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Reputation and ethical behaviour in a crisis: predicting survival

Tom Watson (The Media School, Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 20 November 2007




The purpose of this paper is to explore the interrelation of reputation with corporate performance in a crisis and consider the factors that make up the balance between strong recovery, bare survival and failure. The emphasis is on corporate communication and corporate governance.


The current debate on reputation and the validity of the term reputation management is reviewed and cases studies from Australia and the UK are examined.


The paper finds that, in the case studies, poor management, unethical practices, a lack of engagement with customers and other stakeholders, indifferent or aggressive performances by CEOs and lack of preparedness for crisis communication severely or terminally affected the organisations. It identifies a new reputational factor of predictability and considers why some organisations survive a crisis that has strong negative ethical dimensions while others fail.


This paper scrutinises existing concepts of reputation and reputation management and finds that they are not able to predict recovery, survival or failure of organisations. A new definition of reputation is put forward and the factor of predictability is emphasised in proposals for new applied theory.



Watson, T. (2007), "Reputation and ethical behaviour in a crisis: predicting survival", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 371-384.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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