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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Do We Know Public Governance Success when we see it? A Coneptual Exploration of the Mismatch between Agency Performance and Reputation

Public Administration
Public Policy
Stefanie Beyens
University of Utrecht
Stefanie Beyens
University of Utrecht
Koen Verhoest
Universiteit Antwerpen
Madalina Busuioc
Departments of Political Science and Public Administration, Universiteit Leiden
Judith van Erp
University of Utrecht
Lauren Fahy
University of Utrecht
Sharon Gilad
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Heidi Houlberg Salomonsen
Aarhus Universitet
Saar Alon-Barkat
Departments of Political Science and Public Administration, Universiteit Leiden

Identifying success in public governance can be hampered by two errors in the public assessments of public agencies. A: the performance of an organisation is excellent when measured in ‘objective’ standards, but its reputation lags behind. Conversely, B: an organisation enjoys an excellent reputation, but its actual performance does not warrant this perception. In both cases, a mismatch exists between performance and reputation. Mismatch A hinders the legitimacy of government; mismatch B hinders improvement of organisational performance as audiences fail to hold agencies to account. This paper is a first theoretical introduction of this problem before embarking on empirical research in a new research agenda.
We assume both concepts (objective performance and reputation) exist and can be measured more or less independently of each other. We will explore the mechanisms that turn objective performance into reputation with specific attention to two internal and two external processes. (1) Internally in the organisation, the objective performance is received and then reported. (2) Externally, an agency’s performance is perceived and interpreted , and then aggregated by networks of tightly-bound audiences to become reputation.
In this paper, we explore these concepts individually and the relations of perception and reporting between them. This means we will be talking to both the reputation and the performance measuring literature in order to close this gap in which mechanisms behind mismatches have not yet been conceptualised.
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