Exploring the management of corporate reputation in Germany's business environment

Twehues, Jennifer Elisabeth (2004-03)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2004.

Some digitised pages may appear illegible due to the condition of the original hard copy

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Since the 1990's researchers have been adding different perspectives to the phenomenon of corporate reputation and its management (Fombrun, 2002a: x; Gotsi & Wilson, 2001: 99). To some extent, the growing attention paid to this topic has come from a consciousness about prevailing trends in the current business landscape, such as the ongoing globalisation, the proliferation of media, the public's new focus on transparency and social responsibility, as well as an avalanche of corporate crises. Yet, besides leading to an unfortunately high fragmentation of the study subject in the academic area, a result of this rapidly increasing interest seemed to be a lack of practitioner's knowledge about the nature, potential, and practical implication of this new management issue (Abratt, 2001: 368). With the general aim to examine this assumed gap between reputation theory and practice, this empirical study therefore presents a preliminary attempt to explore how corporate reputation is approached in real business life. It focuses on the German business environment and seeks to investigate companies' current understanding of corporate reputation, as well as their moves towards fostering and protecting it. To be able to explore corporate reputation management in this particular business environment, the study uses a qualitative research design, for which a range of in-depth interviews are conducted with 18 managers of German companies. The results of this empirical research reveal how German companies understand, value, and approach the issue of reputation and its management. Examining the responses, it becomes evident that, although German companies attach high importance to the reputation issue, even with regard to a strategic consideration, they demonstrate a less specific and less pro-active approach when putting reputation management into practice. After all, this research project informs academics about areas in reputation management that still require theoretical underpinning, whereas practitioners can gain unique insights into what the current reputation management practice looks like and how it could possibly be improved. Thus, the ultimate value of this study stems from providing a bridge which enables these two groups to learn from and move towards one another.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Navorsers het sedert die 1990s verskillende bydraes met betrekking tot die begrip, die reputasie van 'n maatskappy en die bestuur daarvan, gemaak (Fombrun, 2002a: x; Gotsi & Wilson, 2001: 99) Die groeiende belangstelling in hierdie onderwerp het tot 'n mate te doen met die bewuswording van heersende tendense in die sake-omgewing: toenemende globalisering; groei van die media; die publiek se aandrang op deursigtigheid en sosiale verantwoordelikheid; sowel as 'n stortvloed van korporatiewe krisisse. Tog, benewens die feit dat hierdie belangstelling tot die ongelukkige verbrokkeling van die studie-onderwerp op akademiese gebied lei, volg daar ook 'n gebrek aan praktiese kennis aangaande die aard, potensiaal en praktiese implikasies van hierdie nuwe bestuursgeskilpunt (Abratt, 2001: 368). Die doel van hierdie studie is om ondersoek in te stel na die veronderstelde gaping tussen die teorie en praktyk van reputasie-bestuur. Hierdie empiriese studie behels 'n voorlopige ondersoek na die hantering van 'n maatskappy se reputasie in die sake-wêreld. Dit fokus op die sake-omgewing in Duitsland en doen ondersoek na maatskappye se huidige opvattings oor korporatiewe reputasie sowel as die pogings wat deur maatskappye aangewend word om sodanige reputasie te bevorder en te beskerm. Die studie gebruik 'n kwalitatiewe ondersoekmetode in 'n poging om die bestuur van die korporatiewe reputasie in hierdie spesifieke sake-omgewing te ondersoek. Daar is gebruik gemaak van 'n aantal in-diepte onderhoude wat met 18 bestuurders van Duitse maatskappye gevoer is. Die bevindings van hierdie empiriese ondersoek dui aan hoe Duitse maatskappye die kwessie van maatskappy-reputasie, en die bestuur daarvan, begryp, na waarde skat, en benader. 'n Ontleding van die respondente se terugvoer lewer stawende getuienes dat, alhoewel hulle baie waarde heg aan die kwessie van reputasie, selfs met betrekking tot strategiese oorwegings, Duitse maatskappye 'n minder gedefinieerde en minder pro-aktiewe benadering volg sover dit die praktiese bestuur van reputasie betref. Ten slotte word bydraes gemaak ten opsigte van die akademiese kennis in die veld van reputasie-bestuur wat steeds mank gaan aan 'n teoretiese onderbou, terwyl die praktiese veld unieke insigte met betrekking tot huidige praktyke in reputasie-bestuur, en hoe dit verbeter kan word, bykry. Die uiteindelike waarde van die studie lê daarin dat dit kennis verskaf wat hierdie twee groepe bymekaar kan laat leer, en nader na mekaar kan laat beweeg.

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