The narrative power of reputation in digital publicity
In digital, networked publicity, a reputation narrative has many tellers. Traditional mass media face new, individual and networked forms of communication, where organisational stories are circulated and remediated. These forms build new passages to publicity, bypassing the traditional means of reaching stakeholders and endowing stakeholders with increased power. Manuel Castells (2009) has titled these developments as mass self-communication. The stories created in digital publicity are building the reputation of an organisation and its actions in subtle ways, and are most often based on voices external to the organisation (Hallahan, 2004; Bunting & Lipski, 2000). This study focuses on how the narratives of reputation are built in digital publicity, and on the underlying elements and structures of power. The main research question is to define the narrative power of reputation in online publicity. The main focus is on reputational narratives, which can either be supportive of the goals and strategies of the organisation, or possibly harmful counter-narratives. Even though reputation is a concept widely used in relation to corporations, the contributions of this work are not limited to corporate publicity; the mechanisms of reputation narratives and their circulation in the online public sphere can be widely applied and utilised in different kinds of organisations, from NGOs to governmental institutions. The theoretical basis of this study lies in narrative research, primarily in the concept of antenarrative developed by David Boje (2001), combined with the narrative view on reputation. Here, reputation is defined as social and narrative capital; it is a discursive construction (Boje, 2001; Deetz, 1986; Czarniawska, 1997), socially built and modified in communicative action between different publics over time. Following Boje, stories of organisational reality are fragmented, polyphonic and collectively produced, and in this reality storytelling is also a negotiation between participants with varying power positions. The concept of power is further theorised through the views of networked power (Castells, 2009) and discursive power (Foucault, 1977). Storytelling power is also definitive power, since stories are a form of meaning-making and a tool for positioning (Lissack & Roos, 1999; Czarniawska, 2004). The study consists of four articles and a summary chapter. The research orientation is based on the narrative research tradition. Each article used a different set of data and methods, but in general the approach is qualitative, using interviews, narrative content analysis and social network analysis.