Weber Shandwick Research Finds Companies Facing Complex Challenge of Navigating Two Dozen Drivers of Corporate Reputation
Research released by Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s leading global communications and marketing solutions firms, confirms that corporate reputation is an invaluable asset with appreciable impact on a company’s bottom line. The State of Corporate Reputation in 2020: Navigating the Omnidriver Era finds that Asia Pacific executives, on average, attribute 61 percent of their company’s market value to their company’s overall reputation.
“There is plenty of evidence that reputation makes a meaningful contribution to business success,” said Baxter Jolly, CEO, Asia Pacific of Weber Shandwick. “Our study confirms that the value of reputation is just as high in Asia when compared globally, and shows how it takes a fierce level of attention to an unprecedented suite of reputation drivers – nearly two dozen deemed significant – to remain highly regarded and prevent reputation erosion.”
The State of Corporate Reputation in 2020: Navigating the Omnidriver Era, an online survey, was conducted by Weber Shandwick in partnership with KRC Research among 2,227 executives in high revenue companies across 22 markets worldwide; Asia Pacific markets included Australia, China, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. In addition to reputation, the survey covered culture, CEO activism, employee activism, crisis and risk. Additional reports on these topics will be forthcoming.
Reputation is “omnidriven”
When asked to rate nearly two dozen different reputation drivers on how much each contributes to their own company’s reputation, global executives assigned similar scores to each. All 23 are rated highly by at least half of the global executives in the study. This lack of distinction suggests that companies globally can no longer solely focus on and prioritise just a few key drivers of reputation, but should instead consider many drivers with relatively equal importance. From quality of employees and products to financial performance and corporate culture, everything matters to corporate reputation today.
As important as the new insight that reputation is increasingly omnidriven, so is a potential reason for this sea-change shift: most reputational crises are self-inflicted. Among the global executives who report that their firms experienced a crisis in the past two to three years that impacted their reputations, a staggering 84 percent in Asia Pacific (compared to 76 percent globally) claim that the crisis was preventable. In an environment where business leaders are being caught off-guard by dangers that seemingly lie in plain sight, companies must ensure they are hyper-alert to all factors when working to build and safeguard their reputations, especially within this region.
“We are navigating an era of exceeding complexity, in terms of reputation management,” said Baxter Jolly. “As our research illustrates, each Asia Pacific market prioritises different factors in terms of reputation, even in a multi-factor era. I believe these insights will prove invaluable in helping craft the proactive, data-driven strategies that will guarantee business success in the Asia Pacific over the coming decade.”
Reputation is on the board’s agenda
Corporate reputation is on the radar of company leadership. Nine in 10 executives (91 percent) say their company’s reputation is important to their board of directors, with about half (52 percent) reporting it to be very important to the board.
“A company’s reputation matters to more stakeholders than ever before,” said Micho Spring, chair, Global Corporate Practice at Weber Shandwick. “This research demonstrates that executives firmly believe that reputation matters to board members. Board members are clearly perceived as proactive partners in reputation management today. After all, boards of directors have oversight responsibility for mitigating reputation risk and driving business value.”
Reputation is measured and communicated
The majority of Asia Pacific executives (74 percent) report that their company’s leadership measures or monitors the reputation of their organisation. Globally, it was reported slightly less at 71 percent. When asked how reputation gets measured, executives most often report factors such as employee satisfaction or engagement, sales and financial performance, and surveys among various stakeholder groups.
Reputation is a noticeable point of communication from business leaders globally. Approximately seven in 10 (69 percent) say senior management has mentioned the company’s reputation to employees in the past 12 months and more than half of publicly-held companies (57 percent) report company reputation has come up on earnings calls. Executives are satisfied with the level of attention on reputation from their leadership: 70 percent say senior management focuses on their company’s reputation “just the right amount”.
“Corporate reputation now bleeds into the employee base, forging cultural signposts that drive talent attraction and retention,” said Ian Rumsby, Head of Weber Shandwick consultancy, United Minds, APAC. “With ‘quality of employees’ cited as one of the leading factors that contribute to company reputation, an organisational commitment to a sustained culture transformation agenda can reap significant and long-standing dividends.”
Communication of values is key
Communicating corporate values is critical today. Eight in 10 Asia Pacific executives (81 percent) say it is important that the CEO communicates the organisation’s values in order to be highly regarded. Additionally, a company’s ability to communicate and deliver upon its mission, vision and value is tied with how a company responds to crisis as the top marketing and communications-specific driver of reputation.
This view is consistent across regions. In North America, 81 percent of executives also think it is important for the CEO to communicate the organisation’s values in order to be highly regarded, closely followed by Latin America (79 percent) and Europe/Middle East/Africa (77 percent). When it comes to how much a company’s ability to communicate its mission, vision and values contributes to its reputation, executives in LatAm think it contributes to a significantly greater extent than those in APAC, EMEA and North America.
“Despite the challenging landscape of complex reputation drivers, the discipline of corporate reputation is on solid ground as we head into the next decade,” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist in-residence at Weber Shandwick. “Our latest research shows why reputation matters and the benefits that come with being well regarded. Reputation is a competitive asset in a world marked by uncertainty, intractable business challenges, lightning-fast digital transformation and brutal talent wars. Strategically cultivating and maintaining a strong reputation, both internally and externally, has to be a top priority for nearly all business leaders today.”
Insights for Building Reputation for Greater Market Value
The State of Corporate Reputation in 2020: Navigating the Omnidriver Era Now provides guidelines for strengthening a corporate reputation to maximise its influence on market value. To do this, we explored a segment of global executives that experiences an exceptionally positive financial result from their strong reputation, reporting that at least 76 percent of their market value is attributed to their company’s reputation. The “76 Percenters” are companies that are leveraging reputations for maximum financial returns and they differ from the average executive on several key behaviours. The insights below are based on the most substantial differences and form the basis for best practices for turning reputation into market value.
Every driver of reputation is magnified. The 76 Percenters score every reputation driver higher than the average global executive, many by at least 10 percentage points. This segment is hyper-focused on building their reputations and does not overlook any drivers.
Measurement of reputation is key. The 76 Percenters are more likely than average to report that their CEO or senior leadership measures or monitors the company’s reputation (83 percent versus 71 percent). This group recognises the value of their reputation and ensure they maintain it by vigilantly assessing it. As it is often said, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.
Marketing and communications are critical drivers of reputation. The 76 Percenters are more likely than the average executive to say that marketing and communications contributes to their reputations. The factors 76 Percenters place a greater focus on include communications to the public and employees (67 percent vs 57 percent), social media communications (63 percent vs. 53 percent) and leadership presence on social media (61 percent vs. 51 percent). For this segment, effective communications are key to being well regarded.
Reputation is strategically communicated to critical stakeholders. Executives at 76 Percent firms are more likely than average to say senior management has mentioned the company’s reputation to employees in the past year (83 percent versus 69 percent), and those who work at publicly held companies are more likely than the average publicly held company executive to say the topic of reputation has come up during the company’s earnings calls (74 percent versus 57 percent). The 76 Percenters make key groups such as employees and investors aware of the company’s reputation.
Senior leadership is highly visible. While the majority of global executives think it is important for CEOs to be accessible in a number of ways for their company to be highly regarded, the 76 Percenters place a greater value on visibility. They are more likely than average to say the CEO should have a social media presence (67 percent versus 59 percent), be active in the local community (74 percent versus 68 percent), and win awards or rank on best of lists (70 percent versus 64 percent). Executive visibility is core to reputation building and ultimately greater market value and therefore should be an integral element of any reputation program.
“What we’re seeing is an increased crisis of trust,” said Carolyn Devanayagam, Head of Corporate, Asia Pacific. “With consumer, industry, investor and governmental pressures, the entire value chain of how products are made is facing unprecedented scrutiny from a variety of stakeholders; stakeholders looking to ensure a business or product is trustworthy. What guarantees trust, more than anything else, is a solid reputation that extends across a brand’s practices and identity.”