In-house reputation management not as proactive as it should be, finds Ipsos Mori

A survey of senior comms professionals at some of the world's leading firms has found that their reputation management is often found wanting - and also reveals comms directors expect NGOs' influence on corporate behaviour to grow.

Part of polling firm Ipsos Mori, the Ipsos Mori Reputation Centre's report on the findings of The Reputation Council – its 114-strong panel of comms professionals at a variety of firms including AstraZeneca, Heineken, MasterCard, McDonald’s and the Norwegian Armed Forces, is published online today.

The council members were asked what proportion of the reputation management work they currently carried out they would describe as 'proactive' – 63 per cent answered 'more than 50 per cent', with three in five of those saying 'more than 75 per cent', for an overall average of 65 per cent.

Asked how much time would, in an ideal world, be given to proactive reputation management, half of the respondents said 'more than 75 per cent', and the overall average stood at 77 per cent.

The report says: "It isn’t easy to split out the proactive and reactive elements of reputation management. Neither is it always useful to do so. Many of these tasks defy easy categorisation and a balance is required.

"Another issue that emerges from our conversations with council members is how responsibility for the reactive and proactive elements of reputational work are divided between different specialisms within the business. This is by no means always the case and many council members argue the benefits of an integrated function which covers both forward-looking and reactive comms."

The report also looks at the relationship between private firms and NGOs, concluding: "The relationship between companies and NGOs is highly variable, with roles fluctuating between adversary and partner on a seemingly regular basis."

However, the growing ease with which NGOs can spread information and inspire public action means that the comms professionals expect NGOs' influence on corporate behaviour to increase – 57 per cent of Reputation Council members expect increasing influence, and just five per cent predict influence to shrink.

The report identifies four trends in the shifting relationship between NGOs and corporates – NGOs becoming more professional in their marketing and campaigning, consumers especially millenials focusing on NGOs’ causes in their purchasing decisions, more companies articulating their social purpose, and social media increasing transparency of corporate conduct.

The report also includes sections on consumer perceptions of different sectors, narrowing the gap between reputation and reality, and achieving a differentiated reputation.

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