Study: Corporate America's reputation slowly improving

NEW YORK: The reputation of corporate America is starting to bounce back, according to this year's Harris Interactive US Reputation Quotient (RQ) Survey, which ranked Berkshire Hathaway as the top company in terms of corporate reputation.

NEW YORK: The reputation of corporate America is starting to bounce back, according to this year's Harris Interactive US Reputation Quotient (RQ) Survey, which ranked Berkshire Hathaway as the top company in terms of corporate reputation.

This year, 18% of Americans said the reputation of corporate America is good, up from 12% last year, which was the first positive improvement in four years. Additionally, 81% of Americans said corporate America had a "terrible" or "not good" reputation, down from 88% last year.

"We really saw a shift this year with the drivers of reputation… to really be focused on areas of corporate accountability, vision, leadership, perceived admiration, and ethics," said Robert Fronk, SVP and global practice lead for reputation management for Harris Interactive. "[That] is a difference from where we were last year, where there was a lot more focus on comfort and value of products and services."

Berkshire Hathaway, the parent company to Business Wire, Fruit of the Loom, Benjamin Moore, and others, had a RQ score of 82.33, with SC Johnson right behind it with 81.88. A RQ score of 80 or more marks a company as having an "excellent" reputation.

In general, financial services and tobacco companies remain at the bottom of the index, while technology scores higher. The bottom five companies in descending order were Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Fannie Mae, AIG, and Freddie Mac.

While General Motors and Chrysler barely ranked above Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, Fronk pointed to Ford, whose RQ score jumped from 58.49 in 2008 to 69.77 this year, as an example of how companies must first gain a reputation for quality products before its corporate reputation can improve.
 
"We've watched Ford over the last three or four years [get] public accolades for their products," Fronk said. "With Ford finally reaching that barrier of being perceived as having quality products, it really unleashed the positive associations they have for leadership and vision and being seen as a company that is accountable for its actions."

The survey analyzes six reputational dimensions, including social responsibility, emotional appeal, financial performance, products and services, vision and leadership, and workplace environment. Fronk also noted that transparency plays a key role in companies' reputations.

"We're seeing a real desire for communications and such to really be linked to the company's business," he said. "People are saying that your reputation and business go hand-in-hand. You need to integrate how you want me to see you as a company with how you manage your business."

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