This paper shows how 6 large oil companies express their identity by using 2 messaging patterns in managing legitimacy and distinctiveness. In the first pattern (aiming at legitimacy), companies focus on transparency, sincerity and consistency to build understanding and acceptance among stakeholders. In the second pattern (aimed at distinctiveness) companies take a more provocative standpoint in a public debate to facilitate competitive advantage. We develop a theoretical framework and propositions explaining when and how oil companies adopt 1 of the 2 patterns depending on their existing reputation, experienced institutional pressures and their organizational identity.

Corporate messaging, Distinctiveness, Legitimacy,
Corporate Reputation Review
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

van Halderen, M.D, van Riel, C.B.M, & Brown, T.J. (2011). Balancing between legitimacy and distinctiveness in corporate messaging: A case study in the oil industry. Corporate Reputation Review, 14(4), 273–299. doi:10.1057/crr.2011.19