After a year when the public reputation of banks has plummeted to a level generally only associated with people who empty out their vaults, it is no surprise that Barclays has brought in a market research company to measure stakeholder opinion of its brand and place in the market.
To be fair, Barclays, which has asked Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates to conduct the audit, has not suffered the same knocks as the bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) or investment bank Goldman Sachs.
In the UK, RBS has become inextricably linked with its disgraced former CEO, Fred 'The Shred' Goodwin. If RBS' corporate reputation were to be measured simply by the number and tone of blog postings and comments added to news stories, it would add up to the kind of profile that would take some highly sophisticated PR and many years to alter.
But how much does reputation really matter? Would desperate first-time buyers actually shy away from an RBS mortgage because of the bank's public standing?
Recent research from Ipsos Mori confirms what many PROs know intuitively - that reputation does have concrete benefits. It regularly polls a global, 2,804-strong group of 'brand influencers'. These are people who soak up information from a wider variety of sources than average, are fairly cynical about official announcements from companies but, crucially, are far more likely than others to either recommend or advise family and friends against buying a brand.
Asked how important it is that a company from which they are considering buying shows a high degree of social responsibility, 29 per cent of the general population say it is 'very important'. But among the brand influencers, 43 per cent find corporate responsibility very important.
Reputation is not just important for sales; it oils the wheels of dealings with government, suppliers, employees and other stakeholders. The 32 companies that have qualified for Business in the Community's (BITC) Corporate Responsibility Index throughout the seven years of its existence have outperformed their FTSE 350 peers by between 3.3 and 7.7 per cent each year.
So, in this climate, investing in quantifying corporate reputation makes more sense than ever, especially as a way of showing year-on-year change and benchmarking against relevant other companies.