Posts Tagged ‘Reputation Institute’
I wanted to read the chapter in Trust Inc. by Linda Locke on “Trust, Emotion and Corporate Reputation.” I bought the book because Barbara Brooks Kimmel has done such a terrific job building Trust Across America-Trust Around the World, an organization focused on the fundamental element of trust. Linda is the founder of Reputare Consulting which is a reputation management consulting firm. I know Linda from events at Reputation Institute and her work leading reputation management at MasterCard. She really knows the field, is a thought leader on reputation, has powerful insights, and I follow her regularly on Twitter (@reputationista)…love that handle.
In the chapter, Linda mentions that facts are often not enough. It is a good starting place to build trust but if that’s all a company has to provide in a crisis situation, it is not going to work today. She says: “To earn trust, a company must go beyond the requirements, beyond the simple facts of the situation, and demonstrate that it understands the concerns of the stakeholders.” Showing empathy, care and concern are necessary ingredients to rebuilding trust, protecting reputation for the long-term and beginning to repair the reputation tear. What caught my attention was her recommended breakdown of communications content when a company’s reputation is under the glare of spotlights:
- 50% of a company’s external communciations should express care and concern
- 25% should express the company’s commitment to fixing the situation (what are you going to do, when and how)
- 25% should focus on the facts (again, facts have to be there but it is not all there is).
These are very helpful proportions to use when explaining to companies what they need to do about the content of their risk communications. What fascinates me the most, however, is how companies today have to show their “softer side” when they are in the middle of a brewing crisis and be more vulnerable and empathic. This is a major change in how companies are expected to communicate when they have done wrong in the public’s view.
Linda provides some case studies in her chapter that truly intrigued me. She provides a social-pyschological framework to understanding the public’s emotions to losing trust in institutions. Here’s one to share. She gave an example of a financial services firm managing their reputation during the horrific and unprecedented financial recession of 2007-2008. The firm analysed what people were saying about how they felt during this period. As she describes it, the firm found that three emotions were most evident in the public discussions about the financial downslide that was causing a real sense of fear and loss of trust. They were: irreversibility (consumers fear that what was happening was irreversible and would be permanent); unfamiliarity (consumers having never experienced anything like this economic uncertainty before) and involuntariness (consumers had no control over what was happening to them and could not influence the outcome whatsoever). The consuming public was paralyzed by fear and what could companies do to assuage their loss of trust. For companies faced with these raw emotions, Linda recommends explaining in everyday language (certainly not corporate speak) how the situation happened, how it is similar to a familiar experience they may have encountered in the past, the role of the responsible parties to fix the situation so it does not happen again and how the company will do whatever it takes to repair that broken bond of trust. And certainly empathisize with those affected and show you care if you want to keep your reputation from cratering.
Building trust is the bedrock of reputation. If your company is not trusted and credible, it is going to fail fast and I mean really fast.
Interesting news came across my alerts yesterday. A private equity company, Catalyst Investors, made a minority equity investment in Reputation Institute. This news caused a friend of mine, Bruce Rogers, who is the chief insights officer for Forbes and columnist on thought leadership to write, “Reputation management is the new black in corporate strategy.” He sure is right. The topic of reputation is now radioactive. I think it has nearly passed the term “sustainability” in terms of sheer mentions (I did not think I was right but I was!…in a Google search I just did, reputation had nearly 406 million hits and sustainability had 82 million).
I enjoyed reading Bruce’s interview with partners at RI. Interesting fact — according to the partners from RI, they have grown 43% on average per year over the past 8 years. This speaks to reputation’s importance on CEO and board agendas today.
Bruce asked how companies were implementing reputation management programs and one of RI’s partners, Nicolas Georges Trad, responded in the following way:
“Companies find themselves at different stages of the reputation journey. From Stage 1 where they are exploring what reputation is and how it is affecting their business. Over Stage 3 where they have company specific intelligence that they can use for business planning and integration. To Stage 5 where they are able to make reputation based decisions because they have the relevant intelligence on what matters to customers and other key stakeholders. But this is still a new business focus. 87% of companies are still in stage 1-3 but we see a wave of companies investing in reputation management to move up the chain and use reputation as a business driver.” This is an accurate assessment from what I can tell too. The good news is that companies are starting the journey.
Upon hearing the news, I sent an email to the executive chairman and founder of RI, Charles Fombrun, congratulating him. I met Charles many years ago when he held his first reputation forum at New York University. It must have been the end of the 1990s and there were few reputation tracking programs available at all. There was Fortune’s Most Admired which I was intimately familiar with and the seeds of Reputation Quotient that Charles had just started thinking about. That may have been also when I met my good friend and reputation expert Joy Sever who worked with Charles on that first RQ. I recall the forum well because I was not happy hearing the criticism about the Most Admired study and how it needed changing (he was right) to reflect the many dimensions of reputation. I can’t say for sure but Charles had at that time written the first book on reputation and my books soon followed on slightly different topics — the role of the CEO in reputation building and reputation recovery and defense.
Ironically just this past week, I presented my thoughts on reputation trends to RI’s other founder, Cees van Riel, and his communications executives working on their masters degrees at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. It felt like I had gone full circle from that day I attended the forum at NYU — the news that reputation was a worthy investment, seeing Cees after many years, emailing with Charles and of course reading Bruce’s column. Bruce and I were once dueling CMOs when he led Forbes’ marketing and I ran Fortune’s. Three degrees of separation.
Congratulations to RI, Charles and Cees and the others I know, for building interest in reputation, adding to the body of knowledge on reputation with solid global data and providing gravitas to the world of reputation
One study comes from Echo Research and Reputation Dividend. They found that corporate reputations contribute to a total of $3.2 TRILLION to market cap in the S&P 500. Big number.
Reputation Institute released a new global survey report among corporate reputation officers (CROs), Navigating the Reputation Economy. The respondents are those senior officers who identify themselves as the senior-most person responsible for “setting their company’s corporate reputation, marketing, corporate communications/public affairs and business strategy.” One of their most important findings mirrors what we learned in our study on the company behind the brand. RI found that 80% of CROs say people’s willingness to recommend their company as a place to work or as an investment is driven by the perceptions of the company overall. Same for direct purchases — 38% say that purchase decisions are driven by the company behind the product or brand rather than what is actually for sale.
What is most particularly illuminating about the RI study is their depiction of where companies fall on the reputation management continumm. They describe a five-phase journey that companies go through from phase 1 (exploring reputation) to phase 5 (integrating reputation into business planning and company strategy). Phases 2 (customization of measurement and management) and 3 (business planning integration) come before phase 4 (cross functional implementation and accountability). Not surprisingly, only 13% of companies fall into the Advanced Phase among the 318 companies in the study. Most companies fall into phases 2 and 3 (69%). Eighteen percent fall into the phase 1 exploration phase. My experience agrees with this assessment. Most companies are in the phase 2 and 3 phase. Few really fall into the most advanced stage.
The distinctions between Early Phase and Advanced Phase companies could not be clearer, according to RI’s results . Advance Phase companies are 2-3 times more likely to:
1. Understand reputation across stakeholders and markets
2. Understand specific business impact of reputation
3. Have an internal council or steering committee to champion action
4. Have senior executives accountable for corporate reputation KPIs
5. Have reputation integrated into long-term enterprise vision, goals, and priorities
The favorite communications channels for reputation management are the company website, the annual report, stakeholder events and CSR reports. Advanced phase companies are more intense in their usage of nearly all the channels. However, as we have seen in elsewhere and in fact our own research, social media is the one channel where early phase and advanced phase companies are nearly the same. My sense is that this is because social media is still fairly new and experimental in the eyes of CROs and everyone is using it in the same way without being sure about what works and what does not work. All they know is that they have to do it!
Every week I think nothing new is happening in the world of reputation. And I am always wrong. There are always CEOs coming and going, companies that get into trouble and lose reputation points and new things to learn. That’s the best part. Here’s a few:
1. Booz Allen released their fabulous CEO Succession report. I read it every year and welcome the insights. This year they focused on new CEOs, a topic dear to my heart and book. This year they found that 14.2% of CEOs of the world’s 2500 largest public companies changed over. This is a sizeable increase from last year when the turnover rate was 11.6%. This increase makes sense because as boards battled the recession, it was not the opportune time to change chief executive reins. Better to batten down the hatches when times are tough. Strikingly, Bozo found that outsider CEOs are making a comeback. In 2011, 22% of all new CEOs were outsiders compared to 14% in 2007. That’s definitely surprising to me since the trend has been in favor of insiders for a while now. The possibility is that companies need fresh new ideas and outsiders with global experience as they now look to grow. You should check out the report because there always is a lot of fascinating information on the world of CEO transitions. For example, outsider CEOs are more likely to lose their jobs, the number of CEOs being appointed chairman has declined and nearly 90% of new CEOs have not been a CEO before. That last fact is astounding and perhaps why we get asked about our services on CEO First 100 Days as often as we do. In another post, I will provide Booz’s insights on advice on CEO’s first year in office.
2. Reputation Institute released its worldwide reputation findings on the Most Reputable Companies. Their headline reads, “Reputation Is Impacted More By What You Stand For Than What You Sell.” In their research, they found that “People’s willingness to buy, recommend, work for and invest in a company is driven 60 percent by their perceptions of the company and only 40 percent by their perceptions of their products.” That’s an important finding and mirrors Weber Shandwick’s results on the importance of the company behind the brand. We are on the same wavelength, clearly. They also found that only 11% of the top 100 companies have better reputations abroad than at home. “It’s because reputation isn’t something that’s easy to export,” says Nicolas Georges Trad, Executive Partner at Reputation Institute. Love that quote.
3. I also attended Spencer Stuart’s CMO Summit this week on innovation. It was illuminating in how innovation gets baked into companies from the head marketing honcho. Whereas one company CMO panelist was analytical in her approach, another was more artistic and qualitative. Goes to show that culture drives execution. From the panel, I learned about another usage of HIPPO which is always a bonus to me – it is a reference to the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Everyone in business knows what that means.
Just read an article in The Economist (which I love) that questions the business of reputation management. The columnist attended a recent meeting in London held by the Reputation Institute (RI) on their new RepTrak results for British companies.
The writer rightfully acknowledges that we are living in a “reputation economy” where institutions and individuals literally trade on the currency of reputation and this type of exchange makes “intuitive sense” in a society where Facebook is worth more than many Fortune 100 companies. Reputation Economy is the term used by RI and its professionals, led by Charles Fombrun, and continue to provide valuable, far-reaching insights to companies around the world. The writer, however, raises several interesting objections to the effectiveness of the reputation management industry as it stands today.
First, he/she (have no clue) objects to the idea that many different factors as disparate as product quality and corporate citizenship are all rolled up into one understanding of what reputation means. That may be true, but I am not sure why that is bad in such a complex and fragmented world where every individual becomes an interest group. For us reputologists (I just made that up), the factors contributing to corporate reputation vary depending on the company’s history, industry and situation they are facing. For example, in the financial industry, unlike say the automotive industry, it is often difficult to distinguish one company from another by focusing only on their products and services. Their reputations are far more likely to be built on sheer trust in the perceived integrity of their leadership and governance.
The columnist’s second objection to reputation management today is the assumption that companies with positive reputations will find it easier to attract customers and withstand crises. As evidence of the supposed weakness of this assumption, the columnist cites many companies with strong bottom lines despite terrible reputations: e.g., tobacco companies (harmful product), Ryanair (poor service) and Daily Mail (mean spirit). Yes, there are always companies that will make gobs of money despite wrong-doing and poor service. Nevertheless, these companies have and will continue to have a hard time attracting and retaining the best talent. But in this online world where advocates and fans matter more than ever, it will be harder to keep that bottom line as stable as it once was.
But the greatest objection to the reputation industry, according to the columnist, is and I quote… “its central conceit: that the way to deal with potential threats to your reputation is to work harder at managing your reputation.” He/she continues with… “The opposite is more likely: the best strategy may be to think less about managing your reputation and concentrate more on producing the best products and services you can.” Here I agree at least in part with the columnist’s thinking. The best way to build reputation is to “have a customer” as Peter Drucker always said. Without customers, there is no business to have a reputation worth building. The reputation industry, however, does not urge industries to ignore producing the best products and services in favor of managing reputation. To the contrary, building the best products and services is part and parcel of a good reputation. Also, however, today’s society is much more complicated and often it behooves a corporation to do more than just having great products and services. Apple, for example, may have the best products but if it does not give a damn about how it treats employees or contributes to society, it will face problems that if allowed to accumulate may well threaten its bottom line. We see that now with regard to questions about their handling of factories in China.
I think that the columnist should rename the article to Why companies should worry MORE about their reputations or else.
Reputation Institute came out this week with their RepTrak Pulse survey for the US. It measures the reputation of 150 largest US public companies among consumers. In addition to the usual who’s up and who’s down, RI reveals some interesting stats that confirm our research results on Companies Behind the Brand. I was delighted. As RI says in its press release, “Since 2009, U.S. companies have been competing in a new Reputation Economy, where WHO THEY ARE matters even more than WHAT THEY PRODUCE, according to general public sentiment. Framing this in the context of critical consumer behaviors, including purchase consideration, loyalty and recommendation–company or “enterprise” perceptions explain 60% of these behaviors, with product perceptions only accounting for 40%.” This is a big shift which we agree with.
In addition, RI asked Chief Reputation Officers (CEO, CMO and CCO) several questions and learned that 51% name the CEO as the person with the responsibility to set reputation strategy.
America’s Most Reputable Companies list is out from Reputation Institute. Just saw an article in PRWeek. And read the RI press release for more detail. The list also appears in Forbes. In addition to reading about the various companies that made the best and least best (polite way of saying it) reputation list, several interesting facts came out that immediately drew my attention. They are below.
- The survey found companies with excellent reputations were 2.5 times more likely to put their CEO in charge of positioning and telling the corporate story. This is music to my ears. Today, CEOs are the content providers of the highest order. Great to have another source say this besides us.
- Highly-regarded companies are 15 times more likely to manage reputation across company functions. Reputation is of enterprise importance and not just a PR issue. Good point.
- Highly-regarded companies were 1.5 times more likely to include reputation metrics as part of their senior management dashboard, and 1.7 times more likely to seek outside assistance with corporate reputation management.
I was very pleased to see RI asking these questions which only add to the reputation library of information. Thanks to the RI team!
I was a panelist at a thoroughly enjoyable event for NYU masters of communications students earlier this week. Joining the panel was Ray Jordan, corporate VP of public affairs and corporate communications at Johnson & Johnson. He began his presentation on the importance of reputation in this ever changing world and talking about how he was convinced that reputation is not a noun but a verb – something that is done. The three steps to reputating are to make sure people understand who you are, second to do the right thing and third get caught doing the right things. The ideas of getting caught at doing the right things is plain infectious!
At the Reputation Institute, their fine work focus on “reputable” companies and companies of ”repute.” I guess no matter what you call it, reputation is still all about building one’s good name for lasting advantage.
Over the past few weeks, there have been several reputation rankings released. I am stunned by the proliferation of rankings on reputation. It is getting harder to keep track of whose ranking is whose and what’s behind the numbers. Whereas there used to only be one or two major reputation rankings, today there are scores. We (my team at Weber Shandwick) knows because we keep track of them every day in our database called Scoreboxx. We must have over 700 primetime corporate rankings that companies can compete on and receive recognition. These rankings fall into broad categories such as corporate responsibility, workplace, diversity, leadership, etc. Years ago, a company only had to worry about Fortune’s Most Admired Companies survey. Now you have to be on the alert for lists that give you a thumbs up or thumbs down.
In the past few weeks, we have seen the release of Harris Interactive’s Reputation Quotient, Reputation Institute’s Pulse Survey and Millward Brown’s Global Brands (BrandZ). All good and “reputable” lists. However, they are all coming out at about the same time and comingling in people’s minds. Years ago when I was at Fortune, we conducted a landmark survey about business readership of business magazines. A few years later, Forbes conducted their own readership survey of business magazines with a twist that confused the marketplace. The two surveys were similar but because many people still confused Fortune and Forbes, Fortune’s competitive advantage was weakened.
My reputation advocate friend Joy Sever is right when she says that all these lists are diluting one another because most people do not understand the differences between them and how the data are gathered. She was right to also say that pretty soon it will all be about the reputation of the reputation rankings. It seems like that has already begun.
The most important way to measure reputation is to take these reputation rankings into account but focus primarily on your own customized research that drills down into your most important stakeholders’ perceptions and most critical reputation dimensions. By tracking your own company reputation vs. competitors over time, reputation-building has its best shot.