The world of corporate reputation is rapidly changing.In years past, reputation was considered something of a transient value that was shaped by the perception of investors and other financial stakeholders. Beltway constituencies were given little regard, and consumers were completely absent from the equation.
One has to look no further than the sentiment that fueled the Occupy Wall Street movement and the recent rash of corporate missteps, for dispositive proof that corporate reputation now extends well beyond a narrow queue of stakeholders.
Of course, this didn't happen overnight. Beginning with the financial meltdown in the fall of 2008 and subsequent market bailouts, the relationship between business, government, and consumer has irrevocably changed.
Irrespective of political persuasion, there is a new, simple, irrefutable truth: Government is becoming increasingly central to defining corporate success and failure. And it's not just financial success and failure, it's reputational success and failure, too.
Whether it be targeted subsidies, devising a national strategy to make us more competitive overseas, providing a regulatory framework that balances the need between oversight and fairness, or simply creating a fertile environment for business, government action - and sometimes inaction - is more than just linked to our business cycle - it's driving it.
With that being the case, the policy makers, regulators, think tanks, academics, bureaucrats, and other Beltway influencers that historically were considered peripheral to corporate reputation now share equal footing with traditional stakeholders.
And the same holds true for consumers. While they've always been central to brand marketing, thanks to social media and other “flattening” technologies, customers are now playing an increasingly vocal and critical role in shaping a company's corporate reputation - a lesson that many businesses are learning the hard way.
The new reality is that corporate reputation lives at the increasingly crowded intersection of Wall Street, Main Street, and the Beltway - an intersection that has confusing signage, narrow lanes, and has seen more than its share of pileups.
Nick Ragone is partner and director of Ketchum's Washington Office. He is the author of Presidential Leadership: 15 Decisions that Changed the Nation.