7 Key Ways to Boost Your Company’s Reputation and Avoid Social Media Rage

Existing corporate reputation can make or break you in a moment of crisis. Use these 7 reputation factors to help boost your company's standing today.
By: | November 26, 2018 • 7 min read

Even with internal and external social media policies in place, controlling the online fallout from a damaging reputation incident is very difficult. The rise of movements such as #MeToo have highlighted just how quickly the actions of one individual can prompt a ‘trial by media,’ sullying the name of their employers or even the company they own, and quantifying reputational risk is hard.

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According to the Reputation Institute, 67 percent of executives believe that reputation is a high priority for their company and 75 percent think it has grown in importance over the last few years. Yet only 36 percent are ready to proactively manage reputation.

The Reputation Institute defines reputation as an “emotional bond” driving the support of a company that manifests in measurable factors, including sales, customer recommendations, job-seekers wanting to work for a company, investors buying in, regulators granting licenses to operate and employee engagement.

The Institute further used an algorithm to measure this emotional bond across 7 key factors of reputation. Knowing where you can strengthen corporate reputation now can then help your company in trying to quantify this particular risk and combat against any potential social media fallout. Just look at big companies like Google, Amazon and Tesla, all of which have had their fair share of reputation highs and lows.

1) Products and services

Delivering high quality products and services can profoundly enhance reputation. Providing a poor customer experience can do the opposite.

Two companies come to mind: Chipotle and Samsung.

For Chipotle, the American-influenced Mexican restaurant took an admirable stance on where it gets its food: local farms and ranches with free-range pigs raised hormone-free and pesticide-free and crops planted in nutrient-rich soil. But despite locally sourced food, the company has still faced a litany of food safety issues: food poisoning, norovirus and E. coli have all broken out in Chipotle operations in the last few years. Everything from poor food storage to allowing sick employees to work in the kitchen have been found to cause these incidents.

On the other end, Samsung suffered a blow to its product reputation when the lithium-ion batteries in its Galaxy Note7 phone were heating up and exploding. This led to a recall of not only the original product but also the faulty replacement units. However, the company’s value is actually up.

Why? Samsung sprang into action and took full responsibility. It halted production of the Galaxy Note7 and announced a full global recall, remaining transparent and open about the battery’s design flaw.

2) Citizenship

Citizenship refers to the alignment of an organization’s social values. Being a good corporate citizen and having a positive impact on society can build reputational capital. One way to do that would be to align company values with issues the general consumer base finds imperative.

A recent Brookings Institute report shows that 89 percent of millennials said they applaud and support companies that invest in solutions for social issues, particularly when talking about the environment.

Industry Week reports that with this knowledge in tow, “Walmart, Amazon and Unilever all recently announced ambitious plans to eliminate waste from their supply chains” in an effort to appeal to the 75 million millennial consumers in the U.S.

3) Innovation

Organizations should be dynamic, not static. Look at the way the entire nation was waiting for Amazon to pick its second headquarters location, (which will be split between Long Island, New York and Arlington, Va). According to the Reputation Institute, forward-thinking and creative companies have a reputational advantage, and Amazon definitely has a few successes there. Of course, it still holds its own share of reputation blunders, like it’s unsafe delivery vehicles and warehouse safety violations.

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But it continues to innovate and improve, adopting $15/hour salaries for its workers and being praised for its innovations in health care, where it is planning to create an independent health care option for employees.

4) Leadership

Companies with executives who align brand purpose with daily business activities outperform those focused solely on financials.

Elon Musk, ousted as the chairman of Tesla this year, though he still remains CEO, is a prime example of poor leadership and what not to do. Now, Tesla is not shy to reputation review, especially in its workers’ comp space where its been cited for everything from unsafe workplaces to under-reporting of injuries to a lack of transparency and viable return-to-work options. Musk has even said in numerous interviews that he intends to remedy the company’s safety errors, going as far as saying all injuries should be reported to him directly. But, the Guardian reports, “numerous factory workers say he doesn’t follow through – and that his leadership sets a troubling tone.”

His leadership faux pas do not end there, either. From falsely claiming to take the company private (stocks dropped 30 percent) to engineering Tesla’s acquisition of solar energy company SolarCity (where his other company SpaceX bought $255 million in bonds), it’s becoming more and more apparent Musk’s focus might be on financial gain and not brand.

5) Workplace

Corporate culture has a direct impact on recruitment, retention and talent acquisition, and a positive perception of the workplace can lead to employer-of-choice status.

Look at Google’s recent fallout with its employees as an example. Once lauded as the #1 place to work — six years in a row — Alphabet Inc.’s Google fell from employee graces when it covered up a sexual misconduct scandal instead of releasing that information to its employees. On Nov. 1, 2018, Google employees worldwide participated in a walkout to protest the company’s mishandling of the situation.

Risk experts agreed that how Google responded to its employees was critical for the company’s internal reputation: “They built this mythology as being this great place to work and used that to build their external reputation,” said Anthony Johndrow, chief executive of consultancy Reputation Economy Advisors in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “You need to get it right in-house first, and that is coming home to bite them pretty hard.”

6) Performance

Financial success builds reputation, particularly among investors, though linking this with positive social impact has a broader appeal.

“Past and current profitability are important signals to investors about the company’s operating success. It also signals the likelihood of continuing profitability – indicating a company with strong future prospects for growth,” writes the Reputation Institute.

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Take General Electric’s roller-coaster 2017 as an example. When CEO Jeff Immelt announced his retirement, stock in the company went up. That’s how poorly Immelt’s performance weighed on the company. Of course, however, that wasn’t the end; Immelt’s replacement, John Flannery, was ousted months later by the board due to “frustration with the pace of his turnaround plan for the embattled industrial conglomerate.”

7) Governance

Practicing good governance earns trust in times of crisis. Conversely, corporate scandals can be very damaging. And scandals can decimate a brand. #MeToo showed us just last year to what extent a corporate-level scandal can hurt a company. Harvey Weinstein, with over 80 accusations of sexual abuse against him, lost his career and his board lost the company attached to his name because of what he allegedly did.

Risk Insider Nir Kosovsky, CEO, Steel City Re, writes: “In the matter of Weinstein and Company, the board was too close to the alleged perpetrator to be able to distance itself from the ethical breach. Stakeholders expect that, even with a strong CEO, a company’s board will be able to exercise appropriate oversight. As a result, found culpable in the court of public opinion, the firm was not salvageable.”


Going One Step Further

In 2013, RIMS added four more dimensions to reputation: external partners, industry & media, regulation and creditors.

Meanwhile, Steel City Re’s approach “draws data from prediction markets that capture the expected behaviors of stakeholders impacting P&L” with a focus on 12 synthetic measures that are used by Wall Street for equities arbitrage strategies, including consensus estimates of sales (customer behavior); quarterly average operating margin (supplier and vendor behavior); and stock price, profit and variance in weighted historic equity return moving averages (multi-stakeholder behavior). &

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]

Risk Matrix: Presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]