Speaker: Kerstin Neumann, Universität Innsbruck
Prior research on the tenor of media coverage has significantly advanced our understanding of how firms react to negative media evaluations. Less is known about how firms attract positive or negative media coverage in the first place. Since media build their perception holistically on a combination of multiple elements, we suggest that media coverage is influenced by a nexus of signals about the conformity of a firm’s behavior to pre-existing norms. In this paper, we investigate what complex combinations of signals lead to positive or negative media coverage and focus our analyses on firms’ behavior in the context of environmental sustainability. Our results, based on the fsQCA methodology, confirm the holistic view as none of the signals in isolation is either necessary or sufficient for positive or media coverage. Overall, we find that configurations of signals that consistently point to a high level of norm-conformity can elicit positive responses by the media and configurations of signals pointing to low conformity can elicit negative responses by the media. However, positive and negative media responses, might also emerge from less clear-cut combinations of signals. For instance, the media can be critical despite high conformity, suggesting that the signals’ strength and the level of (in)congruence among them play a key role for the tenor of media coverage. This paper contributes to our understanding of media coverage in the light of interdependent, simultaneously existing firm-level signals. It also proposes that the media may play their role as a controlling instance more effectively than previous work suggested.