Corporate brand reputation management : an intraorganisational study on the role of service employees and on-brand corporate cultures
This thesis examines two critical intraorganisational elements of corporate brand reputation management in service organisations; the role of service employees and the subsequent need for aligning the corporate culture with the corporate brand requirements as a means of promoting "on-brand" attitudes and behaviours. It attempts to identify the extent to and ways through which employees are involved in the reputation management practices of service organisations and to examine the challenges that service companies face in encouraging their staff to "live" the corporate brand. The review on the reputation management, services marketing and corporate culture literature has highlighted that despite the increasing acknowledgement of the aforementioned intraorganisational aspects, there is a dearth of empirical research in this area. In order to shed some light into this gap, the researcher designed a twophase, sequential mixed methods study. The fieldwork initially involved fifteen elite interviews with reputation consultants and service managers. This was followed by a programme of qualitative and quantitative research within one leading service organisation that has recently gone through a corporate re-branding exercise and is striving to promote "on-brand" attitudes and behaviours across the organisation. This involved 14 interviews with company Directors, observation of two senior staff meetings and the completion of an Intranet-based questionnaire by 243 respondents. The research found that reputation consultants and managcrs perceive the role of service personnel and cultural alignment to be of critical importance to the successful management of corporate brand reputations. As a result, consultants and managers argued that trying to involve employees in the reputation management process and aligning attitudes and behaviours through committed leadership and "on-brand" internal communication, training and rewards processes are key in sustaining favourable reputations. However, similarly to academic writings in the reputation literature, practitioners appeared to approach the topic of culture rather simplistically, often ignoring the challenges that sub-cultures could pose in this process. Interestingly, in practice, findings highlighted that employees are often at the receiving end of the reputation management process and that managing corporate brand reputations is more PR-Ied than internally-driven. Commercial pressures, lack of commitment, intraorganisational power dynamics and the lack of a joint effort between the marketing and the HR department, are among the plethora of factors that obstruct organisations from "living" the brand and embracing the corporate brand promise. The study also identified that despite the myth of the one corporate culture, organisations often have sub-cultures with varying degrees of alignment with the corporate brand. Moreover, findings highlighted the importance of organisational commitment in the process of "living" the brand (especially in the case of rebranding exercises) and emphasised the challenges posed by resistance to change within organisations. The thesis therefore suggests that managing these intraorganisational elements is much more complex than is depicted in most established reputation management frameworks. Academics and practitioners should seek to understand the complex nature of culture in organisational settings and strive to adopt reputation management processes that are centered on employee involvement and committed leadership.