Blogging at Mercedes-Benz: A Mixed-Methods Approach to Assess Corporate Identity Convergence in Online Settings
The purpose of this dissertation is to build theory for the public relations field which currently lacks studies that aim to provide an understanding of how the socio-psychological background of a company's stakeholder groups influences the extent to which they identify themselves with the company's brand. This dissertation is a mixed-methods study that adapted and applied a theory from sociology, namely Erving Goffman's frame analysis to study Daimler's online communication and to examine the extent to which Daimler's employees identify themselves with the company, a concept that I call corporate identity convergence (CIC). The CIC was measured by assessing how Daimler's core values such as innovation, sustainability, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and diversity were framed in the employees' online communication. A total of 227 blog posts written in German by Daimler's employees between 2010 and 2012 were analyzed using the grounded theory methodology and the simultaneous multiple regression analysis. The results revealed that the application of the frame analysis sheds light on whether employees perceive a company's values as enacted by the latter out of genuine interest or out of legitimacy concerns. Based on the results, this dissertation provides a coding protocol that theorists and practitioners can use to assess CIC as well as practical advice on how companies can boost their identity convergence with various stakeholder groups with the ultimate purpose of building trustful relationships and bringing about positive changes in the environments in which companies operate. Finally, the coding protocol can be applied not only to public relations but also to other areas of study such as government and media relations.
Matei, Purdue University.
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