Making the grade when stakeholders rule

“Reputation management is coming of age as a boardroom issue in the 2010s”, states the latest Annual Reputation Leaders Survey by the Reputation Institute, a global private consulting firm based in New York and Copenhagen. However, although most companies agree that reputation management is important, relatively few have figured out how to harness its value. Surveying the opinions of over 300 executives in 25 countries, the Reputation Institute finds that there is a great deal of uncertainty in the transition from a customer-centric approach to risk management: “when it comes to stakeholder relationship management” says the introduction to the report, “everything is not under control.” Noting that reputation leaders cover a diversity of job titles “but most frequently the senior communicator, chief marketing officer, or the head of business strategy”, the survey notes that only 20 per cent of reputation leaders say they have the right tools and processes in place to implement reputation thinking into the way the company. The Institute calls for companies to embrace a “reputation-focused agenda”, noting that the main reasons preventing companies from doing so are a lack of a structured process for managing reputation (57 per cent), the inability to leverage internal knowledge about each stakeholder group (45 per cent) and internal silos that prevent cross-functional collaboration (34 per cent). The report draws the conclusion that reputation leaders “have been unable to inspire executive management to build a more workable system designed to meet today’s challenges.” Elsewhere in the report, the survey notes that 94 per cent of companies link reputation priorities to business impact – clearly, the business case for reputation is widely understood. With these kind of results, the question remains: who should take responsibility for implementing a new way of working with audiences from the workplace to the marketplace?                          

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