In the worldwide marketplace, corporations are continuously being judged by vastly different audiences. From Germany to Brazil, today’s consumers are tuning in to more than just performance; they’re judging corporations on their citizenship. Yet, based on our findings in the inaugural Global Corporate Reputation Index, which was released at this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting by Burson-Marsteller, Landor Associates, Penn Schoen Berland and Brand Asset Consulting, corporations aren’t getting or effectively processing that message.
In fact, across the six countries (Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, Russia and the United States) surveyed, citizenship, defined as how responsible a corporation is to its community, consistently lagged in comparison to corporate performance, suggesting a lack of emphasis on citizenship in today’s corporate marketplace. Companies can and should use this finding as a clear opportunity to strengthen their reputation by demonstrating and communicating more actively their commitment to good corporate citizenship.
Of the various industries surveyed in the study, it was the technology industry that led the way in both reputation and citizenship. Respondents cited attributes like “innovative” and “visionary” to the tech industry, indicating their preferential treatment toward industries that act as thought leaders looking to change the world. On the flip side, the banking and oil and gas industries scored the worst among respondents, suggesting that these industries have the most remedial work to do on their citizenship and corporate reputation.
Corporate reputations varied across countries. For instance, consumers in China awarded on average the highest reputation scores in the study overall, while consumers in Japan and Brazil appeared to be most critical. Locality played an important role in the study as well, with many countries awarding their strongest reputations to locally prominent industries. In the United States, where many of the personal care companies included in this study were based, the personal care industry had the highest average reputation score whereas the auto industry led in Germany and the tech industry in Japan.
Echoing the attributes given to the tech industry above, “innovative” and “visionary,” along with “leader” were shown as strong drivers of reputation, regardless of industry or geography.
The good news for companies is that these findings represent a clear opportunity and case for them to strengthen their corporate reputation. There are numerous opportunities for corporations to enhance their reputation, but performance alone won’t do that. By telling their story and exhibiting a desire to shape their industry above and beyond the status quo, corporations can improve their citizenship and reputation at the same time.
Mark Penn is the worldwide CEO of Burson-Marsteller, a leading global public relations and public affairs agency and CEO of Penn Schoen Berland, a strategic research firm.
Pictured: Ali Asghar, a flood victim, tunes his radio to listen for news while taking refuge on an embankment with his family in Sujawal, about 150 kilometres (93 miles) from Karachi in Pakistan’s Sindh province August 29, 2010. A month after torrential monsoon rains triggered Pakistan’s worst natural disaster on record, flood waters are starting to recede – but there are countless survivors at risk of death from hunger and disease. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro