Investigating the role and significance of corporate stories in corporate reputation management

  • Sara Spear

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    A recent topic of academic interest within corporate reputation is the use of stories to build reputation. However, there is little empirical research in this area. This thesis investigates how stories are used as a corporate identity cue and the influence of stories on audiences (particularly organisation members), in order to bring insight into the role and significance of stories in corporate reputation management.

    The empirical study was conducted in two stages. The first stage involved content analysis of corporate history stories identified from the websites of 200 organisations in the for-­profit and non-profit sectors. The second stage involved case studies of two organisations in the UK energy industry, with qualitative and quantitative data collected using semi-structured interviews, documentary research, and observation research.

    The findings indicate that corporate stories can be used as a corporate identity cue by conveying reputation platforms which express corporate personality. However, the extent to which platforms are conveyed through corporate stories varies, indicating that the use of stories as a corporate identity cue is also variable. Using impression management theory to interpret corporate stories indicates that stories can influence audiences’ impressions of an organisation, and organisation members’ thinking, feelings, and behaviour. These findings bring new insight to the impression management literature, as well as supporting the existing literature. However, the findings indicate that stories need to be perceived as relevant and credible in order for stories to influence organisation members. Also, limited awareness of stories by managers and a lack of training in using stories are likely to limit the use of stories in corporate reputation management.

    The thesis contributes to the corporate story literature by developing a framework illustrating how corporate stories act as a corporate identity cue and influence audiences. Guidance is also provided for managers regarding the use of corporate stories as part of corporate reputation management. Future research should build on this study by investigating corporate stories from the perspective of a wider range of stakeholder groups, and in other industry and organisational contexts.

    Date of Award12 Apr 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Portsmouth
    SupervisorLillian Clark (Supervisor), Colin Wheeler (Supervisor) & Sarah Turnbull (Supervisor)

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