In my previous post, I discussed the importance of understanding the external operating environment for best practice reputation management. It is equally important that companies understand the internal operating environment, to understand which approaches to reputation management will work best within the company’s culture. For a reputation management strategy to be successful and sustainable, it is critical that there be cross-functional buy-in and engagement across the business – people need to believe in the process and see reputation as “everyone’s business”.
The most successful reputation management systems extend ownership of the organization’s reputation by effectively engaging relevant colleagues across the enterprise, from head office to the business units. (Read how we helped SABMiller implement a global reputation management process fully aligned with the group’s corporate strategy, vision and values.) Importantly, this collaboration needs to happen at an early stage in the system design process (to make people feel truly engaged in the process) and needs to be manifested across a company’s key geographies and business lines. A cross-functional team effort is required to fully realize the value of a strong corporate reputation framework – one that goes beyond the traditionally-assigned Communications or Corporate Affairs functions. The ultimate strategy must also align with important business goals and corporate strategies, in both planning and execution.
Leading companies have reputation-related messaging originating from the CEO, and include reputation as part of the KPIs of key functions across the organization (The Guardian explores how Unilever, led by CEO Paul Polman, has thrived in this “Vuca” world.) This show of strong commitment to reputation from above is an important first step in creating a ‘reputation-centric’ culture. And demonstrating the positive relationship between reputation enhancement and improvements to the more tangible drivers of corporate value (e.g., market positioning, customer loyalty, stronger partnerships, talent attraction, smoothing market entry, etc.) will help ensure widespread buy-in to reputation management.
In addition to approaching reputation as an integrated corporate strategy, companies must decide how best to measure reputation and which approaches will be most successful in the organization. There are currently a few schools of thought around the best approach to gathering corporate benchmarking data: bespoke, customized intelligence gathering versus large “off-the-shelf” benchmarking surveys. The latter generally examine many corporate brands and provide general comparative metrics. While these studies can be efficient and cost-effective, this approach does not necessarily include the views of your key stakeholders, nor identify your company’s unique drivers as they relate to the company’s history, current performance, business operations, and strategy. The limitations imposed by a generic approach to reputation measurement prevent a company from deeply understanding the dimensions and variability of its reputation among the stakeholders who shape it.
In our view, reputation is a unique reflection of stakeholders’ interactions with or perceptions of the business. A custom reputation model gives the specificity and flexibility required to identify the business-specific reputation drivers that are required to develop strategies that will improve your company’s reputation. Reputation management works best with a precise and nuanced understanding of a company’s reputation among all its stakeholders, in the markets that matter most.
So what do we take away from all of this? We recommend that companies build an inclusive ‘reputation-centric culture’ by involving key functions early on, including corporate affairs, communications, corporate brand, CSR/sustainability, human resources, investor relations, and business units, to ensure stronger enterprise-wide alignment and integrated corporate responses.
Once the organization has bought into the process, it should consider a highly customized approach to measuring corporate reputation – one that assesses existing associations with the company and brand, identifies robust corporate reputation drivers that the company needs to manage, and helps develop a set of precise reputation KPIs that align with the company’s business and strategy.
Building Resilient Corporate Reputations: A GlobeScan Brief and Blog Series
Drawn from our new brief, Building Resilient Corporate Reputations, this blog series explores best-practice solutions to common challenges and shortcomings of corporate reputation management. Whether you need to begin, to evaluate or to re-design your reputation management system, the brief and blog series will help you to assess how fit-for-purpose your current reputation approach may be. Femke de Man, Director, Reputation, introduces the findings in the video to the left.
Download the Brief: Building Resilient Corporate Reputations
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Femke de Man | Director, Reputation | Email | Twitter | Bio
Click here to find out more about GlobeScan’s Reputation Management practice
For twenty-five years, GlobeScan has helped clients measure, understand and build valuable relationships with their stakeholders, and to work collaboratively in delivering a sustainable and equitable future. Uniquely placed at the nexus of reputation, brand and sustainability, GlobeScan partners with clients to build trust, drive engagement and inspire innovation within, around and beyond their organizations.