Reputation is now a major priority at board level

Comms used to occupy a space in business leaders' priorities somewhere between their choice of shirt and the mahogany of their desks.

The Big picture: Board level priority of reputation
The Big picture: Board level priority of reputation

The list of businesses that have had a tin ear when it comes to public opinion is long; the list of those firms that continued to make huge profits regardless is not much shorter.

But this is changing.

FTI Consulting's John Waples has written of corporate affairs directors moving into the executive hot seat, such as Pearson's John Fallon and SABMiller's Sue Clarke - offering evidence corporate reputation is coming of age.

Figures from the YouGov/PRCA survey of in-house comms directors (below) lends weight to this hypothesis.

Almost three in four said their board saw an extremely or reasonably strong link to financial performance and just over half said their CEO took personal responsibility for corporate reputation. A strong reputation was seen to benefit share price, external influence and staff satisfaction.

One suspects these figures might have been significantly lower before Lehman Brothers went under in 2008. Subsequently, firms' share prices have slid in tandem with their reputations. Think BP or G4S.

However, the fight is not yet over. According to one FTSE 100 comms boss, her CEO's interest in reputation starts and ends with the share price.

But this also points to the next hurdle the industry faces - survey respondents saw proving the impact of reputation beyond anecdotal feedback as the next key boardroom battle.

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