In 1981, Joan Jett told the world she didn’t give a damn about a bad reputation. But then, she didn’t have shareholders to answer to.
The public perception of a company, institution or governmental body is fundamental to its ability to achieve its objectives. That’s why reputation management is one of the most important functions of a PR team. The hope is that with consistent, creative and clever Public Relations, Communications teams can wield some control over the organisation’s reputation.
The relationship between a company’s brand and its reputation is not entirely straightforward however; despite any brand’s best effort to convince their audience of its message, the public ultimately decide a company’s reputation based on whether it lives up to its brand proposition. While brand can be defined as how your organisation wants to be seen by the public, whereas reputation is how people actually see you.
Public Relations has a vital role to play in earning, maintaining and protecting an organisation’s reputation. There are a variety of strategies teams can employ to build trust, and in the world of the whistle-blower, this must begin with ethics, authenticity and a two-way dialogue with the people you’re targeting spoken in a human voice.
There is good reason for companies to show such concern for reputation management. The Global RepTrak Pulse 2016 was the largest study of corporate reputation in the globe, involving 7,000 companies, 55,000 consumers, 40 countries and 25 industries. The study claims that reputation is an emotional bond between consumers and organisations that impacts:
- Whether consumers will buy your product
- If the general public would recommend your company
- Policy makers and regulators in giving you a license to operate
- The financial community’s willingness to invest in your organisation
- How the media reports your point of view
- Whether employees deliver on your strategy
RepTrak claims that company’s that deliver on this will earn the emotion, admiration, trust, and esteem. The impact of this is then seen in seven domains – purchases, verbal support, crisis proofing, recommendations, investment and employment.
RepTrak found that 84% of those surveyed would purchase from a company with an excellent reputation compared with 9% who would purchase from a company with a poor reputation. While 83% would recommend the products of a company with an excellent reputation, 8% who would recommend products from a company with a poor reputation.
For companies competing for talent, 73% would work for a company with an excellent reputation compared with 11% who would work for an organisation rated as poor, and 67% would invest in a company with a an excellent reputation compared with 7% who would invest in a company with a poor reputation.
According to RepTrak, regular reputational audits are required in order to prioritise stakeholders and map the road to success.
Global reputation leaders
In 2016, RepTrak named the following as the top ten companies with the best reputations in the world
- The Walt Disney Company
- BMW Group
The link between a strong reputation and profitability is clear. There is a financial imperative to investing in Public Relations that goes beyond “spin”. People are overwhelmed on a daily basis by traditional and digital advertising, product placements and word-perfect corporate brochures, but it’s no longer enough.
What’s the solution?
Public Relations must live up to its name and become the catalyst for real relationships between organisations and the people they want to attract. Reputation management must never rely on spin; it must represent an authentic connection.
Leave a comment below with your thoughts on reputation management.
Katie Harrington is a Public Relations professional based in Dublin. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launches today. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.