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Corporate Reputation - A Case For Constant Nurturing

04 October, 2012 - Source: Bray Leino

A firm's corporate reputation needs constant care and attention if it is to flourish.

  • Corp Rep
    Corp Rep

Corporate reputations that engender trust and loyalty as well as being robust enough to withstand the myriad potential reputational challenges of our age are not built overnight or created by one individual. They are generally the result of years of energy, investment and input by a range of stakeholders spanning consumers, shareholders, employees, suppliers, media and even competitors. 

Much like a spider’s web, building a sound reputation which has the strength to endure and truly reflects an organisation’s culture and values can be an energetically costly process. The thousands of strands which impact on how a business is perceived, be it the latest piece of media coverage, share price performance, a tweet from an employee, the conduct of its wider industry or how the  receptionist greets visitors, all test the fortitude of a corporate’s reputation on a daily basis. 

The challenge for companies in the face of this complex environment is threefold. Firstly, they need to stay true to their corporate values and not be defined reactively. Secondly, it is important to ensure customer experience matches up to the promise and last, but not least, is being able to cut through the ‘noise’ to identify those influencers whose advocacy can be more valuable than any paid-for channel.   

This is what makes the current world of corporate communications so massively exciting, as never before have we had this level of direct, immediate contact and engagement with such an unprecedented number of influencers. It provides huge opportunities for businesses to determine a point of difference when distinguishing themselves by price or innovation is no longer an option. For example, Nationwide’s strategy to emphasise its role as customer’s friend and not being drawn to take the moral high ground but focus on what differentiates them from the banks certainly seems to have paid dividends. Their openness with stakeholders, steadfastness in relation to their values and refusal to be drawn into judging their peers can only be commended.

As well as opportunities, the complexity of today’s communication environment has also created a new level of fragility, with reputations flourishing or falling in a moment. Take Standard Chartered, a top 20 FTSE company and one of the UK’s largest banks with a 160-year heritage, which in June saw its CEO Peter Sands feature on the front cover of Management Today as ‘a good man in banking’. But if you do a Google search today you’ll come face-to-face with news of the bank’s £217m settlement for suspect Iranian dollar trades. The aftermath of the claims saw £6bn wiped from its value, although shares recovered after it agreed the "lower than anticipated" settlement figure. The news saturation and online conversation has been intense, and it rolls on, but what will be interesting to watch over the coming months is how the company rebuilds the reputation it had spent so many years fostering.

The saying goes that all things – good or bad – will get worse if left unattended. As such, a company’s corporate reputation is not just something to be protected but an invaluable asset that needs constant attention and nurturing. Good corporate reputations are generally the result of good practices by companies selling good products and services. As PR practitioners we can be massively effective when it comes to raising awareness, managing reputation and engaging with stakeholders, but the fundamental truth is that good companies benefit from good corporate reputations. 

Kelly Pepworth is head of B2B and corporate PR at Bray Leino




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