The most critical asset that a company possesses is its reputation aka ‘prominence’ or ‘prestige’. Building a favorable reputation has become a major concern of companies in industries as diverse as financial services, ICT, engineering, FMCG, consultancy, and retailing. And although reputation isn’t listed on balance sheets, it can go further in determining a company’s success than a new product, client, or channel strategy. Reputation is a means of communicating a product’s benefits, both tangible and intangible, and, thus, has the power to loft business and earnings. It captures a company’s essence, personality, and positioning, and distinguishes the company from its peers. In short, reputation is a perceptual representation of a company’s past actions and future prospects that describe the company’s overall appeal to its key constituents when compared with other rivals. Ultimately, reputation is what resides in the minds of people. It is a priceless asset.
Reputation Equity Audit [REA]
How do you measure reputation? A company’s reputation is the outcome of its reputation among numerous stakeholders – customers, investors/shareholders, suppliers, competitors, the general public, etc – in specific categories, such as product/service quality, client service, financial performance, sustainability, innovation, and so on. Effectively assessing ‘reputation equity’ involves assessing a company’s reputation among various stakeholders. Since reputation is perception, it is perception that must be measured. This argues for the assessment of reputation in multiple areas, in ways that are objective, qualitative, and quantitative.
The ‘Reputation Equity Audit’© [REA] is an exercise designed to assess the wealth of a given company reputation through a specific research population: senior executives and senior managers. The audit contains six key performance indicators [KPI's]: client strategy, market strategy, competitive strategy, people strategy, innovation strategy, and business model strategy. The trick is to get a handle on how a company performs on all six attributes. Each KPI is a sine qua non of a company’s good name.
The REA research framework is a basic roadmap for conducting research studies on the reputation of companies. It guides the research process on individual outshiners.
Reputation, prominence or prestige indicates a value judgment on specific attributes. In all corporate reputation studies, research participants are asked to rank companies on several unique attributes [i.e. six KPI's]. The audit provides a unifying framework for the most important external and internal areas of the business. It pulls together an industry’s major KPI’s into a single, complete, and powerful package. In other words, the REA framework is organized into sections that address six broad categories of success. Accordingly, interview questions and statements discussed are closely related to the KPI’s. Building a more prestigious company involves maximizing all six attributes.
Given the multitude of sources, the problem is not getting data but deciding which sources to use. Specifically who you talk to is important. Accordingly, the sampling plan is a critical element of the research design. In all REA studies, only management board, supervisory board, [non-]executive board, and/or advisory board members or other senior managers are included. It is desirable to have at least 50 research participants to be analyzed thoroughly, although more – 100 or so – is preferred to gain robustness, and increase predictive powers.
Interviews or talks give essential information that cannot be derived from other sources. All people have a story to tell. One-on-one interviews or conversations are a dialogue with a great deal of flexibility, and can be qualitative or quantitative in nature. In practice, longer and broader surveys tend to favor one-on-one interviews/talks, and, not the least important, high-level research participants tend to respond better to such interviews/conversations. Pragmatically, money and time are key limiting factors on the sample size of such studies.
Research reports on the corporate reputation of [primarily international] banks are available as of Q2 2017.