Ipsos put out its annual Reputation Council Survey and for 2015 –it might not be such a surprise that corporate brand and corporate reputation are merging in ways that were once unthinkable. There was once a time when the brand manager and risk manager didn’t even know each other, now it is more likely they are meeting regularly, along with the social media manager, public relations / communications manager and other stakeholders who manage a company’s reputation in an increasingly interconnected (and online) world. Ipsos says the edition of this survey focuses “…on the challenges of achieving a differentiated reputation in a crowded communications landscape.” Ispsos spoke to hundreds of council members to put together this report that speaks to a variety of issues:
Looking at the regions around the world – what are some of the major issues that are causing reputation “heartburn” for many global companies?” Ipsos summarized the following:
- Americas – Financials, energy, pharmaceuticals and data security.
- APAC – Both finance and energy were issues that permeated across the Asian region.
- Latin America – Energy and mining
- African and the Middle East – Energy, pharmaceuticals and more
Understanding that these top issues are clearly harmful on multiple levels, what might propel companies in these regions to do better or even shape up their policies? Is it regulation? More transparency?
The Ipsos report showcases a cynical public: “Globally (across 25 countries in the Ipsos Global @dvisor survey) 40% of people believe there is too little regulation of banking companies and 37% believe there is too little regulation of insurance companies.”
Financials appear to have more than its share it troubles worldwide: “The … financial services industry is an industry under siege,” notes the report. “The fallout from the 2008 financial crisis is perceived as strong in the minds of consumers and regulators alike. The industry’s challenges are compounded by governance issues that continue to come to light and by additional missteps from the industry in customer service and data protection.”
The Ispsos Reputation report notes that now companies in these industries need to take reputation management much more seriously and use it as a strategic objective. Ispsos says that while many think that too much emphasis on transparency might be a waste of time or send out the wrong messages, many Reputation Council members stress that the benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks, especially for those companies under the microscope. Ispsos says“…that comes with the territory of being a distinctive, leading voice in the market.”
In a nutshell, how much money, time and energy should a company invest in reputation management for business? Ipsos advises that many should look at striking the balance between proactive and reactive: In other words, experts said, “…what extent do you invest your resources in the brand’s reputation up front, and how much do you leave in the war chest for contingency?” The point being, if reputational issues are not managed effectively upfront – then the cost of a crisis can be very exorbitant on many fronts.
Another issue that has affected the reputation management of top global corporations is data breaches. Hundreds of companies have seen their mission-critical and private customer data compromised as a result of hacking and infiltration of what was once thought of full-proof firewalls. These reputational issues seem to mostly affect “…financial services, retailers, technology, telecommunications and government.”
Many customers today are thinking twice about where to invest money or even if using credit cards are safe. Digitization is an important (not to mention an unpleasant issue) and despite chips in credit cards and more stringent regulations (PCI, HIPPA, etc.), global corporations are still being infiltrated.
Today many realize that social media can be the driver of both good and bad news – and in some cases – a very fast driver that can run like a roaring train once an ounce of rumor is reported. “The inner workings of corporations are on show like never before and stakeholders increasingly place a premium on those organizations which communicate and deliver upon a set of values that are aligned with their sense of what is right and wrong,” says the Ispsos report.
Today corporate communicators are continually challenged that stakeholders will receive information on a corporation’s actions as quickly as the corporation’s communicators.
“At a time when all corporate messages and actions are examined in great detail by a growing group of influential stakeholders, it is increasingly important that corporations are what they say they are,” says the Ipsos report. “Authenticity is a quality that stakeholders feel is increasingly rare and greatly in demand – therefore creating a significant advantage for those that can achieve it.”