Reputation management for regulatory agencies focused on government relations
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Subjectgovernment agencies; government relations; public sector organizations; regulators; reputation management
Reputation management is not straightforward and is an ongoing and active process. This paper considers the unique challenges to reputation management for regulatory agencies by considering five problems: politics, consistency, charisma, uniqueness, and excellence. This research advances the existing literature to consider how a regulatory agency can mitigate these problems in order to develop reputation management strategies with government decision-makers. Carpenter’s regulatory agency reputation management theory, the foundation of this research, emphasizes the fundamental importance of the legitimacy for regulators and categorizes regulatory reputation into four dimensions: performative, moral, technical, and legal procedural. Through a constructivist/interpretive paradigm viewpoint, data was gathered through six semi-structured interviews with current and former non-elected government Alberta Department of Energy civil servants. The Alberta Utilities Commission is referenced throughout the paper as an example that illustrates the unique challenges and how Carpenter’s theory can provide a strategic lens for regulators engaged in reputation management focused on government relations. The findings reveal that there is a fundamental importance that a regulator maintain legitimacy through a clear vision of its raison d’être. In addition, communication should be regular, proactive, transparent, and constructive to build relationships with people in all levels of government including elected officials that emphasizes how the agency is achieving policy outcomes. The results of this study contribute to the small body of literature that considers how regulatory agencies seek to establish a public image and communicate that image to influence government decision-makers without negatively affecting the independent and adjudicative function of quasi-judicial regulators.
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