Study reveals brands' biggest reputation nightmares

We can all agree that reputation management is a big challenge for businesses across the board. In a world where a tweet can tank share prices, 'cancel-culture' can dethrone a CEO, and poor brand management can cause a public outcry, consumer perception is more important than ever. Considering that many (86%) companies prioritise reputation management over various aspects of the business, including their employees, why is it still such a prominent issue?

Reputation management within UK businesses

Research findings

Over 500 business owners from across the UK were surveyed in recent research released by speaking bureau Speakers Corner. The results show that consumer perception is more important than employee development or diversity. However, those elements often contribute to a positive brand reputation.

Brands’ biggest nightmares when it comes to ways their reputations could be tarnished are:

  • Disclosures around diversity and inclusion/equal pay and addressing pay gaps (28%)
  • A financial scandal (28%)
  • Revelations around working conditions (27%).

Poor comms

So why do companies focus less on those challenges to help their brand reputation? Is the average focus on brand management too superficial or short-term oriented? Or too reactive rather than proactive? Businesses often fixate on limiting negative news and comments without balancing them with credible, positive messages - crisis communications over day-to-day brand management.

The cost

Consumers are more market savvy than ever and can recognise when communication is just lip service - the term greenwashing is the perfect example of that. Combining that with an often superficial approach to brand management, due to a lack of experience or budget limitations, this challenge will continue to grow for most businesses in the UK. According to the research, one-third of the companies have already suffered from negative media coverage, with 32% losing investment because of it.

The solution

The biggest quoted challenge is having a person directly responsible for brand reputation and knowing who they are. But going for the more in-depth approach, the brand reputation should be a crucial consideration for the whole company. If the business wants to create a sustainable, long-term positive image, the messaging needs to come from within the business, and everyone in the company has to be on board.

Overall, companies should strive to balance addressing potential reputation risks and proactively building a positive brand image. This requires a long-term approach that establishes credibility, builds trust with stakeholders, and communicates a consistent message that aligns with the company's values and goals.

Written by Nick Gold, MD of Speakers Corner

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