Reputation research and metrics have traditionally focused on rational properties, such as product quality, leadership and financial performance. However, a doctoral dissertation examined at the University of Helsinki suggests that reputation is equally an emotional concept.

In her research, MSSc Salla-Maaria Laaksonen found that the narratives about organisations posted online are very emotional: people fall in love with companies or hate them, and fan communities or groups of angry protesters gather around organisations. Features of technology – such as emojis or “like” buttons – further encourage people to express their emotions.

The dissertation establishes that good and bad reputation alike are reflected in the physical responses of research subjects when they read online news and comments about a company.

 “This means that reputation is also a mental frame of reference. It’s a subconscious, physical reaction that changes behaviour and brand selection,” Laaksonen points out.

Reputation is intangible capital

The dissertation explores a new approach to reputation research. Traditionally, reputation has been studied either as a financial asset for an organisation or as an interpretation in the minds of its stakeholders.  The dissertation defines reputation as a phenomenon of communications, a frame of reference for individuals and as socially constructed narratives.

 “However, reputation narratives do have measurable effects on the people who read them and their frames of reference. For this reason, both reputation and the reputation narratives constitute intangible capital for an organisation,” Laaksonen states.

Technology changes the way we tell stories

In a hybrid media system, in which different forms of media mingle, humans and technology construct reputation narratives together. Technology changes the ways stakeholders tell stories about the organisation.

 “The narratives that are generated on the platforms of online fame combine not just different forms of media, but also facts and opinions as well as rational and emotional contents,” Laaksonen points out.

The dissertation highlights the interaction of technological and social elements. Both the modes of behaviour enabled by technology and social mores influence the way stories are told on each arena of hybrid media.

 “The significance of emotions was particularly prominent in social media both in the content of the narratives and in the ways communication professionals interpret each form of media. Traditional media carries an aura of rationality, while social media is seen as a platform overrun with emotion."

The dissertation consists of five articles and a summarising chapter. The articles explore four different datasets: interviews with communications professionals, online discussions on social media, Wikipedia as well as psychophysiological  measurements.
 

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MSSc Salla-Maaria Laaksonen defended her doctoral dissertation entitled Hybrid narratives - Organizational Reputation in the Hybrid Media System on 16 June 2017 at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Social Sciences.

The opponent was Associate Professor Ib Tunby Gulbrandsen of Roskilde University and the custos Professor Mervi Pantti.

The dissertation is published in the series Publications of the Faculty of Social Sciences.

The dissertation is also available in electronic form through the E-thesis service. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-51-2612-2

 

Contact details of the doctoral candidate:
Salla-Maaria Laaksonen
Tel. +358 50 415 6576
salla.laaksonen@helsinki.fi
@jahapaula