Reputations enhanced by taking a stand

By Wright Communications

“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.” – Socrates

To paraphrase Socrates, great reputations are built on doing the right thing. (Oh, and making sure people know you are doing the right thing.)

That hasn't changed much in the 2,417 years since the great Greek philosopher shuffled off this mortal coil.

And so it proved in the latest Colmar Brunton Corporate Reputation Index, which not only showed the resilience of leading brands but also highlighted the value of taking a stand and doing the right thing.

In the 2018 edition, Air New Zealand topped the Index for the fourth year in a row, followed by TVNZ, Toyota, AA Insurance and Z Energy.

While four of those are regulars in the top five, TVNZ was among the fastest risers, jumping five places from seventh the year before. Other big movers this year were Silver Fern Farms (up 21 places to 12th), Spark (up 11 places to 15th) and Countdown, which entered the Top 20 for the first time at 20th equal.'

You could argue that the fast risers in this year's Index are being rewarded for responding to the market in a way that is relevant to their audiences. Often that's about taking action on something that consumers care about. In other words, taking a stand.

For example, Countdown took a strong lead on the single-use plastic bag issue, while TVNZ has strengthened its connection to local communities through local content and, like Spark, has beefed up its digital 'On Demand' offer in a way that responds to how viewers want to watch TV programmes. Likewise, Silver Ferns Farms has clearly responded to the growing impact of sustainability on consumer behaviour, creating and communicating a pasture-to-plate brand story that places it ahead of its competitors.

We know anecdotally that even Fonterra, which has had its share of recent setbacks and didn't feature in the Index, has gained kudos for its 'Milk in Schools' campaign, leading to increased brand advocacy.

But these companies have done more than just taking a stand. In all of these cases, their initiatives have been at the heart of their storytelling. Because they are taking tangible action, audiences, including media and consumers, respond favourably.

It's not simply a matter of doing the right thing but also about communicating it the right way to the right audiences.

So, in terms of your corporate reputation, ask yourself two key questions: Is your business doing the right thing by your stakeholders and key audiences? And do they understand enough about what you are doing to help build the reputation you want?

The key to PR's role in reputation building is not 'spin'. It is helping companies do the right thing and communicating their actions effectively to key audiences.

So what's the most effective way to let people know you are doing the right thing and ensure you get the credit for it?

You have to do it with clear messages and in ways that are relevant to key audiences.

If stakeholders such as NGOs and Government agencies are key audiences then regular communication and engagement is critical. Collaborating with stakeholders on joint projects can be hugely beneficial. A great Kiwi example of this is seafood companies Moana and Sanford who have partnered with WWF to protect the threatened Maui Dolphin.

For all consumer-facing companies, the critical audiences are their customers and the general public. The very act of taking a stand provides the opportunity to communicate with them. For example, Countdown's move to eliminate single use plastic bags from its stores is news in itself, simply due to the number of people it affects and the issue of plastic waste, which is a known hot button issue for Kiwis. Taking the lead on an issue like this guarantees communications opportunities.

Take our word for it, there are others in very prominent positions who have been talking behind the scenes for some time (too long!) about publicly taking the lead on this very issue. They've hesitated and lost the opportunity, while Countdown has taken the plunge and reaped the rewards.


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