Advertisement

Corporate Reputation Review

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 108–126 | Cite as

Portrayals of Large Corporations in the English and German Version of Wikipedia – Exploring Similarities and Differences

  • Thomas Roessing
  • Sabine Einwiller
Original Article

Abstract

High search results for Wikipedia articles in web search engines and the large number of Wikipedia articles about companies contribute to the online encyclopedia’s relevance for communication and reputation management. In this research, we compare Wikipedia articles of 30 US and 30 German corporations in both the English and German version of the online encyclopedia. Using content analysis, the articles’ structure, content and tone are analyzed and compared. Apart from broad similarities in regard to article structure, results reveal some striking differences between the versions. It shows that companies are portrayed more extensively in their domestic than in the foreign version of Wikipedia. This refers to the length of the overall article, the use of photographs as well as the validation of content. Detailed analyses of article content also reveal that companies are covered more extensively on the different reputation dimensions in their domestic than in the foreign version. Apart from the elaborateness of the portrayals, there is also more criticism in the form of a specific criticism section in domestic compared to foreign version articles. A general negative tendency can furthermore be observed particularly for content on workplace environment and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Contrary to the findings on criticism, content on CSR is more negative in the foreign compared to the domestic version of Wikipedia for both US and German corporations. The findings indicate that Wikipedia content is influenced by how the volunteer contributors to Wikipedia perceive and assess a corporation. Implications for communication management are discussed.

Keywords

content analysis corporate reputation Germany USA Wikipedia 

References

  1. Barnett, M.L., Jermier, J.M. and Lafferty, B.A. (2006) ‘Corporate reputation: The definitional landscape’, Corporate reputation review, 9 (1), 26–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cross, T. (2006) Puppy smoothies: Improving the reliability of open, collaborative Wikis. First Monday 11(9), http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1400/1318, accessed 13 April, 2013.
  3. DiStaso, M.W. (2012) ‘Measuring public relations Wikipedia engagement: How bright is the rule?’ Public Relations Journal, 6 (2), 1–24.Google Scholar
  4. DiStaso, M.W. (2013) ‘Perceptions of Wikipedia by public relations professionals: A comparison of 2012 and 2013 surveys’, Public Relations Journal, 7 (3), 1–23.Google Scholar
  5. DiStaso, M.W. and Messner, M. (2010) ‘Forced transparency: Corporate image on Wikipedia and what it means for public relations’, Public Relations Journal, 4 (2), 1–23.Google Scholar
  6. DiStaso, M.W. and Messner, M. (2012) ‘Wikipedia’s role in reputation management: An analysis of the best and worst companies in the USA’, in E. Aibar and M. Fuster (coords.), Academic Research into Wikipedia [online dossier], Digithum 14, pp. 59–67 http://digithum.uoc.edu/ojs/index.php/digithum/article/view/n14-distaso-messner/n14-distaso-messner-eng, accessed 14 April, 2013.Google Scholar
  7. DiStaso, M.W., Messner, M. and Stacks, D.W. (2007) ‘The wiki factor. A study of reputation management’, in, S.C. Duhé (ed.), New Media and Public Relations, P. Lang, New York, pp. 121–133.Google Scholar
  8. DiStaso, M.W., Messner, M. and Stacks, D.W. (2012) ‘The wiki crisis: BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Wikipedia’, in:, S.C. Duhé (ed.), New Media and Public Relations, 2nd edn., P. Lang, New York, pp. 302–310.Google Scholar
  9. Eagly, A.H., Wood, W. and Chaiken, S. (1978) ‘Causal inferences about communicators and their effects for opinion change’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36 (4), 424–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Einwiller, S., Carroll, C.E. and Korn, K. (2010) ‘Under what conditions do the news media influence corporate reputation? The roles of media dependency and need for orientation’, Corporate Reputation Review, 12 (4), 299–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fombrun, C.J. and Gardberg, N.A. (2000) ‘Who’s tops in corporate reputation?’ Corporate Reputation Review, 3 (1), 13–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fombrun, C.J. and van Riel, C.B.M. (1997) ‘The reputational landscape’, Corporate Reputation Review, 1 (1/2), 5–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fombrun, C.J. and van Riel, C.B.M. (2004) Fame and Fortune. How Successful Companies Build Winning Reputations, Financial Times, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.Google Scholar
  14. Fombrun, C.J., Gardberg, N.A. and Sever, J.M. (2000) ‘The reputation quotient: A multi-stakeholder measure of corporate reputation’, The Journal of Brand Management, 7 (4), 241–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Frege, C. and Godard, J. (2010) ‘Cross-national variation in representation rights and governance at work’, in, A. Wilkinson, P. Gollan, M. Marchington and D. Lewin (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Participation in Organizations, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, pp. 526–551.Google Scholar
  16. Frege, C. and Godard, J. (2014) ‘Varieties of capitalism and job quality: The attainment of civic principles at work in the United States and Germany’, American Sociological Review, 79 (5), 942–965.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Geiss, S., Leidecker, M. and Roessing, T. (2011) How TV news excite search activities on the web: Dynamic transactions between Tagesschau and Wikipedia. Paper presented at the WAPOR 64th Annual Conference: Public Opinion and the Internet, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 21–23 September.Google Scholar
  18. Langlois, G. and Elmer, G. (2009) ‘Wikipedia leeches? The promotion of traffic through a collaborative web format’, New Media and Society, 11 (5), 773–794.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lee, S.Y. and Carroll, C.E. (2011) ‘The emergence, variation, and evolution of corporate social responsibility in the public sphere, 1980–2004: The exposure of firms to public debate’, Journal of Business Ethics, 104 (1), 115–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Media Tenor International (2015) CSR coverage focuses on problems, not solutions, http://uk.mediatenor.com/en/library/newsletters/535/csr-coverage-focuses-on-problems-not-solutions, accessed 1 February, 2013.
  21. Messner, M. and South, J. (2011) ‘Legitimizing Wikipedia. How US national newspapers frame and use the online encyclopedia in their coverage’, Journalism Practice, 5 (2), 145–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. O’Sullivan, D. (2009) Wikipedia: A New Community of Practice? Ashgate, Farnham.Google Scholar
  23. Osberg, L. and Smeeding, T. (2006) ‘Fair inequality? Attitudes toward pay differentials: The United States in comparative perspective’, American Sociological Review, 71 (3), 450–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pew Research Center (2012) Trend data (adults). Usage over time_August 2012. Pew Internet and American Life Project Tracking surveys (March, 2000–December, 2012), http://www.pewinternet.org/Trend-Data-(Adults)/Online-Activites-Total.aspx, accessed 13 April, 2013.
  25. Pew Research Center (2014) The Web at 25 in the US. The overall verdict: The internet has been a plus for society and an especially good thing for individual users. The Web at 25, http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/02/25/the-web-at-25-in-the-u-s, accessed 27 June, 2014.
  26. Pfeil, U., Zaphiris, P. and Ang, C.S. (2006) ‘Cultural differences in collaborative authoring of Wikipedia’, Journal of Computer-mediated Communication, 12 (1), 88–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Post, J.E., Preston, L.E. and Sachs, S. (2002) Redefining the Corporation: Stakeholder Management and Organizational Wealth, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.Google Scholar
  28. Rindova, V.P., Williamson, I.O., Petkova, A.P. and Sever, J.M. (2005) ‘Being good or being known: An empirical examination of the dimensions, antecedents, and consequences of organizational reputation’, Academy of Management Journal, 48 (6), 1033–1049.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Roessing, T. (2008) ‘Opinion formation in Wikipedia – Theory, measurement, and findings’, Masaryk University Journal of Law and Technology, 2 (2), 163–176.Google Scholar
  30. Roessing, T. (2013a) ‘The spiral of silence and the Wikipedia online community’, in, P. Moy (ed.), Communication and Community, Hampton Press, New York, pp. 171–187.Google Scholar
  31. Roessing, T. (2013b) Vested interests? The dispute about the portrayal of brands, firms, and corporations in Wikipedia. Paper presented at the Cyberspace Conference, Brno, Czech Republic, 22–23 November.Google Scholar
  32. Roessing, T. and Podschuweit, N. (2012) Wikipedia and political communication: The role of the online encyclopedia in the German 2009 national election campaign. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), Orlando, FL, 17–20 May.Google Scholar
  33. Shaw, D. (2008) ‘Wikipedia in the newsroom’, American Journalism Review, 30 (1), 40–45.Google Scholar
  34. Van Eimeren, B. and Frees, B. (2013) ‘Ergebnisse der ARD/ZDF-Onlinestudie 2013.Rasanter Anstieg des Internetkonsums – Onliner fast drei Stunden täglich im Netz [Results of the ARD/ZDF online study 2013. Rapid surge in internet consumption – Users almost three hours a day online]’, Media Perspektiven, 7–8, 358–372.Google Scholar
  35. Zerfass, A. and Gusko, J. (2011) ‘Ezyklopädie der Images. Wikipedia und Unternehmenskommunikation: Eine Benchmark-Studie [Encyclopedia of images. Wikipedia and corporate communication: A benchmark study]’, PR Magazin, 42 (6), 60–65.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Roessing
    • 1
  • Sabine Einwiller
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of CommunicationJohannes Gutenberg-University MainzMainzGermany
  2. 2.Department of CommunicationUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations