Communicating Hard, Soft Activities Is Crucial to Maintain a Solid Reputation

Paying attention to finances and products as well as so-called softer categories, such as corporate citizenship, governance and workplace morale, is necessary to build and maintain a brand’s reputation, which, as is well known, can be crucial during and after a crisis. With offices in N.Y., Boston and Copenhagen, the Reputation Institute (RI) has been tracking public perception of some 7,000 global companies’ reputation for nearly 20 years. It collected data from more than 55,000 people to compile the rankings seen on this page. It bases its overall assessment, called RepTrak Pulse, on seven factors: the quality of a company’s products and services, innovation, leadership, financial performance and three factors that make up its CSR score: governance (is the company responsibly run & transparent?), citizenship (is it a good corporate citizen?) and workplace (is it an appealing place to work?). Prior to an August 16, 2015, p.1 article in The NY Times, Amazon’s Pulse was excellent [see top chart, top blue line]. Its CSR score and leadership figure fell badly after the article [see chart 2], yet its “excessive focus on the customer” buoyed its Pulse, says Brad Hecht, RI’s VP of research. Consistently in the list of top 50 Pulse companies in the U.S.A., Subway’s CSR score took a blow as a result of its crisis, hurting its Pulse badly [charts 3 and 4]. Subway could have “acted sooner, been more accountable and transparent,” Hecht says. It also failed “to create a counter narrative” to describe “the new Subway.” One of the lessons for PR pros: Brands not only need to mind the hard issues, like products and finances, and softer ones, such as CSR activities, “they need to communicate about both,” Hecht says.

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This article originally appeared in the October 5, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.