management: public presentations of overall strategy by Chief Executive Officers (CEOs).'
- Whittington, Richard; Yakis-Douglas, Basak*; Ahn, Kwangwon. (2016). 'Cheap Talk? Strategy Presentations as a Form of Chief Executive Officer Impression Management.' Strategic Management Journal, v. 37 (12) pp. 2413-2424.
- Watch a video presentation explaining the research
The Reputation game
A book exploring the dynamics of reputation through research and analysis, case studies and practical insights.
The Reputation Game – The Art of Changing How People See You, by David Waller and our director Rupert Younger, analyses the interactions of the 'three dice' of reputation: behaviours, networks and narratives.
Theory of the firm
'This article argues that the purpose of any organization is to sustain a "corporate mind": a set of long-lived beliefs about the world-as-it-is and intentions about the world-as-it-will-be that drives organizational activity. Corporate minds allow for complex and valuable forms of social cooperation.'
- Morrison, Alan D., Mota, Rita*: 'A theory of organizational purpose' (Academy of Management Review, September 2021).
In 2014/15 we worked with law firm DLA Piper and research firm Populus on a project looking at the breakdown in trust between corporations, politics and the media.
Two of our Research Fellows, Elizabeth David-Barrett and Daphne Demetry, worked with the data gleaned from a number of Populus surveys to identify how and where trust had diminished, and suggest ways to work towards rebuilding it. The analysis was captured in the report 'Rebuilding Trust in Business'.