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The current study investigates the complex relationship between communications on the Internet and reputation changes during a crisis, through the analysis of the Toyota recall case. We use secondary order data regarding communications and people's perceptions and attitudes. We were particularly interested in studying the impact of online communication and social media conversations, studying the role of consumers, media, and the firm itself in these conversations. The link between negative media coverage and reputation, and the link between negative consumer's messages and reputation, do not seem to be so direct and simple as many academics and practitioners claim. We seek to demonstrate that there is an internal validity bias in assuming that online conversations can be used as a proxy of online reputation, and our findings show how misleading this association can be. It is necessary to consider the role of the relationship's history, and also how the company invests in conversations and relationship management through traditional and social media during the crisis. This case analysis aims at clarifying the conceptual and methodological framework for studying the impact of social media on reputation building and protection. Managerial implications are discussed.
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Keywords: Corporate reputation; Toyota; crisis management; online conversations; social media

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-01-01

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  • The International Journal of Management Cases (IJMC) developed in 2002 from its predecessor The Journal of Management Cases, and present case studies across a broad range of management disciplines. The IJMC is the official journal of the CIRCLE Research Centre. CIRCLE (Centre for International Research Consumers, Locations and their Environments) is a virtual research group spreading over 70 universities.
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