Companies feeling comfortable with their present level of corporate reputation may well be tempted to sit back and bask in the sunshine of public adulation. Well, all I can say is enjoy your reputation vacation while it lasts.
Nothing is more predictable than the change in company fortunes when an organisation begins to deviate from the fundamental values that underpin any success it has enjoyed. And even the seemingly unassailable companies and brands can faulter, lose reputation and considerable financial value when things go wrong.
CoreBrand, which measures the “favourability” and “familiarity” of 1,000 corporate brands across the USA, has listed its 10 brands facing serious reputation challenges in 2013. As several of the examples show, even the most powerful firms’ fortunes are cyclical and recovery from a reputation crisis – or a prolonged period of bad management, arrogance or other counter-productive corporate behaviour – needs concerted attention over the ensuing months and years.
Despite 2012 being a vintage year for reputation meltdown in business, it’s certainly nothing new. When deciding on a dissertation topic as part of my CIPR Chartered Practitioner process in the middle of 2010, the topic of corporate reputation challenge was self-selecting.
The company catastrophes – and appalling initial public responses – topical at the time were exemplified by the first, major Toyota vehicle recall, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the fact that a Rolls-Royce aircraft engine on an A380 Airbus caught fire mid-flight – all sent the issue of corporate reputation management to the top of the in-tray.
The study I produced for the CIPR Chartered process – “The Reputation Challenge” – had the benefit of tapping into the knowledge and expertise of some of the most eminent experts in corporate reputation: among them Leslie Gaines-Ross, Ronald J Alsop and Peter Firestein, whose book “Crisis of Character: building corporate reputation in the age of skepticism” featured the unequivocal comment that “a risk to [a company's] reputation is a threat to the survival of the enterprise”, no less.
Here, below, is a copy of “The Reputation Challenge” which, despite being completed more than two years ago, seems pertinent in 2013 to the perennial challenge of managing corporate reputation.