Musings on Measuring Corporate Reputation

[Editor’s note: We love hearing about how other seasoned experts think. Though methods vary, the minds behind those who have risen to the top of their respective fields are typically incredibly interesting, not to mention containing knowledge anyone can use. To that effect, enjoy this quote from a The Measurement Standard interview with Craig Carroll, Ph.D., executive director of the OCR Network and a teacher of global corporate communications graduate programs around the world.

The Measurement Standard –One of your areas of expertise is corporate reputation. Is this an easier or harder aspect of communications and public relations to measure? Why?

What makes corporate reputation a harder aspect to measure and evaluate is that people treat it as if it were a singular dimension (high/low, favorable/unfavorable). Reputation has multiple dimensions (prominence/top-of-mind awareness; public esteem (like, trust, respect, admiration); properties (leadership, workplace culture, products/services, and social, environmental, and financial performance). To this list, we can also add communications (truth in advertising or self-promotion). They also have what I call ‘plexes’: linkages to public issues, crises/scandals, rogue employees, “bad apples” in the industry, and their stances on social issues. I hope you appreciate the Ps to keep these memorable.

At the end of the day, what makes reputation difficult for communications is not the measurement, but getting the concurrence on what it is, why it matters (the precise causes and consequences for the company, how to measure it, and then how to link it to its causes and consequences). Companies not breaking reputation down into the above dimensions (the 4Ps), are getting insufficient value out of their reputation research.

Meaning, they’re not able to:

Build a meaningful/valuable business case for investing in communications or reputation-building,
Offer insights on whether to cut the red wire or green wire in real-time,
Draw meaningful conclusions about causes and consequences of reputation change
Facilitate post-crisis reflections and learning, or
Properly value reputation on the books.
Too often, companies don’t find the effects on financial performance because they are looking at the total reputation score, when they should be looking at the isolated impacts of each of these 4Ps.

Then, it’s also difficult because useful data entails asking the right questions, of the right people, in the right way, to draw the right interpretations. And, doing so in an unobtrusive way so that the very act of engaging in reputation research does not change or alter your reputation!

Catch the full compelling interview with Dr. Carroll over at The Measurement Standard, we highly recommend it.