The greatest asset a company can own is its good name or reputation. A good reputation can demonstrably increase corporate worth and can help maintain competitive advantage. Protecting and enhancing this has become more pertinent for companies in today’s changing business environment. Erin Ptacek, Director of Corporate Brand & Reputation at WW Grainger, is a speaker at the marcus evans Corporate Reputation Risk & Management Conference in Philadelphia, PA from December 14-15, 2010. Erin offers her insights on corporate reputation management.
What are the key strategies that need to be implemented in building a positive corporate reputation?
EP: It starts with an understanding of who a company’s stakeholders are, what their needs are and also what their concerns are. I think it is important to have alignment and consistency of messages to these stakeholder groups to understand how the company’s value or message is relevant to the different stakeholders. Another key strategy is to reinforce the role that employees play in reputation. Employees are brand ambassadors and are one of the best channels to connect with your stakeholders. They reinforce that company brand and what the company brings to the various stakeholders. It is also about creating a repeated, consistent experience across the stakeholders. People come to understand what to expect from a company and how to rely on that company. This then contributes to a company’s reputation, certainly, as does transparency and open communication.
Is there a much more determined focus by companies on protecting corporate reputation in the wake of the financial crisis?
EP: There were a lot of companies focused on reputation previously. If they weren’t focusing on reputation, the recent economic challenges have probably heightened awareness of the importance of this and what stakeholders can expect from companies in terms of reputation. It’s really important to have a proactive approach in understanding both the needs and concerns of your stakeholders. If companies didn’t have a focus on reputation previously, most of what we have seen transpire has heightened awareness around the need for more focus on reputation and how you are connecting with your stakeholders.
If a company’s reputation has been tarnished how difficult is it to regain trust of stakeholders and customers?
EP: A lot depends on how the events are handled. Whatever the trigger was for a company’s reputation to be in question, the ability to regain trust really depends on how the company handles the issue or handles the crisis. Were they proactive? Were they open and honest? I think what stakeholders need to understand is where does a company stand on this and what is its commitment going forward to those stakeholders? The ability to regain that trust I would say is very much dependent on how quickly and how proactively the trigger that causes questions about a reputation is addressed.
What are the common traits or actions displayed by companies in crisis that contribute to positive reputation in regaining trust?
EP: In terms of what the common characteristics of companies that have been able to win back trust are, I would say it’s honesty and transparency, compassion if necessary for the stakeholders, visible leadership, clear action plans, consistent impressions throughout the span of the period in question about what the company is doing and what will be different in the future.
Erin G. Ptacek was named Director, Corporate Brand and Reputation in March 2009. In this role she has responsibility for the management of media relations, grassroots government affairs, issues management, as well as corporate and local philanthropy and community relations programs.
Ms. Ptacek has been employed by Grainger for more than 12 years and during that time has held roles of increasing responsibility in the Communications and Investor Relations area. Most recently she was Director, Public Affairs, where she led the rollout of a grassroots community relations program, Engage Your Community, to Grainger’s 400+ local facilities nationwide.
The marcus evans Corporate Reputation Risk & Management Conference will take place in Philadelphia, PA from December 14-15, 2010.
For More Information Contact:
455 North CityFront Plaza Drive
9th Floor NBC Tower
Chicago, IL, 60611
Telephone: 312 540 3000 ext 6625
Fax: 312 552 2155
Email: [email protected]