Credibility at stake? News representations and discursive constructions of national environmental reputation and place brand image: The case of clean, green New Zealand
Kaefer, F. (2014). Credibility at stake? News representations and discursive constructions of national environmental reputation and place brand image: The case of clean, green New Zealand (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8834
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8834
This thesis explores news media representations and discursive constructions of a country’s environmental reputation and “green” place brand image using the example of clean, green New Zealand. In particular, it examines Australian, UK and US press coverage of New Zealand’s environmental performance linked to carbon emissions, and its branding, to determine the perceived credibility and potential vulnerability of the country’s clean, green and 100% Pure global environmental positioning. The thesis follows the argumentation that, as calls for environmental responsibility are growing louder, the global competitiveness of nations and places increasingly depends on their ability to convince audiences both domestic and overseas of their environmental credentials and integrity. As a main carrier of country reputation and channel through which place image travels, the mass media play a crucial role with regard to the perceived legitimacy and credibility of a place’s brand positioning. Guided by a qualitative, mild social constructionist research paradigm and software-assisted discourse analysis and qualitative content analysis, the thesis establishes the background, context and meaning of clean, green New Zealand through a review of secondary data. It further examines the amount and nature of Australian, UK and US press coverage of New Zealand’s environmental performance (carbon emissions) and branding (clean, green and 100% Pure) during 2008-2012. Findings are discussed both with regard to existing theories on media representations and perceptions of places and national reputation, and the factors influencing environmental news coverage, such as news media’s indexing tendency, newsworthiness, journalistic norms, issue cycles and media attention spans. Particular attention is paid to the possible reasons for changes in coverage over time and differences across countries. With regard to NZ’s perceived environmental credibility, findings indicate that within the country there is growing unrest and uncertainty about the legitimacy of the clean, green and 100% Pure brand positioning. Changes in political discourse from sustainability to economic growth built on measures not easily compatible with the branding, position the country at a critical juncture regarding the legitimacy of its global environmental positioning. In terms of overseas news coverage, the study shows that, contrary to a generally favourable perception at the beginning of the study period in 2008, ending the year 2012 NZ was no longer in the spotlight as an environmental leader with regard to carbon emissions, but instead had become a minor player the global community largely ignored in the climate change arena. Judging from Australian media coverage, NZ’s environmental reputation was still largely intact there, while in the UK and the US isolated unfavourable articles could be first signals of a shift in perceptions. In the absence of both symbolic actions and the coverage needed to maintain the image and reputation, NZ’s global environmental positioning has become more vulnerable. Having said that, because unfavourable coverage of clean, green and 100% Pure was found to be comparatively scarce, the study concludes that there is still an opportunity to maintain NZ’s environmental reputation by backing it up with business and government leadership in the environmental arena.
University of Waikato
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