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Social media, reputation risk and ambient publicity management

Pekka Aula (Professor of communication in the Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, Finland (

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 9 November 2010




This paper aims to discuss the emergence of corporate reputational risk in terms of social media, exploring its threats to and possibilities for organizations' strategic reputation management.


Reputation risk, the possibility of damaging one's reputation, presents a threat to organizations in many ways. Little is known, however, about the connections between reputation risk management and social media as a mediated business environment. Following the latest conceptualizations of strategic reputation management and social media, the paper identifies several challenges for organizations. To make sense of this issue, the paper proposes a novel context for strategic reputation management, founded on the metaphor of ambient publicity, which involves not only social media, but also organizations and their stakeholders.


The paper argues that social media expands the spectrum of reputation risks and boosts risk dynamics, and that social media can have notable effects on corporate‐level strategic endeavors, which must be considered in order to be successful in the modern business environment. Nine tenets for corporate leaders involved in strategic reputation management are presented.


The paper offers new insights on social media's relation to reputation risk and its management. The ambient publicity, for example, has value to leaders involved in strategic reputation management when trying to identify factors characterizing the changing business environment. Understanding ambient publicity as an environment of meaning indicates that organizations, their stakeholders, and the public create a “complex narrative web” surrounding reputation. The more unified this web is, the stronger the organization is in terms of reputation risk.



Aula, P. (2010), "Social media, reputation risk and ambient publicity management", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 38 No. 6, pp. 43-49.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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