For companies and organizations on the reputation- or
brand-measurement bandwagon, there are more ways than ever to get a bead
on how their audiences perceive them. There are off-the-shelf systems
that do everything from gauge the general public's familiarity with a
company to let that company's CEO know how close he or she is to
approaching the gold standard established by General Electric 's Jack
Welch. And then there are literally hundreds of research firms that, for
a tidy fee, will custom-design a program to pinpoint a company's exact
position in the reputation galaxy.
Yet despite all the hemming and hawing, the reality is this: Most
reputation measurement systems, either off-the-shelf or custom-tailored,
are fairly similar. They look at the same attributes (quality of
products/services, etc.), poll the same audiences (stakeholders of all
shapes and colors), and use comparable research methodologies.
"All of the systems have good elements, but they don't focus on the
things that matter most, like the strength of an organization's
support," says Jim Hutton, a marketing and communications professor at
Fairleigh Dickinson University. "There are differences between them, but
maybe not as many as they'd have you believe."
Proponents of off-the-shelf systems claim a handful of advantages over
customized ones. Generally, the cost is lower, though prices quickly
escalate when a client adds or subtracts attributes, or narrows the
respondent base. But the key benefit of large-scale reputation tracking
systems - like the Fortune/Roper Corporate Reputation Index or the
Harris-Fombrun Reputation Quotient - is their wealth of historical
"The value in staying close to a system is the ability to compare a
company's results with information accumulated over time," explains Joy
Sever, SVP of Harris Interactive's reputation practice. "You
consistently look at the same attributes."
On the other hand, even companies that have developed detailed
reputation measurement systems concede that customized research boasts
one major advantage: specificity. "I wouldn't mind being able to ask
open-ended questions, to see the true intensity of feelings about a
company," admits RoperASW vice chairman John Gilfeather.
Customized research is more likely to reveal the kind of intra-industry
comparisons many companies seek. "The question shouldn't be 'Where am I
on the list?' but rather, 'Where are my peers?' notes Ogilvy PR
Worldwide managing director/global head of research David Michaelson. "A
paper company doesn't compete against jet manufacturers, and shouldn't
be measured using the same processes."
As for the companies and organizations that are conducting reputation
research, there doesn't seem to be any particular preference one way or
the other. Johnson & Johnson tapped Harris Interactive a few years ago
for what corporate VP of public affairs Bill Nielsen describes as an
"exhaustive" research effort. "We wanted to understand what the name
Johnson & Johnson triggered among consumers and other audiences, like
medical professionals," he explains.
What J&J learned was that its audiences viewed the company quite
favorably. Noting that the research revealed information that will help
J&J both protect and enhance its brand, Nielsen says he has a great deal
of confidence in the results of the research.
Holly Ripans, manager of market research for the American Red Cross
(ARC), had a similarly productive reputation measurement experience, but
with a more customized spin.
The organization tapped research firm Worthlin Worldwide to create a
program that ultimately consisted of 97 in-depth interviews with
financial donors, blood donors, purchasers of the group's blood products
(hospitals, etc.), and the general public, as well as 1,150 shorter
"We got everything we wanted," Ripans says. "We were glad to learn that
we held up well in terms of trustworthiness, efficiency, effectiveness,
The end result: The ARC tweaked its tagline (from "We'll be there" to
"Together, we can save a life") to call more attention to its training
Company CARMA International
Product CARMA imMEDIAte (web-based media analysis) and customized
Contact Name/Number Elizabeth Smith, chief operating officer,
Cost $200-$400 for CARMA ImMEDIAate, $15,000 and up
for customized research (average corporate client pays $75,000).
Who it Polls Company offers interpretative analysis of the media's
coverage of a given company. Does polling for customized research
What it Measures Explores the correlation between how the media has
treated a company (as well as others in its sector) and its stock price.
Tracks 25 issues that may impact a company's reputation, including
consistency of company's messages and strength of leadership.
Company Harris Interactive
Product Harris-Fombrun Reputation Quotient
Contact Name/Number Dr. Joy Sever, SVP/director of reputation practice
Cost $6,000 for information without analysis; $100,000-$500,000 for customized study (price depends on the
number of people interviewed and number of companies measured)
Who it Polls The general public, customers, corporate employees, general
investors, and consumer boycotters
What it Measures 20 attributes, including emotional appeal, vision and
leadership, workplace environment, social responsibility, financial
performance, and quality/value of products and services. The RQ is
designed to help identify the relative placement of a company's
reputation among its competitors, as well as reveal the areas that might
be weakening its position in the marketplace.
Company InsightFarm (a Burrelle's/VMS company)
Product Media analysis
Contact Name/Number Bruce Jeffries-Fox, executive vice president,
Cost $500 per month for basic content analysis, $100,000
and above for in-depth surveying and media content analysis.
Who it Polls Depends on the depth of analysis a client wants. No
interviews conducted for basic media content analysis.
What it Measures Often utilizes the client's existing research. Includes
coverage and analysis of competitors, analysis of each story's
favorability/unfavorability, a "reputation yardstick" (analysis showing
the extent to which a company's media coverage is helping or hurting its
corporate reputation), and an overall marketing power assessment.
Contact Name/Number David Rockland, global director/research,
Cost Between $15,000 and $120,000, depending on additional
audiences (extra cost for expanding the study in certain
states/geographical regions or adding a government relations component)
Who it Polls Industry executives, financial analysts, the general
public, online consumers, "influential Americans," and individual
investors. Uses Fortune/Roper historical data.
What it Measures Attempts to define the relationship between external
reputation and business results. Looks at messaging, strength of
leadership, innovation, product quality, and revenues/profits, among
Company Landor Associates
Product ImagePower Contact Name/Number Britt Dionne, communications
manager, (415) 365-3869
Cost Varies widely based on scope of project. Fees start at $5,000.
Who it Polls Respondents are recruited from the online population
through AC Nielsen Online. To qualify, respondents must be between 18
and 64, and reside in the country of the survey. For
business-to-business surveys, respondents must be business executives or
What it Measures Distinctiveness (uniqueness of the brand, compared to
competitors), appropriateness (relevance of the brand, both personally
and professionally, to the respondent), share of heart (respondent's
personal opinion of the brand), share of mind (respondent's familiarity
with the brand), and momentum (respondent's prediction for the brand's
success over the next few years).
Company Market Facts
Contact Name/Number Joel Mincey, vice president, (847) 590-6417
Cost Between $100,000 and $1 million annually, depending
on the size and targetability (e.g., consumers vs. telecom execs only)
of the respondent audience.
Who it Polls Predominantly the general consumer population. Depending on
the study, respondent pool might also include business owners,
"influentials" in a given industry, and government leaders.
What it Measures Attempts to provide feedback about the influence of
marketing and advertising activities on consumers. Includes a
brand-equity assessment, an advertising evaluation (to understand how
specific campaigns are working or why they aren't), and continuous
Company Opinion Research Corp. International
Product BrandPerceptions (BP) and CORPerceptions (CP)
Contact Name/Number Justin Edge, vice president/director of Chicago
office, (312) 641-9325
Cost Varies widely based on scope of project.
Who it Polls General public, 4,250 interviews worldwide (BP); executives
from blue-chip corporations, 1,200 interviews worldwide (CP).
What it Measures BP attempts to gauge a brand's strength across various
countries and cultures; the BP questionnaire measures familiarity,
favorability, ten image attributes and likelihood to recommend, among
CP attempts to evaluate a company's image among executive decision
makers; the CP questionnaire measures familiarity, favorability, 22
image attributes, and three supportive behavioral attributes.
Product Fortune/Roper Corporate Reputation Index
Contact Name/Number John Gilfeather, vice chairman, (914) 698-0800 x266
Cost $35,000 for single industry results; $60,000 for
industry group (the client's industry and 2-5 closely related
industries); $190,000 for all companies in all industries
Who it Polls Analysts, executives, consumers, and "influential
What it Measures Asks executives and analysts to rate companies in their
own industry on quality of management, quality of products/services,
ability to attract/retain top employees, community/environmental
responsibility, and four other attributes. Asks consumers to rate
companies on honesty, innovation, financial strength, caring about
consumers, and four other attributes.
Company Walker Information
Product Corporate Reputation Report
Contact Name/Number Jeff Marr, group vice president, (317) 843-3939
Cost $20,000 and up, depending on the size and diversity of
Who it Polls Targeted prospects, employees, community leaders, and
leaders in the financial community.
What it Measures Evaluates a company's reputation among important
audiences and how its reputation impacts stakeholder support. Looks at
financial performance as well as the company's internal and external
risk management, allocation of resources, quality of management, ability
to handle hot-button issues, and focus of internal and external
Company Young & Rubicam
Product Brand Asset Valuator
Contact Name/Number Lynn Fisher, SVP/worldwide research at Cohn & Wolfe,
Cost Varies widely based on scope of project.
Who it Polls Consumers: More than 180,000 people in 40 countries have
been interviewed about nearly 20,000 brands.
What it Measures Differentiation (what distinguishes the brand from all
others), relevance (the personal appropriateness of a brand to
consumers), esteem (the extent to which consumers like a brand), and
knowledge (awareness of the brand and understanding of what it stands
NOTE: List sourced from the Council of PR Firms.