Ipsos Corporate Reputation

The biggest issues currently facing Corporate Communicators

Cross-cutting:

"Appreciation of the CEO’s brand, how to handle that, and how that ties back to reputation."
"We have to put ourselves in the mindset of the CEO and the CFO more than we ever have done historically."
"You are engaging with people, seeing which arguments work, which arguments don’t; you have a sense of what is going on in the outside world, and what is acceptable today may not be regarded as acceptable behaviour in two years’ time. You need to talk to a lot of people and you need to listen – it is very important to listen. "

Brexit, Globalisation and Political Risk:

"Issues are becoming much, much more regional."
"Today it is even more important to focus on genuineness and transparency. This is not always easy for companies with complex business models, with partners and projects around the world. "

Purpose and CSR:

"What we noticed is that a lot of people are not looking for products or services, but they are looking to make investment, to buy in to a particular brand – it supports their lifestyle and aspirations."
"The commercialisation of CSR and sustainability is something which we haven’t cracked properly, really, and that is very, very important as well."

Employee Brand, Internal Communications, and Talent Acquisition:

"Employee engagement is increasingly moving up the agenda"
"Brand advocacy has been going on some time, how do you make your employees … brand defenders now?"

FRACTURED Media Environment:

"Jeff Bezos has a microphone in my living room — how do I feel about that?"
"We are disintermediating the business media because actually it is almost impossible to get their attention, unless it is for the wrong reasons."
"The emergence of a highly informed, engaged and active set of stakeholders who are now empowered by the digital revolution."
"The media landscape is changing colossally; everyone is becoming a communicator themselves."
"Another interesting challenge is how to combine the BTB communication and the BTC one: it is not easy to find a single ‘narrative’, since the needs and the requests of the different actors are different. "

Anti-Business Sentiment:

"There is absolutely zero appetite for positive stories about the role of business."
"We can clearly see that people are against companies making a real profit."
"Our shareholders want to hear how much money we have made… it is often quite a shameful thing to talk to people about the fact that we make €1 billion a quarter."
"That culture is going to fundamentally shift and what that means is in our sector we are going to get a lot more use of Bully Pulpits."

Methodology: 127 interviews conducted with Reputation Council members between April and August 2017.

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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
milorad.ajder@ipsos.com

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Global Perspectives on Sector Reputations

Which industries are facing the greatest reputation challenges at the moment?

NORTH AMERICA

Media: 44%

Tech: 44%

Pharma: 31%

Despite lingering reputational issues still plaguing the financial services sector, the recent assault on media and tech means that these two industries are seen to be facing the greatest reputational challenges in North America. Each of these industries is named by 44% of Council members.

Beyond these two industries, pharmaceuticals now holds the third position in terms of reputational challenges at 31%. Cost and value continue to drive the conversation, and with the US government putting more of a spotlight on drug costs, these reputational challenges are likely to continue.

"[Media has] got a constant drumbeat of ‘fake news’, how do you overcome that?"
"These are self-inflicted wounds [in the tech industry] – companies are not thinking through the implications of their actions on their customers."
LATIN AMERICA

Construction: 50%

Energy: 41%

Mining: 34%

In Latin America, construction rises to the top as the industry facing the greatest reputational challenges this year (50%). A number of corruption charges have embroiled not only specific companies throughout the region but also politicians and civil servants.

Energy (41%) and mining (34%) round out the top three most challenged industries, predominantly due to environmental concerns and a perception that they bring limited benefits to the local markets.

"There is a public perception that mining pollutes, does not produce profits for the country, and is a group of companies that do not add local value but add value to those who extract the material and take it away."
EUROPE

Finance: 44%

Energy: 43%

Finance remains one of the industries facing the greatest reputational challenge in Europe (mentioned by 44% of Council members). In the words of one Council member, “this crisis has not been solved yet, given that the image reconstruction process appears to be very slow.”

Additional challenges for the financial services sector include cyber security concerns and emerging FinTech players challenging the traditional financial companies.

Energy also continues to face reputational challenges, cited by 43% of Council members in Europe. Issues continue to focus on environmental concerns, climate change, sustainability and consumer costs.

"When energy companies don’t immediately pass on price savings from a barrel of oil to a consumer or to a client, then the negative repercussions are there immediately."
ASIA PACIFIC

Finance: 88%

Energy: 71%

Media: 71%

Consistent with last year, the financial services industry continues to suffer reputational challenges in APAC, though mentions are higher this year at 88% (up from 73% in the last wave). Council members continue to cite the lingering effects of the financial crisis.

The energy sector is also mentioned more frequently than last year (71%), and while affordability and sustainability are still key reasons, government policy is now referenced far more frequently by Council members.

This year, media is also mentioned by 65% of Council members in APAC, with many attributing this to a changing media landscape as well as the resounding cry of ‘fake news’.

"The energy policy is a mess. Can’t separate from political environment."
"The Trump phenomenon and the constant hammering of ‘fake news’."

In full: how Reputation Council members around the world perceived each sector's reputation

Methodology: 154 interviews conducted with Reputation Council members between 25th June and 12th November 2018. Base: All Reputation Council members – Global (145), North America (16), Europe (80), Latin America (32), APAC (17).

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