Damage Control (201600095)

In our highly mediated society, combined with a turbulent and competitive business environment, corporate reputation has consolidated its significance as one of the most important intangible assets of any organization. In times of greater transparency and increasing criticism from stakeholders, corporate reputation has further consolidated its importance due to its central role in building and maintaining trust. The reputation of an organization may also serve as an extrinsic reminder of quality, especially in commercial contexts where product assessment opportunities are limited (e.g., in the case of healthcare). Furthermore, a favourable corporate reputation is thought to protect and safeguard firms in times of crisis, facilitating damage control. Based on this, it is not surprising that modern economics attributes 70%-80% of a firm’s market value as emerging from intangible assets such as brand equity, intellectual capital, and goodwill, even though these assets remain difficult to place a value on. 

Since people do not necessarily base their everyday life decisions on reality, but rather on their perception of reality, organizations have the opportunity to (to a certain extent) influence the image that people form about their organization by managing their corporate reputation. In this module, students will act as communication professionals and are asked to advise a particular organization on how to safeguard and improve its reputation.  

This module includes four components:

  1. 1.2 Project: Reputation and Crisis Management
  2. 1.2 Theory: Strategic Corporate Communication
  3. 1.2 Research Methodology: Data Collection and Scale Construction
  4. 1.2 Academic and Professional Skills: Crisis Response & Media Representation

1.2 P: Reputation and Crisis Management
Having been asked for advice by a typical organization, in this component students work in groups of 5 to measure, analyse, and improve the reputation of this organization. The project consists of four parts:

  1. Identity analysis. Reputation and identity are closely connected concepts with, presumably, the reputation of an organization being part of its identity. Therefore, before dealing with reputational questions, students first focus on identity management by addressing concepts such as the mission, vision, strategy and core values of an organization.
  2. Measuring reputation (theory and instrument). After familiarizing themselves with the essentials of corporate communication and reputation management in particular, students design a reputation measurement instrument that has the potential to inform the organization in question about its strengths and weaknesses according to relevant stakeholders. Focusing on a survey instrument, students are asked to devise the concepts that make up reputation and that should therefore be subject to investigation among stakeholders. The chosen concepts will be based on literature research in which students will learn how to translate different concepts on reputation from the literature into a coherent theoretical framework. When creating their survey, students are also required to take account of its form and procedure in order to increase the representativeness of the study and maximize convenience for respondents.
  3. Reputation analysis and consultancy. Based on statistical analyses, students will analyse the reputation of the organization. Furthermore, students will advise the organization on how to improve its reputation among its stakeholders by means of a consultancy report, pitch, and a meeting with the board of directors of the organization, based on their analysis.
  4. Proactive media attention. Media attention can help an organization to gain attention in the marketplace, providing clarity and credibility for stakeholders, because positive news stories can reinforce a positive corporate reputation. In this assignment, students design a media strategy and plan that highlight the strength(s) of the organization in order to gain positive media attention. 

1.2 T: Strategic Corporate Communication
In this module component, students gain insight into the relevant theories in the field of corporate communication. The topics that will be addressed here include: identity, image and reputation management; mission and vision management; stakeholder management; corporate social responsibility; crisis communication; media coverage and representation; and (corporate) journalism.

All these topics are introduced in the study material. Students first read the essential information in the book provided. Then, in workshops, they will be provided with the opportunity to ask questions to deepen their understanding. The aim here is to apply and compare theories and concepts as input for the project. 

1.2 R: Data Collection and Scale Construction
In this module component, students will become familiar with multiple data collection methods, with a focus on the survey instrument. Classical test theory and scale construction will be introduced to deepen their understanding of this particular method. The construction of data collection protocols and procedures will also be discussed.  

1.2 S: Crisis Response & Media Representation
When organizations experience a crisis situation, this typically involves and affects multiple stakeholders. Because a crisis situation can seriously impact on an organization’s performance and generate negative outcomes such as reputational damage, anger and negative word-of-mouth. Effective crisis communication and damage control are essential. 

Dealing with the news media is an important task for communication professionals. On the one hand, an organization wants to be in the news because of a product launch or recent positive developments, or, on the other hand, an organization may be subject to unwanted negative media coverage because of a crisis situation. This component introduces the basic academic and professional skills of public relations professionals. In the role of PR officer, students will be asked to guide an organization in crisis. What should the organization do? What should it be saying, when and to whom? Topics that will be addressed in this part include: public relations; news selection and framing; and media effects. 

Additionally, students will not only be trained as communication professionals, but also improve their academic skills. In this module the focus is on academic writing based on literature research (which will be applied directly in the project). Here, students learn how to translate different concepts on reputation from the literature into a coherent theoretical framework.