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Multiple organizational identities and legitimacy: the rhetoric of police websites

Sillince, J.A.A. and Brown, A.D. (2009) Multiple organizational identities and legitimacy: the rhetoric of police websites. Human Relations, 62 (12). pp. 1829-1856. ISSN 0018-7267

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This article analyses how multiple organizational identities are constructed through rhetoric to maintain and enhance the legitimacy claims made by organizations. Our theorizing is founded on an investigation of the 43 geographically based English and Welsh constabularies. The research contribution of our study is threefold. First, we show that officially sanctioned web-based organizational identity claims are multiple and discuss their implications for identity theory. Second, we consider how these multiple identity claims are constituted using particular rhetorical strategies. Third, we argue that the multiple identity claims constituted aspects of constabularies' self presentation strategies by which they attempted to exert control over stakeholders' perceptions and establish pragmatic, cognitive and moral claims to legitimacy. This is contrary to some previous research that has suggested that organizations seek to reconcile or redefine multiple claims, and that has ignored them as a resource for satisfying sceptical audiences. The principal argument we make is that organizational identities are often multiple, are phrased using specific rhetorical schemes, and that identity multiplicity supports claims for legitimacy.