Ask any communication leader how they manage and measure reputation, and you’ll get a different answer. Many will say they use some sort of reputation ranking service that stacks them up against their competitors. Certainly, there’s a place for this, but measuring based on perception within industry peers alone only gets you so far, and represents a missed opportunity to identify gaps for improvement.
Given reputation is such a moving target, and an evolving result of myriad outputs across the corporate front, it’s no wonder that reputation rankings are a de facto tool to get some sense of where a corporate brand stands against their competitors. But reputation rankings that measure across a broad range of industry peers are a blunt instrument. The risk in measuring reputation generally against competitors is that it’s impossible to really do anything about it. There’s no way to size up reputation threats, or mitigate reputation damage when it does arise. However, this all changes if companies build and manage corporate reputation by connecting to business results.
Basically, you have to know what you want to measure before you can measure it. And, here’s the tough part: what you want to measure is likely going to look different from what your competitors measure – because you’re after different and unique objectives. This is often not what communications leaders want to hear, especially if they’re seeking a magic concoction of reputation metrics that leading companies use, or benchmarks that are well-regarded in their industries. Again, there is a place for that, but those inputs are not the most strategic in the information and insight they’ll provide.
For a better path forward, take, for instance, Company A. The communication team at this company knew they could do better with regard to reputation, and driving a more proactive reputation plan was their primary goal. In order to drive support for that plan, they presented a report to their executive team that summarized the risk of not having a plan, and how haphazard management of corporate identity and reputation (both internally and externally) resulted in business objectives that were poorly supported. What ensued was a great discussion; the executive team saw that their corporate identity and reputation were not in alignment with intended outcomes, and they actually provided specific metrics suggestions from functions across the business that would help to bring strategic objectives in view. This discussion formed the strawman of their reputation management plan – based on their metrics, their terms, and their intended direction. The communications team’s workload did increase, but now they run a swift reputation program with support and buy-in from the executive team.
If you look beneath surface-level rankings, organizations are more complex and unique, and deserve to be examined as such. When organizations instead decide for themselves how they’ll be judged, based on the outcomes they’re seeking, then they’ll have a clearer picture of how they’re actually performing against those outcomes – and they’ll have more confidence in knowing they are truly worthy of a good reputation, or one that needs improving.
Look for a continuation of this post next month where I’ll share how a corporate narrative can provide the underpinning of an outcomes-based corporate reputation strategy.