Organizational image and reputation are important components of the views external constituents hold of organizations. Because of the effects these variables have on profits, stock prices, and the company’s ability to attract the best applicants and employees, executives often monitor closely, and seek out ways to improve company reputations and the images that nonmembers hold about the company. In turn, reputation and image have become frequent topics of inquiry for organizational researchers.
Major Reviews, and Definitions and Distinctions between Image and Reputation
An important distinction in the traditions is that image is often studied from a micro perspective (e.g., individual perceptions of organizational image), whereas reputation is often studied from a macro perspective. Cable and Turban 2001 was the first to draw a distinction between image and reputation, where image was defined as the content of the beliefs held by a job seeker about an organization, and reputation was defined as the affective job seeker’s beliefs about the public’s affective evaluation of the organization. These definitions suggest that image refers to one’s own beliefs, while reputation refers to one’s beliefs about how others feel about a firm. A recent review, Lievens and Slaughter 2016, follows this same stance on the distinction between these two concepts, adding that reputation is affective, stable, collective, and global, while image is cognitive or affective, transient, individual, and specific, as discussed in Highhouse, et al. 2009. However, researchers with orientations that are more macro in nature, or a blend of micro and macro, have provided definitions that are somewhat different. For example, Dutton and Dukerich 1991 defines image in terms of the views held by internal stakeholders, as “the way they believe others see the organization, to gauge how outsiders are judging them” (p. 520). In this way, the Dutton and Dukerich definition is more like Cable and Turban’s definition of reputation. A review in Lange, et al. 2011 provided a more complex definition of reputation that included the dimensions of being known, being known for something, and generalized reputation.
Cable, Daniel M., and Daniel B. Turban. “Establishing the Dimensions, Sources and Value of Job Seekers’ Employer Knowledge during Recruitment.” Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management 20 (2001): 115–164.
A classic paper that elucidates the distinction between three dimensions of employer knowledge: employer familiarity, employer image, and employer reputation. This paper compares recruitment of new employees to companies’ marketing of products and services, discusses how employer knowledge is valuable to organizations, and provides propositions to guide future research.
Dutton, Jane E., and Janet M. Dukerich. “Keeping an Eye on the Mirror: Image and Identity in Organizational Adaptation.” Academy of Management Journal 34.3 (1991): 517–554.
This paper addresses how organizational image and identity affect how members view and adapt to significant organizational problems. The authors studied the reactions of employees of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to the problem of homeless people living and spending time at the Port Authority’s facilities. The authors conclude that an organization’s identity and image are critical for understanding how employees interpret and react to organizational issues.
Fombrun, Charles. Reputation. Boston: Harvard Business School, 1996.
This book has a number of case studies depicting how organizations across many different industries build and keep their reputations. The intent of the book is to help current managers understand their firms’ reputations so they can improve them.
Highhouse, Scott, Margaret E. Brooks, and Gary Greguras. “An Organizational Impression Management Perspective on the Formation of Corporate Reputations.” Journal of Management 35.6 (2009): 1481–1493.
This article reviews organizational reputation research from the early 2000s. It takes the perspective that organizations are social actors, trying to enhance outsiders’ impressions of their impressiveness (prominence and prestige) and respectability (high integrity).
Lange, Donald, Peggy M. Lee, and Ye Dai. “Organizational Reputation: A Review.” Journal of Management 37.1 (2011): 153–184.
Review of research on organizational reputation from the previous decade, focusing on three different conceptualizations/dimensions of reputation. The authors call for more research on the antecedents and consequences of these three dimensions, given that this three-component conceptualization (being known, being known for something, and generalized favorability) is rather new.
Lievens, Filip, and Jerel E. Slaughter. “Employer Image and Employer Branding: What We Know and What We Need to Know.” Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior 3 (2016): 407–440.
Reviews the research literature on employer image and employer branding since 2001, with a focus on progress in the literature since the publication of Cable and Turban 2001. Discusses antecedents and outcomes of image, along with mediating mechanisms and individual-difference moderators of the image-outcome relationship.
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