Institutional theory seeks to explain the processes and reasons for organizational behavior as well as the effect of organizational behavior patterns within a broader, interorganizational context. The study of organizational institutions occurs across fields of research in sociology, business, and communication and informs public relations practitioners’ understanding of corporate reputation and legitimacy.

Institutions are defined as conventional, standardized patterns of behavior found within and across organizations and giving meaning to social exchange and order. These patterns of behavior include organizational and industry standards, routines, and norms. Institutional theory suggests that organizational behaviors are copied and reproduced, establishing taken-for-granted norms and, eventually, widespread standardized expectations of practice. Understanding how adhering to institutions, or relatively fixed and formal working rules, confers legitimacy on organizations thus enables researchers to ...

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