When others control your reputation: outsourcing organizational impression management

Dickson, Kevin Eugene
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This study examined the relationship between the outsourcing of organizational impression management activities and the effectiveness of this work. Organizational impression management work, as defined in this study, was work that sought to improve the reputation of the organization. The study examined several possible indicators of the effectiveness of organizational impression management work: changes in reputation, the flow of key organizational resources, and the client’s (outsourcer’s) perceptions of outsourcing effectiveness. Data were collected on private colleges using several archival sources and a survey of chief public relations officers. This research focused on two factors that are likely to influence outsourcing effectiveness: the nature of the task that is being outsourced and the nature of the relationship between the client and the agency (provider of outsourced services). The study hypothesized that when the task was strategic in nature, outsourcing would be less effective than completing the task internally. This hypothesis was partially supported. The study hypothesized that when the task was tactical in nature, outsourcing would be more effective than internal completion; this hypothesis was also partially supported. The study also hypothesized that outsourcing would be more effective when there were long relationships between clients and agencies, clients used limited number of agencies simultaneously, and outsourcing intensity was low. The hypothesis for the duration of relationships between clients and agencies was supported. However, the hypotheses for the number of agency partnerships and the outsourcing intensity were generally not supported.