The Derailment of Amtrak’s Reputation?


Figuring out the cause of the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia has been anything but straightforward. We’ve heard about the train speeding, a projectile purportedly hitting the train, and now the focus is on the engineer’s cellphone and whether he was texting. Already we know there have been repercussions for Amtrak, who is being required by the federal government to institute automatic train control to slow down speeding trains on dangerous curves along the Northeast Corridor. Even once safety improvements are made, Amtrak will still have to contend with the train derailment’s impact to its reputation.

A deadly train derailment of the magnitude of the Amtrak one undoubtedly has impacted the perceptions of Amtrak’s customers and potential customers, not to mention the general public. We know that when negative perceptions of a company arise that they can lead to a decline in the company’s reputation. So, you might wonder, what does that mean for Amtrak?

Amtrak is at risk for losing customers who decide to seek other transportation modes such as air travel. That kind of shift would lead to a decline in Amtrak’s financial performance, and Performance is one of the seven dimensions of reputation.

Amtrak could also see a decline in the six other dimensions of reputation. A company’s reputation isn’t just about the Performance dimension, it’s also about Citizenship, Governance, Workplace, Leadership, Products/Services, and Innovation. Right away, Amtrak can better position itself by showcasing its leadership proactively communicating the steps being taken to improve safety.

Reputation management has been at the forefront of my mind because of a new report that Reputation Institute just released yesterday. The report reveals the top ten trends of reputation management in 2020 based on focus groups conducted across the globe.

In light of these trends, companies can take a fresh look at the steps they’re taking to manage their reputations. And why not start today rather than wait until 2020? For Amtrak, it’s straightforward – there should be no question.

Jennifer Villarreal
Reputation Institute

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