There are many influencing factors at play in reputation management, and most of them surpass the mere importance of price and quality. In the information era, stakeholders are more informed than ever and follow your every move. Customers, employees, authorities, experts, media, etc. form opinions on companies and take decisions based on an in-depth knowledge of various factors. Transparency, shared visions and values, credibility and trustworthiness are some of the more intangible ones. Whereas competitiveness, innovation, performance, HR policy or social responsibility are on the more rational end of the spectrum.
So, about what should you communicate and what actions should you take from a business point of view to manage your corporate reputation to the best of your capacities? Leave these inside-out questions aside for a moment… and consider starting from what the outside world wants to (know)!
“Feeling what stakeholders know, is one thing. Knowing what stakeholders feel is quite another.”
Feeling what your stakeholders know, is one thing – often based on professional experience and subjectivity. But knowing for sure what your stakeholders think and feel deep inside is quite another challenge, isn’t it? Yet knowing precisely what your stakeholders think can truly be a strategic asset to decide which path your organisation should follow. So, why not just ask them? From the reputation studies and stakeholder quick scans that we regularly carry out on behalf of many organisations, we can clearly see that those companies that thoroughly understand their stakeholders, are the most successful ones.
Reputation surveys and quick scans of stakeholders’ opinions build on the same foundations: questioning with goodwill a bespoke panel of stakeholders on key drivers of reputation, while guaranteeing the anonymity of answers given. The result? A quantitative and/or qualitative evaluation revealing insights into the position your organisation or a specific issue holds in the stakeholders’ minds. A real-time snapshot to know the extent to which your desired image already overlaps with that of your stakeholders. And to identify at what level you could then take action to bridge the gap between you and your stakeholders.
Because indeed, knowledge is giving oneself the keys to act in the best possible way: reputation surveys and quick scans provide the first necessary insights and (zero) measurement to validate or adapt your future communication initiatives and general strategic orientation.
Even though our devised methods for assessing a reputation fit different needs and different resources, the philosophy remains the same: connect with what surrounds you.
The starting point of these exercises is never what you want to communicate as an organisation, but always has to be what your audience perceives and consequently, what you want them to perceive. The stakeholders must remain the number one priority.
In essence, both the reputation survey and the quick scan are communication tools in themselves. You are telling your stakeholders that you want to invest in a connection and relationship with them. A worthwhile initiative to be undertaken – or even better to repeat – for successful stakeholder and reputation management.