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Celebrity and Infamy?

Research on organizational celebrity is in its nascence, and our understanding of the process through which organizations gain, maintain, and lose this asset remains incomplete. We extend this research by examining which information is the primary catalyst of the celebrity process, how and why this process unfolds, and what the potential consequences are for an organization. In doing so we make three primary contributions. First, we propose that the availability of information about the salient and socially significant elements of an organization’s identity makes the media more likely to cast the organization as a main character in their dramatic narratives. Second, we theorize that the salience of these elements attracts constituents’ attention and the social significance evokes their emotional responses. However, because some constituents may view the elements of an organization’s identity as congruent and others as incongruent with their personal identities, an organization may simultaneously gain celebrity among some constituents and infamy among others. Third, we theorize that because of the different emotional responses that are generated from constituents’ perceptions of identity (in)congruence, celebrity is more difficult to maintain and easier to lose than infamy.

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