THINKPIECE: Search for reputation management standard is a noble one, but keep figures in perspective

I applaud the ’hot ticket’ status of reputation measurement that has engulfed PRWeek’s pages. It moves this realm of PR into top management circles, and helps fortify the conceptual link between reputation and market capitalization.

I applaud the ’hot ticket’ status of reputation measurement that has engulfed PRWeek’s pages. It moves this realm of PR into top management circles, and helps fortify the conceptual link between reputation and market capitalization.

I applaud the ’hot ticket’ status of reputation measurement that

has engulfed PRWeek’s pages. It moves this realm of PR into top

management circles, and helps fortify the conceptual link between

reputation and market capitalization.



But while there is clearly a place for a consistent system to evaluate

corporate status, it is not the Holy Grail of reputation management.

Instead, such quantification is a tool, to be kept in healthy

perspective by the reputation managers who drive the systems.



For example, many of my clients in the design and building industry face

stiff competition from firms whose level of experience, areas of

expertise, or raw ability differ in ways that, while technically

significant, may matter less to non-expert clients. These firms must

differentiate themselves in ways that do not register on quantitative

indices. In essence, their reputation management is profoundly internal

and thus unmeasurable by outside respondents.



Shifting a client’s perception comes from careful PR counsel based on

these subtle internal changes. And while they may not yield a cipher,

one from another source can get clients moving toward programs that will

give measurable results.



For instance, a firm of engineers came to me recently, distressed after

an ersatz industry survey placed them lower on a reputational scale than

some regional competitors. They were galvanized by the findings, which

usefully kick-started dialogues about corporate image, quality and

perceptions of their service.



Measures that get organizations moving can be valuable - but moving

where?



Moving higher on a chart, or higher in terms of credibility, attitude

and level of performance? How to envision and choose options is not

measurable, but they will remain the key to managing reputation - even

if a measurement system is developed.



Until now I have been pleased to measure our success by client-retention

years, by the square of their shoulders as our clients enter the

marketing arena, and by hands held in occasional moments of crisis.

These indicators bespeak trust in us and faith in PR as a business tool.

If my measurement methodology is imprecise, still the readings are

undeniable.



Too many corporate decision-makers view PR simply as publicity. The hunt

for reputation standards helps to reveal our mission for what it is: an

integrated practice with a bottom line.



If corporate America wants numbers, let’s compute them, but let’s not

sacrifice the ability to keep those numbers in perspective. Without it,

the current quest to measure reputation could lead us over a precipice

of quantification.



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