How can Organisations Manage their Reputations in Response to Threats?

By William S. Harvey, Jonathan V. Beaverstock, and Hongqin Li

In the face of danger, every individual is designed to react almost subconsciously and when it counts, defend themselves. This stays true in the case of threatened organisations. In this article, the authors name three kinds of responses and their corresponding solutions.


Existing organisations will already have a reputation among different groups such as their customers and employees. But how can they manage their reputations when confronted with a major threat such as political or economic change, or competitors tarnishing the image of their industry? We conducted two waves of interviews with partners of executive search firms to find out how they coped with common threats.

Common threats are not exclusively reputation threats nor particular to a single individual or organisation. They are either common to single or multiple sectors. Such threats are everywhere as we are witnessing with the UK’s future relationship with the European Union and how this breeds uncertainty among the business community.

In our study, we found that executive search firms faced three threats: first, the global financial crisis which freezed-up hiring opportunities and therefore their relationship with clients and candidates. Second, problems with the sector’s status because of new entrants participating in poor hiring practices which tarnished the image of the sector. Third, the proliferation of social media websites which took away work from their core candidate search business. 

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About the Authors

William S. Harvey is Professor of Management and Associate Dean of Research at the University of Exeter Business School. Will researches on reputation and leadership within organisations. His work has appeared in world leading journals such as Harvard Business Review, Journal of Management Studies and Human Relations.

Jonathan V. Beaverstock is Professor of International Management and Head of the School of Management at the University of Bristol, U.K..  He is an expert on the internationalisation strategies of global retained executive search firms and has also worked extensively on the competitiveness of financial and professional services in the City of London.

Hongqin Li is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME), Aston University. She completed her PhD in leadership at University of Exeter Business School. Her research focuses on entrepreneurship, leadership, reputation and identity, and will be particularly focused on the leadership role in migrant entrepreneurial settings.