The average corporate reputation score of last year’s reputation research studies conducted by Reputation Matters, a proudly African reputation research company, was 78.4%, a 2.2% decline from 2017 (80.6%). This score is based on ten reputation studies conducted amongst internal and external stakeholder groups across different industries in South Africa during the course of 2018, compared to nine studies in 2017.

“Before we start patting ourselves on the back that the average corporate reputation score for 2018 is a distinction, we appreciate that the sample of ten is most certainly not representative of all businesses in South Africa. It does however highlight the conundrum that many who work within the reputation management space are faced with; not everyone wants their reputation measured or managed,” says Regine le Roux, managaging director of Reputation Matters.

Decision makers of reputation studies either believe that things are so dire within the organisation that there would first need to be drastic changes before investing in a reputation research study, or on the other side of the specrum, they believe that their reputation is perfect.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in corporate South Africa taking an interest in their reputations. Unfortunately those who really need to, aren’t. It should become common practice for organisations to know and share their reputation scores,” advises le Roux.

Le Roux mentions that reputation research will assist business owners and CEO’s who believe that things aren’t as pristine as it should be in their organisations. “The data helps form a base to work from and it identifies priority areas within the organisation that needs extra focus, especially when recovering from a crisis situation. For those on the other side of the spectrum with a spotless reputation, the results will provide bragging rights based on scientific research, and also help the business to be proactive and navigate any uncertaintly that could result in a crisis scenario that could catapult them quite quickly into the disaster zone,” says le Roux.

The year that was, 2018

Reputation Matters’ robust measurement tool, the Repudometer®, measures ten dimensions of an organisation that statistically works out what your organisation’s reputation is. “A reputation is not just about clever marketing and public relations, it is taking a serious look inside the organisation first before engaging in any type of communication with stakeholders,” adds le Roux.

The main reason for the decline in the research results from 2017 to 2018 is related to the purpose of the business. There was a substantial drop of 3.4% around this aspect.

Stakeholders require a lot more information in terms of an organisation’s purpose, both in terms of their strategic intent, for example, where the organisation is going and how they are going to get there, as well as corporate governance practices. It is equally important to align the business’ strategic intent to purpose driven activities. In other words, making sustainable social contributions; people want to know that the companies that they are supporting are socially responsible. Stakeholders also want a lot more transparency when it comes to understanding which companies and individuals the business is aligned with. 

2019, the year to be proud of your reputation

“Companies will need to be a lot more transparent about their reputation scores. Understanding your reputation and pain points will help you to build your business so that people will want to be associated with you and conduct business with you. It will help with making better business decisions.

“We believe that sharing Repudometer® scores should and will become part of due diligence processes in the future,” adds le Roux.

To proactively manage your corporate reputation this year, le Roux advises that organisations consider the following three P’s as a start:

  1. Purpose: Ask yourself: What is the main purpose of the business and is it still relevant? Do your stakeholders know what you are offering? Do a quick test and ask a few of your key stakeholders to verbalise in eight words what it is that they think your organisation does, this will help you to ascertain whether you are on track.
  2. Principles: Can you fluently answer what your business’ values are and whether it is entrenched in your organisation? Ethics, reputation and values are all interlinked. Organisations need to operate from an ethical, stakeholder inclusive perspective and influence not only the sector in which they operate, but the larger environment. This also includes who you align yourself with; do your alliances make business sense and are you partnered with likeminded organisations who have similar values?
  3. Partnerships: An incredibly important aspect this year is to focus on stakeholder value. What value do you provide your stakeholders, and how does this affect their wellbeing? Stakeholder relationships, both internally and externally, should be maintained equally and fairly by organisations. What has also been confirmed from the research, is the importance of having updated stakeholder databases in order to  effectively communicate with your audience.

“Leaders will be under even more scrutiny and society’s magnifying glass this year. Leaders need to be focussed on purpose driven leadership; they should be the voice of the organisation and build principled partnerships both internally and externally. What better way to show their success by sharing their reputation scores,” concludes le Roux.