Ten years on, what do we say? Examining responses to online criticism of a crisis-ridden bank

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The omnipresence of social media has created unprecedented possibilities for consumers to publicly criticize organizational behaviour, as they see fit. For corporations, this represents a formidable challenge to image and earnings, requiring vigilance in online communication (Gretry et al. 2017; Van Noort and Willemsen 2012).
One of the sectors to have felt consumers’ discontentment most acutely is the financial sector. Since the 2008 financial crisis, which ushered in a period of severe economic instability worldwide, financial institutions have fought to retain legitimacy. However, this has been no easy task when stories of questionable conduct continue to surface, resulting in a disgruntled public which seek to hold the institutions accountable by sharing criticism online (Holmgreen 2020).
This situation forms the background of the presentation, which discusses the case of a bank that used to be among the top three of Danish finance. In the ten years that have passed since the crisis, the bank has, however, been under continuous attack in the media (social and news), because of its poor moral judgement, among other things exemplified by the involvement in a historic case of money laundering.
Drawing on critical approaches to discourse and legitimation on social media (Gretry et al. 2017; Fairclough 1994; Khosravinik 2017), I will analyse how the bank negotiates its position and makes legitimacy claims on Facebook in light of its continuous downfall. The analysis reveals that despite attempts to present itself as a good corporate citizen in the aftermath of the crisis, the bank continues to be met with strong and relentless criticism that goes back to its active part in the crisis. Thus, a strategy of proactive webcare appears only to have partial effect (cf. Van Noort and Willemsen 2012).
This suggests that despite decades of sound and respected business conduct, corporations may suffer the long-term consequences of a few, but bad business decisions if they imply underlying values of greed and immorality. Furthermore, the opportunities that social media offer for voicing criticism are instrumental in maintaining the pressure to change corporate behaviour.

Holmgreen, L. 2020.
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Khosravinik, Majid. 2017. Social media critical discourse studies (SM-CDS). In John Flowerdew, and John E. Richardson (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Critical Discourse Studies, 752-769. London: Routledge.
Van Noort, Guda, and Lotte M. Willemsen. 2012. Online damage control: The effects of proactive versus reactive webcare interventions in consumer-generated and brand-generated platforms. Journal of Interactive Marketing. 26(3). 131-140.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventABC Vienna. Association for Business Communication: Regional Conference: Europe, Africa, and Middle East - WU (Vienna University of Economics and Business), Wien, Austria
Duration: 19 Aug 202128 Aug 2021


ConferenceABC Vienna. Association for Business Communication
LocationWU (Vienna University of Economics and Business)

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