11 Jan 2024
By Rob Fitzgerald and Ellie Martel
The beginning of the year is a time when companies start to begin their communications planning in earnest, hoping to improve their public perception and make themselves the first choice for customers. It is also the time when they begin to consider their reputation in relation to the Kantar Corporate Reputation Index, which will be in survey from February.
Wright Communications established the Corporate Reputation Index (CRI) alongside Kantar in 2015. The CRI employs Kantar’s globally acclaimed RepZ framework, employing standardised reputation attributes including Trust (36 percent weighting), Leadership (25 percent), Fairness (22 percent), and Responsibility (17 percent).
The survey is usually conducted between February and March, and provides invaluable insights into the public perception of New Zealand’s top 50 consumer facing corporates.
Last year, we saw some of New Zealand’s most well-known companies retaining their top spots, with Air New Zealand, Mitre 10, PAK’nSAVE, Toyota New Zealand, and TVNZ taking out the top five. Air New Zealand has retained its spot for the ninth consecutive year, but Mitre 10 and PAK’nSAVE are hot on its heels after Air New Zealand’s score in the fairness category dropped.
The top five show reputation is about a variety of inputs, that reputation is based on the stool or chair model – three or four areas of strength rather than just one. Being strong in several areas helps offset the impact of issues. This puts these companies into what we call the “resilient zone”, where they can weather potential reputational issues.
For example, Air NZ is very highly trusted, and is seen as responsible with great leadership, helping it to reach the best reputation in NZ despite some of its well-publicised call centre problems, and growing awareness of air travel emissions.
Third-placed PAK’nSAVE blows everyone else out of the water with its fairness scores, and is also trusted and very highly regarded for its leadership. It shows that its strategy to lead the industry in addressing issues such as the cost of living works for reputation. PAK’nSAVE also has the advantage of local ownership, which enables each store to have close links to local communities.
TVNZ is highly trusted and seen as fair with strong Leadership scores. Their fifth place suggests they have come through the Kamahl Santamaria issue reasonably well with Simon Power apologising for framing Kamahl’s resignation as a family matter.
So what do the top five companies have in common? Aside from their successful business practices, there are three common themes running through their communications – transparency, community, and consistency.
Transparency is a key factor in reputational improvements, and companies must maintain their transparency in order to maintain positive opinion of their presence as a corporate citizen.
Transparency also means having honest conversations – acknowledging when issues arise, and apologising sincerely and openly while simultaneously working to resolve them. Toyota New Zealand demonstrated this effectively in the face of ongoing supply chain issues. The power of an apology works wonders for reputation.
Having a suite of clear and consistent key messages is essential to ensuring the public understands your corporate identity in the public context. Consistency is about maintaining communications, and it is about repeating the messages you want to resonate with the public.
If you are focused on sustainability, that should be a consistent theme throughout all your communications. If you are focused on service to the community – through commerce or otherwise, that should be evident in how you interact with your relevant audiences.
Community is about building a network of advocates. It is not necessarily about donations, but about actively involving yourself in the communities that you service, anticipating their needs, and communicating with them effectively.
All the companies in the top five of the CRI in 2023 demonstrate excellence in understanding these three pillars of communication.
Those companies wishing to improve their reputational scores in this year’s CRI would do well to follow the example they have set.
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