Thursday, March 02, 2006

Corporate Reputation Drivers


"REPUTATION is a hot topic in executive suites, largely because the overall
reputation of business is so poor. Two weeks ago, the Business Council, a
group that includes chief executives of many of the largest companies in
the U.S., devoted a day to the topic at its retreat in Boca Raton, Fla.
Some executives expressed surprise that the negative effects of corporate
scandals have lingered for so long. Others felt victimized by a hostile
press. But all seemed to agree that reputation has become increasingly
important to their businesses." So wrote Alan Murray in yesterday's Wall Street Journal , "How Microsoft Rebooted Its Reputation." Our new CEO Mark Penn was mentioned in the article and also spoke at the Business Council that Murray refers to.

Reputation is indeed more important and not just because confidence in business is low. It is important because the intangible factors of business (talent, brand strength, patents, knowledge, technology, leadership, etc.) are rapidly replacing the tangible factors (real estate, machinery, inventory, etc.). Why does everyone forget that one of the reasons reputation is increasingly important is attracting and retaining the best talent?

Our latest research among global business influentials asked what drives company reputation. Below are the top five drivers. I am always fascinated by how these drivers change with the times.

Has high quality products and services (1)
Communicates effectively externally (2)
Has high quality management (3)
Focuses on serving customers (4)
Is honest with stakeholders (5)

Not entirely surprising to me, effective external communications rises to the number two slot. Transparency, honesty and accessibility are required for companies to build and maintain good reputations today. Communicating with the expanding universe of many stakeholders -- from bloggers to NGOs to alumni to regulators to online journalists to engineers to MBAs to academics to labor unions to hedge fund managers to institutional investors to boards (to name just a few)-- is not for the faint of heart.

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