Blog post

Two Key Takeaways from Gartner’s 2022 Marketing & Communications Awards: Reputation Management

By Amber Gallihar Boyes | July 26, 2022 | 0 Comments

Marketing Leadership and Strategy

I’ve spent the past 13 years on the submission side of awards. So moving into the role as judge for Gartner’s 2022 Marketing and Communications Awards was a fascinating new experience. Alongside a colleague in research, I reviewed submissions in the “Reputation Management” category. We sought a broad range of entries in this category. They included sophisticated measurement approaches, PR and media relations strategies, brand journalism or employee ambassador programs, even corporate narrative initiatives that improved stakeholder advocacy.

How the submitting organizations framed reputation management in their entries varied. But two key takeaways stood out:

It starts from within

Among the finalists in the reputation category, most included some component of internal communications, employee experience and advocacy. Last year, Edelman data revealed that employees now rank as the most important group to an organization’s long-term success. This stands as yet another COVID-19 trend that shows no indication of letting up. The impact of employee experience on corporate reputation and financial health is more evident than ever. So it was encouraging to see this year’s respondents find creative ways to engage their most important stakeholders.

Awarded highly commended in this category were Shell. Shell’s communications team recognized that maintaining trust between staff and leadership was essential as they navigated a tax residency transition. It was one challenge to get their employees to understand the transition rationally, but another to communicate in a way that resonated emotionally. A robust content strategy supported their efforts and included personalized leadership communications, a dedicated resource hub and two-way communication opportunities through office hours and Q&As. Leading with a campaign centered around empathy, the communications team was highly successful in driving their ultimate goal—shareholder approval.

Philip Morris International, this year’s category Winner, also incorporated a two-phased employee engagement approach. They leveraged a new CEO announcement to further demonstrate the organization’s commitment to a smoke-free future. A virtual CEO listening tour with employees across functions and geographies coupled with traditional announcements drove record engagement among its employee base. It also helped integrate internal and external messaging strategies.

Reputation is not the ultimate goal

I know this may sound contradictory considering we built an entire award category around this, but hear me out. Very few organizations can definitively link reputation directly to business impact. Can you draw correlations? Sure. But are they airtight enough to stand up to leadership scrutiny? Probably not. Instead, my colleagues and I who discuss reputation with Gartner clients everyday suggest another approach. One where reputation is still an important measure, but should be considered as a preliminary outcome that leads to intermediary things—like brand preference. Those intermediary outcomes can then be more definitively linked to business impact. See External Communications–A Journey Map.

While we saw many creative approaches to driving positive reputation among this year’s entries, many lacked a measurement framework that went one step further to demonstrate how their reputation-driving efforts drove actual behavior change among specific stakeholder groups. Measuring perception for perception’s sake sets communications leaders back and minimizes their ability to articulate how their work impacts the bottom line.

We do expect the focus on reputation to grow. Earlier this year, technology vendor Signal AI reported in its State of Corporate Reputation Report that 72% of CEOs see reputation as a bigger driver of business performance than margin in the next five years. At Gartner we’re keeping a close eye on other indicators as well—like linking executive pay to meeting ESG targets. As this trend continues, communications leaders who demonstrate how reputation leads to a strategic advantage will drive stronger strategies and measurement approaches.

For more information on these and other Winners of the 2022 Awards, please visit our Awards site here.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

Comments are closed