Ipsos Corporate Reputation

The link between trust, reputation and benefit of the doubt


Trust matters. When you trust someone, you give them the benefit of the doubt. If that person gets in trouble, you will hear their side of the story before jumping to conclusions.

Companies seek to build the same benefit of the doubt among their stakeholders. Without a strong reputation, companies risk not having a receptive audience for their story when they need one the most.

Globally, people are generally willing to give companies the benefit of the doubt (24% definitely and 48% probably). This willingness to give the benefit of the doubt is tightly linked to overall trust.

Among people who trust a company a great deal, more than half (59%) say they would definitely give that company the benefit of the doubt in a crisis. Among people who are feel neutral toward a company, that percentage shrinks to just 10%.

How benefit of the doubt varies by industry

The imperative to build a strong reputation to get the benefit of the doubt is greatest in high risk sectors. However, EVERY company has risk and can obtain a competitive advantage by building a reputation that they can draw on in times of trouble.

At the industry level, technology companies are much more likely to get the benefit of the doubt than others. Highly regulated industries are viewed more skeptically.

Globally, technology and automotive companies have the strongest reputations and consequently the strongest benefit of the doubt.

Benefit of the doubt and trust are highly correlated. When companies build trust, they are building up benefit of the doubt.

The link between trust and benefit of the doubt are most tightly related at the ends of the spectrum - companies with the best reputation get the most benefit of the doubt, and least trusted companies generate very little benefit of the doubt. Companies in the middle (trust-wise), have more variance when it comes to getting the benefit of the doubt.

Airlines, telecommunications, and oil and gas companies have the greatest challenges.

How benefit of the doubt varies by region

Overall, Europeans are more skeptical of companies, while Latin Americans are more likely to give companies the benefit of the doubt.

Generally, a majority of people in every region say they would “probably” give companies the benefit of the doubt during times of crisis. This likelihood to extend the benefit of the doubt is why it is so important for companies to make sure they react appropriately to crises. An over-reaction due to a few hard-core skeptics can cause more harm than good. Companies need to remember that they generally have the benefit of the doubt and should therefore be forthcoming, rather than defensive.

Skeptical Europeans are a tougher audience than people from other parts of the world.

The impact of regulation on trust and benefit of the doubt

Oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications companies face the greatest amount of regulatory risk, and have the lowest trust and benefit of the doubt scores. While risk is also high for insurance and banking, there is also some evidence of people feeling these industries are over-regulated.

The desire for regulation is highest in Europe and North America, and lowest in APAC.

Methodology: The latest wave of the Ipsos Global Reputation Monitor, conducted in September 2017, measured attitudes of more than 23,000 consumers from 31 countries toward 66 companies across nine industries.

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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

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