Results of this year’s Harris Poll Reputation Quotient® (RQ) study recently were released, and several companies, including Berkshire Hathaway and Bank of America, are longing for the days of yesteryear. These companies, once regarded as firms with stellar reputations, were not among the public’s choice of today’s top firms. Berkshire Hathaway experienced one of the most significant declines. Ranked No. 1 in the 2010 poll, the company fell to fourth in last year’s poll and dropped to the twenty-fourth spot this year.
Conducted for the past 13 years, the RQ study measures the reputations of the 60 most viable companies in the country. Approximately 17,000 people were interviewed for the 2012 study. In evaluating the scores the public assigned to companies, it appears that strong leadership and technological innovation are among the most valued characteristics. This year, Apple reigns supreme. Google, which ranked first in last year’s poll, fell to second this year.
A look back at the RQ most visible list from 10 years ago shows a dramatic change in the public’s perception of reputable companies. In 2002, nine industrial manufacturers and six retailers made the list. This year, only two manufacturers made the list, and 14 retailers made it. Among the retailers listed are: Best Buy, Costco, J. C. Penney, Kohl’s, Walgreens, and Macy’s.
What are the retailers doing right? Dr. Charles Fombrun, professor emeritus of the Stern School of Management at NYU and the founder of the Reputation Institute, says there are four principles of a company’s RQ:
Distinctiveness – A strong reputation results when a company holds a distinctive position in the minds of its customers. Much of this attribute correlates to a company’s brand positioning and marketing efforts, but believability is directly linked to other principles.
Authenticity – A company must be genuine. It must “walk the talk” in media relations, corporate performance, and governance. This is the area where many companies falter and find their reputation flagging as a result.
Transparency – A company must be transparent in its business affairs. This means lots of communication, creating highly visible presences across whatever media is available, and engaging stakeholders in continuous dialogs.
Consistency – A company must focus its actions and communications around a core theme. This almost single-minded focus, when continued over time, builds a belief presence in the mind of the stakeholder that a company will do in the future what it did in the past.
In short, to establish and maintain a strong reputation, a company must develop a strategically sound brand position and effectively live it and communicate it to their customers on a consistent basis. Does your company do this? How would your company rank in the RQ poll?
Director of Thought Leadership