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Reputation management is first and foremost about building relationships with a business’ key stakeholders, which includes communicating with employees, engaging with clients, reacting to investor concerns, collaborating with government, partnering with the media and everything in between.

It is important for organisations to realise that different stakeholders make different assessments and not all stakeholders share the same view of what your business’ reputation is. The personal experiences, perceptions and expectations intrinsic in relationship building is what complicates the reputation management process.

The values of these groups differ and change over time. What was important yesterday may not necessarily mean as much today and can even be of no significance to some stakeholders. It is therefore important to keep your finger on the pulse of what aspect of the business is important to which stakeholder group and make sure that your actions and communication is geared towards addressing these needs.  

Changing stakeholder perceptions

Research is key. In an increasingly turbulent economic environment, it is vital to track the changing perceptions of key stakeholders. Businesses must take cognisance of, and be open to, the opinions of their internal and external stakeholders.

At Reputation Matters we have developed our own measuring tool, the Repudometer® that scientifically measures an organisation’s reputation. We believe that that there are five core elements that impact a business’ reputation, each of these elements are divided into two dimensions. The views and perceptions that each stakeholder has of these dimensions are taken into consideration, i.e. we know exactly what dimension within the organisation is important to which stakeholder group.

These dimensions are not mutually exclusive, the whole organisation needs to work in unison. You can’t have wonderful marketing, but not have a sufficiently resourced staff complement; or have fantastic workers but no work flowing in due to poor marketing. Balance in all spheres of the business is vital when it comes to building a reputation.

Understanding Corporate Management – Our first port of call is to understand how the organisation is run and managed. This element comprises of the Strategic Intent of the organisation in terms of the organisation’s leadership, sustainability and implementation of the vision, mission and objectives of business. Very often the vision and mission of the organisation is something that most corporates know that they need, but when asked what it is, every stakeholder, especially those within the business, have very different versions of what they think it is. If the vision and purpose of the business is not clear, how will your stakeholders know where the business is heading to and what exactly it is that they are supporting?

The other dimension that forms part of this element is Operational Governance - where the effectiveness of the policies and procedures of the organisation are measured.  Perceptions of the business’ trustworthiness as well as its leadership is also measured.

Corporate Dialogue – Two-way communication is pivotal for any organisation to communicate with their various stakeholders, as well as to understand whether their message is understood, and thereby building mutually beneficial relationships. Internal Communication in terms of change management, employee relations, morale and team dynamics and loyalty are measured to gauge what the employees’ perceptions are of the organisation.

Employees play a vital role in the reputation of an organisation, very often this is where perceptions of organisations start, as their daily perceptions and interactions are communicated to other stakeholders not necessarily directly associated to the organisation. External Communication measures stakeholder relationships with the organisation especially in terms of their satisfaction with the products and services rendered by the business.

Public Relations initiatives, including social media management are also measured as part of this dimension to determine how media articles and snippets are perceived by different stakeholder groups. Client relationships, satisfaction and loyalty are also key factors that impact the reputation of an organisation.

Corporate Capital – this element takes a look at the Human Capital within the business to assess whether the right people are employed to do the work. Aspects such as skills and training, the cultural mix within the organisation, entrepreneurial skills as well as the quality of the employees are looked at. Training and mentorship opportunities also impact the reputation of an organisation. Operational Capability of the organisation, takes aspects such as knowledge and information management, corporate benchmarking, business ethics and quality service into consideration; the question of whether the employees have the right tools to do their work, as well as the innovativeness of the skills pool is asked.

Corporate positioning – looks at how the organisation markets itself to its specific target audience through marketing initiatives such as advertising, events and promotions. The question whether the brand resonates with the overall strategic intent is asked. This element also focusses on the Strategic Alliances and partnerships that the organisation has in the market. These alliances form an integral part in reputation building. If one partner’s values and ethics come into disrepute, purely by association your company’s reputation will also be questioned. It is therefore very important to select strategic alliances/partnerships very carefully.  

Finally, but by no means least Corporate performance measures the perception that stakeholders have of how the organisation is performing both in the realm of corporate social investment (Social Impact), i.e. how is the organisation giving back and investing back into the community.

It is important that these community investment projects are sustainable and make a lasting impact to those that are less fortunate, and not just used as marketing ploys. Business Results in terms of the business’ financial matters and value offering, and importantly the entity being transparent, plays an important role in impacting how the organisation is seen and resultant reputation. Investor attractiveness, profitability, share prices and commercial viability all play important parts in this dimension of a business’ reputation.

Balance of all these different elements is important in all spheres of the business. Aligning your communication and actions according to these requirements to those stakeholders that are most important to the sustainability of the business will help businesses build and enhance their reputations.

The value of research is therefore immense, but the value of regular research is immeasurable.

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What is reputation management and how can organisations get it right? Keeping a finger on the pulse of what matters to different stakeholder groups is a good place to start.
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