To improve the reputations of major corporations and their executives, PR staffers should focus on internal communications strategies and go beyond issuing press releases to highlight positive community endeavors, according to a study from the Public Affairs Council.
Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said they have a favorable opinion of major companies. About one-third held unfavorable views. Twenty percent said they are “not too favorable,” and 12% said they are “not at all favorable” toward major businesses, according to the survey.
However, more than three-quarters of respondents (76%) say major companies overpay their top executives. Only 17% say corporations do a good job of not overpaying top executives.
Nearly half of those surveyed rated the honesty and ethics of CEOs as low, meaning some rank-and-file staffers likely also share this opinion, said Doug Pinkham, president of the Public Affairs Council. For that reason, in-house or contracted PR staffers should bolster their internal communications strategies, which are especially important during a contentious event such as a CEO receiving a large bonus or raises following a round of layoffs, he explained.
Companies should be candid with their staffers about raises to keep employee views of the company positive, he said.
“If you can't build hope with employees, there's no hope of building trust with the outside world,” Pinkham explained.
Companies can also do a better job of publicizing their charitable initiatives, the survey said. Fifty-seven percent of respondents say major companies are generally not doing a good job “contributing to their communities.”
In response, PR staffers should emphasize stories where both community and company needs are met, said Pinkham. He cited Walmart mandating that their suppliers be more environmental in their manufacturing processes and Procter & Gamble pushing for better water access in China as examples. Those stories had greater shelf lives than standard charitable press release content, said Pinkham.
Princeton Survey Research Associates International interviewed more than 1,700 US adults in August and September for the “Public Affairs Pulse Survey.”