Canadian Interview: Alan Chumley

Alan Chumley joined research and polling firm Léger Marketing last November. Since then, he's assisted Terry Flynn of McMaster University on a first-of-its-kind study looking at the effect of PR on restoring the reputation of Maple Leaf Foods. He spoke to PRWeek about reputation measurement, and where they plan to take their Maple Leaf Foods research next.

Alan Chumley joined research and polling firm Léger Marketing last November. Since then, he's assisted Terry Flynn of McMaster University on a first-of-its-kind study looking at the effect of PR on restoring the reputation of Maple Leaf Foods. He spoke to PRWeek about reputation measurement, and where they plan to take their Maple Leaf Foods research next.

What is changing in terms of reputation management?
The method from one company to the next of how they measure it is fairly common. What is different, and where I think people really need to go particularly for companies in crisis-prone sectors, is frequency. Reputation is often measured on an annual basis, and there's just so much going on between those times that the measure becomes kind of silly, at least in isolation. It's important to get out there with more frequency, and doing things in real-time which is what we did in the case of Maple Leaf Foods. You have to look at reputation holistically, not in a vacuum.

How quickly should companies react then, in terms of measuring their reputation?
Reputation is a pretty foggy concept unless you link it to something. We have clients that when they are in the throes of a crisis, they are on the phone with us an hour or two later…Before they even go out and respond to a crisis, they can even pre-test messaging or positioning to make sure that it is credible, transparent, and believable. You just don't want the public to respond by going ‘Oh, right', which is brutal from a time and money perspective.

What else should companies be doing in terms of reputation?
Very few companies look at the quantity and quality of media coverage, and line it up with the data that comes back from survey research about reputation. We're now doing that research with Maple Leaf Foods. You want to see if there's a strong correlation between media coverage, and did it trend up and down at the same pace as the reputation data. I suspect looking at the preliminary, high-level data, it will line-up and we will see a decent correlation.

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