Ipsos Corporate Reputation

is society so polarised at the moment that companies need to pick a side in order to thrive?

In our last Reputation Council report, we saw that more than half (56%) of members believe that their consumers now expect them to take a stand on socio-political issues. These stances should be firmly rooted in the company’s purpose, values and behaviour.

By contrast, in this wave, seven out of ten Council members say that picking a particular side – in a world that’s increasingly polarised and confrontational – is probably a step too far. To do so, businesses would, in most cases, risk alienating significant proportions of their customers or stakeholders. Even for the one in four members who agree with picking a side, this very much depends on the specific issue at hand.

"That is a very dangerous route to go down… It was a very courageous move for Nike to take a stance in their latest campaign. Most companies do not thrive if they put two fingers up to a significant proportion of their potential customer base."

Is CSR dead?

Reports of CSR’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Better to say that in many Council members’ businesses, it has matured from simple corporate philanthropy into something more integrated, rigorous and genuinely aligned with the company’s purpose.

"So whatever you call it, the actions still need to be there. Where it is moving to is more formality and more measurement and more scrutiny, so you can’t fluff that any longer with a bit of money to a good cause. You need to take it seriously, you need to show progress and, again, you need to do it long-term and aligned to what you do as an organisation. You can’t sugarcoat the issues you might have."

Will consumers ignore poor corporate behaviour as long as they get products that are good and cheap?

Council members recognise that our self-interest will often trump reputational concerns about the company we’re buying from – “people want good stuff and they are willing to put up with a little bad behaviour in order to get that.”

But members also see a growing trend, especially among activist millennials and Gen Z, and driven by ever-more available information, to factor a company’s reputation into their purchase decisions. For these consumers, is good corporate citizenship now a basic hygiene factor, rather than a differentiator?

"We believe that consumers more and more expect certain behaviours from a company and they even want to be able to buy products so that they can contribute to a better society. So the products need to enable them to contribute to a better society. Not all consumers and not everyone, but a growing number of consumers."

Methodology: 154 interviews conducted with Reputation Council members between 25th June and 12th November 2018.

Read more from the Reputation Council...

Read more from the Ipsos Corporate Reputation Team...

The Reputation Council Report 2020: Full Report

Welcome to the latest edition from the Ipsos Reputation Council.

Our fourteenth sitting involves 150 senior communicators from 19 countries - making this a truly international view.

In this report, our Council members explore the newest thinking and practice in corporate reputation management and tell us how they are responding to a changing communications landscape. In a world of constant disruption there has never been a greater need for companies to actively engage with their stakeholders and wider civil society. For many, issues such as climate change, sustainability and social cohesion are no longer climbing the corporate agenda - they have reached its summit.

Indeed, it seems that even ‘hard-headed’ stakeholders such as investors no longer assess the reputation and investment appeal of a company solely through key financial ratios. They want to see evidence of a company’s broader role in society, not least because it is seen as an essential part of any sustainable business model.

We therefore took this opportunity to explore the degree to which Council members felt that the escalation in the importance of sustainability was becoming more pervasive in the corporate environment. We also asked them to highlight industries that were under the sustainability spotlight the most – as well as examples of companies that stood out as being at the cutting edge of best practice.

Many Council members asked us to include a section on communications planning in this year’s report and we were happy to oblige. Our article ‘Communications planning in a disruptive environment’ explores the major elements of the planning process, including timing, key inputs, the degree of distinction between internal and external communications and major challenges the communicator faces – now and in the future.

Part of communications planning is of course setting goals, and the management maxim that if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it, which quickly leads us to the topic of data. We were not only interested in the types of data sources Council members used, but also the way in which they integrated their data sources to provide strategic reputation insights.

We also wanted to understand the range of stakeholders Council members engaged with – if they prioritised distinctive groups, created tailored messaging and whether they were specifically targeting social media influencers: and if so, what techniques they used.

Finally, we decided to retain our popular quick-fire section from last year’s report. We asked Council members questions on a variety of subjects, such as the role businesses play, relative to the government, in fixing society’s problems and whether fake news and disinformation pose a material threat to business.

Our thanks to all members for participating in our fourteenth sitting of the Reputation Council report. We hope you enjoy this edition and please get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the issues we’ve covered, or if you have any questions about your own communications challenges.


Milorad Ajder
Global Service Line Leader
Corporate Reputation

The Reputation Council Report 2018: Full Report

Welcome to the latest briefing from the Ipsos Reputation Council.

This – our thirteenth sitting – has been the biggest and most international yet, involving 154 senior communicators from 20 countries.

As Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, once said: “reputation has a habit of arriving on foot and departing on horseback”. In the past year, a welter of high-profile reputation scandals affecting businesses, their leaders and even whole industry sectors has, once again, focused our minds on the risks and rewards of this powerful but potentially volatile asset.

Some of these scandals have posed a genuine threat to companies’ continued survival or licence to operate. Others have fizzled out. In this edition, we examine how Reputation Council members distinguish between issues which might blow up into a genuine reputation crisis, and others that are just day-to-day turbulence. What indicators or early warning systems can communicators draw on, to help them build resilience?

The technology sector has been wrestling with some unprecedented reputation issues recently. Concerns around privacy, data leaks, advertising practices, AI and automation have come together to create the phenomenon of ‘techlash’. We talk to Council members about the implications for their own businesses and the lessons that communicators can learn from the way in which the technology sector is responding to techlash.

We’re also beginning to see greater scrutiny of the role that CEOs should play in external communications, against a backdrop of issues such as pay ratio reporting, gender inequality, shrinking CEO tenures and the ‘celebrity leader’. In this edition, we explore Council members’ playbook for CEO-led communications, and look at how the CCO can ensure that these communications build, rather than destroy, reputation value.

The opportunities and challenges that come with communicating in a global context is a theme we’ve examined in past editions. In this sitting, we ask Council members how they strike the right balance between global and local messaging and narratives, and how they keep a finger on the pulse of their reputation (or reputations) around the world.

Lastly, we’ve introduced some new, ‘quickfire’ sections, in which we analyse Council members’ views on a number of contentious, topical talking points, such as the death of CSR, the distraction posed by social media, the need to pick a side in a polarising society, and whether consumers will overlook poor corporate behaviour if the price is right

I hope you enjoy this edition of the Reputation Council report. Please do get in touch if you’d like to find out more about any of the issues covered or discuss how they might affect your own business.

Milorad Ajder
Global Service Line Leader
Corporate Reputation

Read more from the Reputation Council...

Read more from the Ipsos Corporate Reputation Team...