Corporate reputation: it’s not a new concept, but it is gaining increasingly more attention as leaders continue to recognize its direct tie to company ROI.
A few bold and pioneering Chief Reputation Officers have hit the scene, building a role—and earning a reputation—that’s critical to companies repairing their poor reputation or proactively mitigating reputational risk.
While not every company has a Chief Reputation Officer, as concepts like trust become more precisely quantifiable, that will change.
In the meantime, we collected five TED Talks about trust and its impact on corporate reputation. These Talks get to the heart of why CROs—people who are dedicated to building and maintaining a company's reputation—are such an abundantly emerging and essential part of any leadership team.
We aim to support the CROs, corporate communicators, marketers, and corporate social responsibility executives that grow and sustain the reputation of their companies, and in doing so, maybe even work to make the world a better place.
1. We’ve stopped trusting institutions and started trusting strangers – Rachel Bostrom, Trust Researcher
Trust is changing.
In her talk “We’ve stopped trusting institutions and started trusting strangers,” Trust Researcher Rachel Botsman describes how trust has evolved over the past 200 years and how it’s changing in the digital age.
Up until the mid-1800s, people mostly trusted those they knew. They trusted their neighbors and friends, and that trust could be lost or damaged by bad behavior.
As people moved into cities, this type of relationship-based trust couldn’t scale. Instead of the local banker, people were now dealing with a large corporation that didn’t know them. Trust was now invested in institutions, like the law.
According to Botsman, however, just as local trust wasn’t meant for big cities full of strangers, institutional trust isn’t suited to the digital age. Trust is now “distributed,” spread between strangers connected by social media and the internet.
She points to Airbnb and Uber, where we build reputations by showing good behavior to strangers, where the buyers and sellers alike are judged and scored accordingly.
2. The currency of the new economy is trust - Rachel Bostrom, Trust Researcher
Trust is valuable.
We all understand social capital and financial capital, but in the digital age, reputational capital is increasingly important—and not just for corporations.
According to Botsman, on the internet, “with every trade we make, comment we leave, person we flag, badge we earn, we leave a reputation trail of how well we can and can't be trusted.”
With TaskRabbit and StackOverflow, people around the world are able to make a name for themselves—a reputation—based on their expertise, experience, and competence.
Botsman imagines a world where trust can be quantified across different contexts—where your aptitude as an Airbnb host, your reliability as an eBay seller, and your expertise as a coder on StackOverflow—can be integrated into trust networks that connect and empower ordinary people across classes and continents.
3. How to build (and rebuild) trust - Frances Frei, Harvard Business School
Trust can be rebuilt.
Francis Frei spent six months at Uber helping the team recover from a period of scandal and controversy in which the organization “had lost trust with every constituent that mattered.”
For Frei, trust is built on three things: authenticity, logic, and empathy.
Empathy was at an all-time low at Uber. In meetings, employees would often text each other… about the meeting! This, among other mishaps and wrongdoings, created suspicion and distrust.
The solution? Everyone had to put their phone away. Instantly, people were more engaged and trust between employees began to rebound.
Frei’s philosophy that no doubt helped the company lift its reputation: “If we can learn to trust one another more, we can have unprecedented human progress.”
4. The business benefits of doing good - Wendy Woods, Social Impact Strategist
Trust is profitable.
Boston Consulting Group’s Wendy Woods argues that doing good and doing well do not have to be mutually exclusive.
In fact, Woods argues that only business can address the world’s many problems like poverty, disease, and environmental devastation. And, moreover, that businesses that take a serious role in making the world a better place often make more profits. They can enhance their corporate reputation and their bottom line at the same time.
She suggests that a new measure, Total Societal Impact, replace a more conventional—and often short-sighted—one: Total Shareholder Returns.
She uses as an example from American global manufacturer Mars, Incorporated. Mars partners with NGOs around the world to help small shareholder farmers ensuring that they always have a steady supply of cocoa—a key ingredient in their chocolate bars and coffee.
5. Measuring what makes life worthwhile - Chip Conley, CEO & Author
Trust is measurable.
Hotel CEO Chip Conley uses the example of Vivian, a maid in one of the first motels he ever bought, to discuss those often intangible things that make people loyal to a company or to an employer.
Vivian found meaning in her work through the relationships she formed with her colleagues and with the hotel guests. These connections could not be easily quantified, but they were essential to her happiness.
Conley discusses how his company created greater loyalty and reduced employee churn by learning to ask the right questions:
We actually started asking our employees, do they understand the mission of our company, and do they feel like they believe in it, can they actually influence it, and do they feel that their work actually has an impact on it? We started asking our customers, did they feel an emotional connection with us, in one of seven different kinds of ways. The results were mind-blowing. Employee turnover dropped, and business expanded even as the wider economy was in the midst of a recession.
Conley’s story, he says, is proof that “[companies] don't have to choose between inspired employees and sizable profits. In fact, inspired employees quite often help make sizable profits.”
Did we miss any? If you're a person whose work surrounds corporate reputation, let us know which TED Talks inspire you.