Is being right legitimate? Managing public outcries on social media

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    With the advent of social media, organisations have had to face new realities when it comes to being exposed to public condemnation and ridicule. Thus, social media provide publics with easy and instant access to voicing disapproval of organizational behaviour, potentially leading to long-term negative effects on image and earnings (Author 2015, forthcoming). This realisation forms the background of the paper which discusses the apparent clash between organisational legitimisation strategies, which seek to justify actions through reference to their just, reasonable and appropriate character, and the public evaluation of the very same conduct as being inappropriate and immoral. Starting with a discussion of what constitutes legitimacy (e.g. Suchman 1995), the paper analyses a case in which the legal actions of a restaurant chain led to the instant development of an organisational crisis as the result of public outcries on social media. The data for analysis consist of a corpus of entries on Facebook collected in 2014 and the reported behaviour of (the owner of) the restaurant in various news media, offering access to a number of salient and consistent frames (cf. Fillmore 1982; Schultz & Raup 2010). The analysis reveals that the social media frames evoke basic social values and norms which unite publics across social groups, but which are at odds with the legal norms and values that inspire organisational action and frames. Furthermore, the analysis suggests that despite the existence of a shared social system based on the rule of law, public groups on social media may follow legitimation strategies that are guided by sentiments rather than fact, and which are fundamentally different to those of organisations. This insight combined with the instant character of social media calls for vigilance in communicating organisational affairs to the public.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication dateJul 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
    EventAssociation of Business Communication Spain - Universidad de Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, Spain
    Duration: 11 Jul 201813 Jul 2018


    ConferenceAssociation of Business Communication Spain
    LocationUniversidad de Alcalá
    CityAlcalá de Henares
    Internet address


    • social media
    • crisis
    • organisation
    • publics
    • culture
    • cognition


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