Think back to some of the giant brands of yesteryear.
Kodak. Ford. Sears.
How did they earn their prominence? They offered something new to customers. Kodak made cameras a household item. Ford brought the auto to the masses. Sears gave shoppers a more expansive selection of products than they could get elsewhere. Innovation fueled prosperity for these brands, giving them strongholds.
Back then, innovation gave brands credibility, respectability and value. Today, that’s simply just not enough. The data shows it.
The definitive voice in corporate reputation measurement, Harris Interactive, finds that brand reputation increasingly hinges on intangibles, such as how consumers feel about the company and corporate social responsibility. Beyond that, 44 percent of those surveyed (and the plurality of respondents) have negative perceptions of corporate America.
For companies that have put their PR programs on the back burner, it’s wake-up time. The most successful brands of tomorrow will have the strongest relationships with their audiences. Even today, the most valuable brands are also top performers in terms of reputation. Corporations must prioritize customer sentiment to achieve their fullest potential.
The rules are changing
A new age of transparency has dawned, thanks in large part to social media and other technology advancements. The corporate communications department is no longer the sole voice of a brand. This alone should be a huge motivator in strengthening and protecting reputation.
Think about it this way: If the way in which consumers feel about a company strongly influences its reputation, then voices outside of a company are helping to define it. Companies need a steady hand on efforts to boost corporate reputation.
Now think about what happens during an issues management situation or a crisis. With social media and mobile, news can spread like wildfire. A scenario that could have been contained 10 years ago has the potential to go viral today. Not only are more people aware of a corporation’s negative perceptions, but more people can spread those perceptions, regardless of accuracy in their reporting.
Of course, this is damaging to any company’s reputation. But those that don’t have a strong, positive image ahead of a crisis will feel the burn much more deeply than those that do.