Corporate Image has research partners that span the globe and work closely with us to deliver bespoke reputation research tools to uncover what really drives our clients’ reputation, where they are strong, weak and where emerging issues are.
We also work to establish a very focused list of stakeholders that need to be monitored so that we’re asking the right questions of the right people, across multiple stakeholder groups. This may include investors, the media, government, regulators, employees, NGOs and major customers, plus of course the general public. This allows companies to focus their attention where it will have the most impact and not on the things that don’t really matter.
Research we manage for clients spans 25 countries in Africa, Europe, India, Russia and Latin America.
We mean more than media relationships, which is what many communications agencies mean when they say ‘reputation management’. Nor do we necessarily mean issues management. Both of these activities would be included in reputation management, but Corporate Image includes a broad spectrum of management activity in our approach to this discipline.
The questions we ask before research planning even starts would include how likely investors, or employees, would be to defend your company in a crisis. Would there be a propensity to defend you, boycott you, hold on to or even accumulate your shares, believe or disbelieve negative information? What about in times of relative calm? Do they buy your products or shares because they support your ethics, like your products, trust you as a good corporate citizen, fancy your company as a long-term share option, admire it, believe in its long term sustainability, like and trust its leadership? These are more trenchant questions that go to the heart of good reputation management.
Reputation management takes all of this into account. But more importantly, it considers very carefully those people, or organisations, who directly influence your business and more importantly, the degree to which they influence each other, media included.
Often starting with a research benchmark, we work closely and comprehensively with our clients to develop and execute a multi-stakeholder strategy to lift reputation and ensure key messages resonate with the most important of these, across the dimensions and drivers of reputation that really matter to them. We advocate period research to establish progress and course correct where necessary and appropriate.
In all the research we manage, we sit with Excos for typically one day, analysing research results and formulating strategic interventions to make the most out of leverageable strengths, mitigate risks, address weaknesses and come up with creative execution plans to lift the company’s reputation across key geographies and stakeholder groups. Corporate Image then can assist with the ongoing execution of all strategies and plans.
Generally, we believe that professional reputation management falls within four stages of evolution. We help companies proceed from the baseline to the most evolved phase – Strategic Reputation Management.
The kinds of activities we would include would range from reputation risk assessment, where we work with The Reputation Agency and their bespoke tool on project risk, Reputation Automated Project Risk Assessment Tool ©. We also work with The Reputation Agency using their Reputation Performance/Perceptions Model © to measure the difference between perceptions and what the company is practically delivering, so that an adjustment can be made either to the way in which a company is communicating with its stakeholders, or whether an adjustment to the way they do things is necessary to move the needle.
Internal training on both ethics and reputation management is part of our service. The programmes for staff are interactive, often fun and encourage employees to take personal accountability for promoting, enhancing and protecting their employer’s reputation. Practical examples are used from throughout the business to make sure employees can identify their role in the process.
To understand the efficacy – or efficiency – of a company’s engagement process with the media, we make use of The Reputation Agency’s Media Efficacy Tool © which allows our clients to rate themselves against peers when it comes to media relations. This proprietary tool looks at very key questions about your relations with the media: how they value the information you provide, what store they put in your relationship, how they view your CEO’s accessibility and transparency and what your areas of improvement would be. The Reputation Agency has done a sufficient number of research projects over the years to enable them to measure your company against corporate benchmarks.
Ultimately, we believe reputation requires long range planning, patience, enormous commitment and very careful management. It goes to the soul of a company, not to its PR or media strategy, in the same way that compliance with King III or Sarbanes Oxley does not automatically make a company honest.