When the going gets tough and the world is against you, research says the best thing to do is get all of the negative out at once.
Oklahoma State University assistant professor of management Owen Parker’s latest research focuses on how firms respond to threats to their reputation. When an organization faces scrutiny from the media, it tends to perform more of the unavoidable negative activities to lessen the blow to its reputation.
“Until now, what we thought is that companies don’t really care that much about what the media thinks or what people are looking at,” Parker says. “But with this paper, we’ve looked at the oil and gas industry and we found that drilling, which is sort of a hazardous activity in the industry, happens when the company is already facing negative scrutiny in the media.”
Parker found that smaller and underperforming companies tend to have to go through compounding the negative attention more frequently than larger companies, since managerial behavior tends to be less organized than a larger, more insulated firm. The major key to Parker’s research is that reputation matters: it’s not just an outcome, but what drives decision-making and perception.
“When we think about reputation, we think of it as an asset,” Parker says. “It’s something you want to cultivate… you want to be known for being good at something. You want to have the media attention on you… but it turns out that’s not always the case. What we’re doing with this line of research… is that reputation can matter, and the media attention on the firm matters for your decision-making. That’s the general gist of this and part of the larger program of how reputation influences strategic decisions.”
Parker’s research was published in the Academy of Management Journal with co-authors A. Erin Bass from the University of Nebraska Omaha and Varkey Titus from the University of Nebraska Lincoln.
Owen Parker is an assistant professor in the Department of Management at the Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University. His research focuses on how the reputations of firms influence their strategic decisions. His work has been published in the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of Management and the Best Paper Proceedings of the Academy of Management. In addition, his work has been presented at the annual meetings of the Academy of Management and the Strategic Management Society, the Oxford University Reputation Symposium, as well as the Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference.