When is it Good to be Bad? Contrasting Effects of Multiple Reputations for Bad Behavior on Media Coverage of Serious Organizational Errors

David Chandler, Francisco Polidoro Jr., Wei Yang
Academy of Management Journal,
We have long known that organizational reputation is consequential. While highlighting the effects of a reputation for ‘good’ behavior, however, prior work has largely overlooked the possibility that a reputation for ‘bad’ behavior is qualitatively distinct. In addition, we know that organizational reputation is multidimensional. Although this is conceptually intriguing only if different types of reputation produce different effects, concurrent tests of such differences are rare. In response, we study the effects of multiple reputations for bad behavior on media coverage of a serious error by the firm. Due to the need for the news to be ‘new,’ we predict the media is more likely to cover errors that supplement a firm’s general ‘character reputation,’ but will likely ignore errors that are redundant given a firm’s specific ‘capability reputation.’ We test this theory in the context of 113 major oil spills in the U.S., from 1985 to 2016. Results