In the Boardroom
Date: Monday, August 19, 2011, 6:00am EST
The list your firm doesn’t want to makePremium content from The Business Journal - by Ruth Kinzey, Contributing writer
As a reputation strategist, I often recommend businesses pursue recognitions that enhance their reputations. The purpose may be to gain positive exposure and build goodwill in a community. It may be to establish leadership positioning within an industry or reinforce recruiting efforts. At other times, it makes sense to seek third-party validation for noteworthy efforts, such as extraordinary contributions to a particular endeavor, exemplary sustainability levels or an exceptional employer status.
Why? Because an unbiased testimonial or acknowledgement by a respected association or highly-regarded group is typically more credible than marketing techniques or advertising.
The concept is simple. Nonprofits, government agencies, professional groups, business and industry publications, and international institutions identify criteria that serve as a gauge for model business behavior and establish benchmarks for best practices. This demonstrates they have admirable standards, which reinforces their reputation for having high values.
In turn, companies realize the pursuit of such recognition benefits them through operational or cultural improvements, acknowledgement of commendable performance, and reputational enhancement through alignment with organizations held in high esteem.
Once obtained, these honors can be posted on web sites, written in news announcements, shared with employees, referenced in marketing materials, communicated to investors and touted to customers.
But, companies may also receive less-than-desirable recognition. This occurs when business performance is poor, whether it is in customer service, sustainability, citizenship, fiscal responsibility, employee relations, safety or operational execution.
While a corporation may be unhappy about the negative implications of titles such as “most hated firm” or “worst employer,” this status results when there is a gap between expected business behavior and the public’s perception of an organization’s performance. Whether this discrepancy is justified or not is immaterial. The perception has become a public reality, and the company’s reputation is tarnished.
A firm can select to ignore negative ratings or poor rankings, hoping these marks will be ignored. However, continued name association with this negative can eventually erode brand value.
Of course, the enterprise can opt to focus on capturing honors in other areas and hope such acknowledgments will offset the damaging label. This approach may deflect the bad news temporarily. However, the company image will likely suffer over time because people will speculate that problems are present.
The savvy firm will view its poor ranking as a call to action and use the information as a springboard for positive change and strategic communication. This move will protect and possibly even enhance its reputation.
The reality is that a root cause exists for an organization’s performance being viewed as negative rather than positive. Consequently, the first step is a thorough examination of the judging criteria. It is important to look at the score card to learn how and why the rating in each category was received. It may be tempting to become defensive; but, the company should not assume to know the basis for the poor rating or that they are being singled out.
Once this analysis is completed, it may become apparent these rating standards do not match the measurement principles emphasized within the business. If this is the case, the corporation has three options:
Ruth Kinzey is a corporate reputation strategist, consultant, and professional speaker. Want to hear more about a specific topic? She can be reached at (704) 763-0754.
To read some of her blogs, go to the Resource page