Sub-theme 09:

Dynamics of Legitimacy and Reputation in Practice

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Peter Kjr, Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Jennifer Bartlett, School of Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Josef Pallas, Department of Business Studies, Uppsala University, Sweden

Call for Papers

Issues around corporate legitimacy and reputation have become part of everyday life for organizations. With increasing public and media attention to organizational activities, a range of social actors, including large companies, NGOs, media, social movement groups, communities and others, are adding new dimensions to concepts of and practice around legitimacy and reputation. This sub-theme is concerned with the challenges and tensions in the notions of legitimacy and reputation and how they are worked upon in structure and practice.

The premise of the sub-theme is that while there is both a large literature on corporate reputation, public relations, and issues management on one hand, and on the other, the institutionalization of managerial and organizational ideas and their concrete translation into organizational practice, these two literatures have rarely been brought together. Thus the former strand of research sometimes stops short of the concrete organizing practices pertaining to the managerial concerns relating to reputation, legitimacy etc. At the same time, the latter strand of research has yet to engage more directly in the concrete organization of new forms of attempting to manage relations to the environment, to the media, to NGOs, to political bodies, and others, all of whom are deemed important for organizational legitimacy and for reputation.

Engaging with legitimacy and reputation involves new ways of knowing and organizing. It involves the elaboration of particular strategic perspectives on the organization and its environment, the creation of dedicated organization units or roles to enact such perspectives, and the shaping of particular types of strategic responses in relation to problems of legimacy and reputation. These complex dynamics open up interesting questions both about legitimacy and also of organizational reputation.

Going beyond the efforts of individual organizations to gain legitimacy simply by way of elaborating their formal organizational structures and decoupling of such structures from the daily activities, we would like to pay our attention to organizational practices that are explicitly dedicated to the management of reputation and legitimacy: how do such practices play out, how are they organized (and managed), what kinds of knowledge do they build upon, how does this knowledge relate to other forms of knowledge (and practices) within particular organizations, etc? Because of the internal-external nature of legitimacy and reputation, there may be particular implications for organizing practices and knowledge, and of new types of conflicts and dilemmas that may arise.

We invite contributions that relate to a variety of organization theory approaches ? ranging from institutional theory and resource dependency theory to sense-making, translation, and discursive approaches. We also invite contributions within public relations and reputation management.

We invite contributions that deal with a variety of organizational settings both those that are traditionally thought to have already engaged extensively with reputation management and public relation practices (key industrial sectors) and also settings where such practices are only emerging, such as culture and arts, education and research, health care, and social movement groups. We are also interested in what might be considered 'low-legitimacy' industries such as tobacco, armaments, and fast food, for example.


Peter Kjr?is Associate Professor in the Department of Organization, Copenhagen Business School. His primary research interest is the study of processes and institutions that contribute to define the identities and roles of businesses and organizations in modern society. Theoretically, he is working with institutional theory, economic sociology, discourse theory, and communication theory.

Jennifer Bartlett?is Senior lecturer at the School of Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations, Queensland University of Technology. Her research, teaching, and practice are in public relations and corporate communication with particular emphasis on public relations, reputation, corporate social responsibility, and legitimacy using institutional theory. She has produced more than 30 academic scripts for national and international academic forums and has received a number of best paper awards.

Josef Pallas?is Lecturer in the Department of Business Studies, Uppsala University. His current research is focusing on the increased medialization of the Western economy and the implications this has for the way modern organizations are governed. By using different strands of institutional theory and Public Relations theory, he is interested in explaining the way institutional practices are created, maintained and disrupted by individual organizations.

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