In 1998 Dr. Charles Fombrun (co-founder of Reputation Institute) published Reputation: Realizing Value from the Corporate Image, one of the earliest and most seminal books on what was then the emerging field of corporate reputation.
Charles quite literally wrote the book on reputation. The text was well ahead of its time and in today’s reputation-based economy is even more relevant. With the re-release of the 20th-anniversary edition, Charles continues to lead the charge, championing the critical nature of reputation’s impact on business.
With heightened visibility into companies—their CEOs, leadership teams, and workplace culture—and the increasing number of stakeholder expectations to behold, the lessons of Charles’ book continue to ring true. They are valuable to all professionals eager to access a deeper understanding of the journey towards Reputation Intelligence.
While many of the companies highlighted have transitioned, the lessons they offer remain deeply relevant. The latest edition of his book includes an updated preface and contextual relevance for contemporary, tech-forward businesses.
3 Reputation Takeaways that Still Matter
- Visibility is inevitable. Companies must own their stories.
“…heightened visibility has made a company’s every move increasingly subject to the scrutiny of a demanding audience. More than ever before, they are in the limelight. Like the traveling artists, troubadours, and musicians of earlier times, modern-day companies perform for the attention and support of patrons. They compete not only for the approval of consumers but also for that of investors, suppliers, distributors, politicians, and local communities.” (45)
Companies must face the reality of inevitable visibility, but this need not be negative. If the General Public has a clear understanding of how your company operates—and stillperceives it as having a strong reputation—your business becomes more trustworthy. If viewed as reputable, stakeholders will give your company the benefit of the doubt, even in times of crisis.
- Intangible assets have greater value.
“Long ignored, intangible assets are now gaining increased notice. In the last few years, those of us who study corporate strategies have begun to recognize that intangible assets may well provide companies with a more enduring source of competitive advantage than even patents and technologies; the venerable names of companies like 3M, Proctor & Gamble, McKinsey & Company, and Johnson & Johnson are, quite literally, as good as gold.” (38)
While tangible assets (sales, revenue) will always be relevant, it’s important for executives to take a holistic approach to managing their business, and its reputation. Intangibles, like reputation, continue to positively impact market value.
- Stakeholder expectations are opportunities.
“Corporate reputations are perceptions held by people inside and outside a company. To acquire a reputation that is positive, enduring, and resilient requires managers to invest heavily in building and maintaining good relationships with their company’s constituents. It calls for practices that measure and monitor how the company is doing with its four top constituencies: employees, investors, customers, and communities.” (74)
Stakeholder expectations are opportunities to win at corporate reputation. Demonstrate to your stakeholders why they should be loyal supporters and advocates of your company’s work. Excelling at reputation results in increased purchase intent, lower employee churn rates, more revenue per customer, and an enhanced willingness to recommend your company.
Reputation Intelligence Today
Charles co-founded Reputation Institute in 1997. We lean on the teachings of his book to power the world’s most reputable companies. We quantify perceptions about a company’s ability to deliver and provide insights for improvement and reputation risk mitigation. Our RepTrak framework is based on 7 dimensions of reputation: Leadership, Performance, Products, Innovation, Workplace, Governance, and Citizenship. Armed with this understanding of corporate reputation, we help our global partners monitor and measure their reputation.
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