doxa.comunicación | 30, pp. 351-368 | 353

January-June of 2020

Carmen María Robles López

ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978

Additionally, authors like DiMaggio and Powell (1991), Bitektine (2011) or Robles (2019) have related this concept to the judgements made by the stakeholders about the actions performed by the organizations.

In this study we deal with legitimacy as an intangible asset in the public sector both in the public organization and in its leader. Legitimacy meets the characteristics provided in the definition of intangible asset for the public sector of Canel and Luoma-Aho:

‘Non-monetary asset (without physical substance), that entitles and gives access to tangible assets and it is activated by means of communication, based on past events (and linked to the organization performance); therefore, it gives rise to an identifiable resource from which a flow of the benefit/value is expected (social, monetary, etc.), future (long-term), both for the organization and the stakeholders/citizens’ (2019: 77).

Legitimacy concurs with the first characteristic since it is a perception and has no physical form, and it is a non-monetary asset. Secondly, it can be also considered an intangible asset as it is related to the past of the organization. When making their legitimacy judgements, citizens base on information and experiences with public administrations (Luoma-aho, 2007; Canel and Luoma-Aho, 2017; Robles, 2019).

Thirdly, legitimacy can also be an intangible asset as it builds up relationships with stakeholders, that is, it makes increase the trust of citizens. In the fourth place, intangible assets in the private sector create resources entailing an economic benefit. This idea can be taken to the public sector and conclude that legitimacy helps public administrations survive.

Having analysed these characteristics, it can be confirmed that legitimacy is an intangible asset in the public sector. It implies an economic and social benefit to the public organizations (Robles, 2017).

As for the online nature of legitimacy, it stems from social changes. Citizens are increasingly demanding with the organizations and require them to be legitimate and able to justify economic, social and environmental issues. These changes in the way of interacting lead companies to corporate legitimacy and new ways of communication (Colleoni, 2013: 229).

Catelló, Etter and Arup (2016) conducted research on online legitimacy and suggest a social media strategy. They conclude that organizations can earn legitimacy in social media if they avoid hierarchies when dealing with their stakeholders. They also acknowledge the importance of considering that society is connected to Internet.

Social networks have made it easier for legitimacy to emerge from a process of recognition and dialogue between organizations and their stakeholders. Engagement is not defined by the organization; social networks allow the participation of different stakeholders.

Then, it can be concluded that ‘online legitimacy, as well as offline legitimacy, remains a judgement regarding the actions of the organization’ (Robles, 2017). This judgement is based on social norms and regardless of the information issued by public administration and the media in social media. Subsequently, public administrations have to manage strategically online legitimacy, as well as legitimacy.