The Strategic Possibilities of Falck to Repair its Legitimacy on the Danish Market

Kathrine Birkelund

Student thesis: Master thesis


Through the employment of a neo institutional and mediazation approach, the present thesis explains the loss of legitimacy of the Danish emergency services company Falck due to several months of criticism in the media. Subsequently, light is shed upon the ability of the company to repair its legitimacy on the Danish market. The paper is built on Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann’s theory of knowledge explaining how the world is socially constructed. The theories and procedures applied are thus selected based on the epistemological, ontological and methodological premises of Social Constructivism. The Danish coverage of the case is investigated through a qualitative content analysis with deductive features of Mark C. Suchman and Susanne Holmström’s theories of legitimacy and Robert Entman’s theory on framing. With reference to a set of predefined variables, a coding of 85 articles, radio episodes, podcasts and television news was conducted. The units were systematically selected with reference to the theory of Mikkel F. Eskjær and Rasmus Helles on probability sampling, and the reliability and validity principles by James Potter & Deborah Levine‐Donnerstein. The selection followed three criteria: the media units were 1) published in media by professional journalists, 2) published between January 30th - June 26th, 2019, and 3) had a wide ideological section and long reach. The findings suggest that the journalists articulated the actions of Falck as intentional, and Falck was subsequently framed as a charitable association violating its common good activities. Moreover, Falck had created a monopoly based on harassment of competitors and acquisition of businesses. The actions were portrayed as unethical, and through figurative language journalists highlighted the former CEO of Falck as a criminal that had “killed” the competitor Bios. These conclusions set the foundation for a legitimacy analysis. Through Suchman’s theory on legitimacy the finding was that the pragmatic and cognitive legitimacy of Falck was severely damaged. To gain an understanding of the society that Falck operates in, sociological theories such as Stig Hjarvard’s Mediatization of Society, Susanne Holmström’s perspectives of Governance Society, and Mads P. Sørensen’s consumer theory on the Political Consumers were introduced. A discussion of how Falck would be able to repair its legitimacy through Suchman’s strategies suggests that through a tactic of decoupling, where the organization monitors and acts upon insights from the public agenda in the media, Falck is able to repair its legitimacy. However, a total alignment creates a paradox due to the rather divergent expectations of the consumers. The solution for Falck is to highlight its adaptation to these perceptions. When doing so, it must be aware that some of the main characteristics of the governance society, mediazation and the political consumers construct decisive challenges for Falck. Transparency and public negotiation in the media necessitate that Falck finds the right balance between being aspirational and intentional in order to avoid being criticized of hypocrisy. Falck should not only window-dress, but also implement some of its alleged actions. The thesis concludes that if Falck comply with the expectations through a decoupling strategy, it will regain meaning and credibility over time and thereby restore legitimacy and regain license to operate in the Danish market.

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and Organizational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages102