The importance of corporate reputation in challenging times

by Tim Marshall & Nikki Wright

Kantar’s Corporate Reputation Index 2022 showcases the reputations of well-known Kiwi companies, and how they are tracking compared to other top ranked New Zealand companies.

Established in partnership with Wright Communications in 2015, the Index uses Kantar’s global RepZ framework with standardised reputation attributes for Trust, Leadership, Fairness and Responsibility.

Air New Zealand has come out on top again, maintaining its perfect record atop the Kantar Corporate Reputation Index for the eighth year in a row.

With all the uncertainty and challenging times over the last two years, it’s no surprise that Trust is now the highest-ranking corporate reputation attribute. Since last year its weighting in the index has increased by 2% to 37%.  

Kiwis are leaning upon trusted brands and companies more and more during these globally uncertain times. Trust doesn’t just happen. It must be built and crafted in a multi-pronged approach across all business areas.

Air New Zealand scored highest for Trust in this year’s index and was also the most highly ranked company for valuing Diversity and Inclusion, a new question that’s been added to the reputation index survey. To rank highly in the index companies must establish and uphold strong reputations across trust and diversity and inclusion, as these are the values Kiwis care about.

Responsibility, encompassing both employee and environmental responsibility, is an attribute many companies could improve on. Air New Zealand’s high ranking for responsibility indicates New Zealanders’ appreciation of the company’s sustainability initiatives and commitments.

After top-ranking Air New Zealand sits TVNZ, also ranking highly in the Trust category with Mitre 10, Bunnings, and Pak ’n Save rounding out the top five. The other companies in the top 20, in ranking order are: AA Insurance, Toyota, The Warehouse, Samsung, Fisher Paykel Healthcare, Southern Cross, Zespri, Fisher Paykel Appliances, New World, Lotto NZ, K Mart, Briscoes, Mainfreight, Heinz Watties and New Zealand Post.

Upholding a high reputation comes down to accountability, transparency, and authenticity. Companies which have mastered this with effective brand, communications and business practices have scored well in the eyes of Kiwis.

Even when crisis or scandal hits, companies who do the right thing by the public and face up to issues authentically can ride out occasional setbacks and bad news.

The 2022 Index shows that companies with a reputation index of 105 or higher are in the ‘resilient zone’, well placed to weather bad publicity. Building a strong reputation provides resilience in these turbulent times when things can change radically and swiftly.

It’s best to build a bank of goodwill and identify potential reputation risks before crises arise. The strongest reputations are built over time.

Companies that value Trust, Leadership, Fairness and Responsibility, tend to have a robust internal culture. This of course impacts their external reputation.  Having a powerful holistic communications strategy is critical. Companies that tell their stories well build resilience that helps them ride out bumps in the road.

Reputation, good or bad, affects not only product sales and service contracts – it also is critical to attract new talent. Millennial and Gen Z customers and employees have a far deeper knowledge of branding and will choose brands, products and employers that clearly align with their own set of values.

Leading companies in the Index have Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies in place to demonstrate a shared value system with the public and staff by giving back to their communities where appropriate.

There are many ways to improve your brand or company’s reputation but it’s pivotal to take control of the narrative, especially if your company receives negative media coverage. Transparent and authentic communications go a long way toward earning the respect of Kiwis.

The Kantar Corporate Reputation Index 2022 has 20 industry categories with brands indexed against major competitors in their category to remove industry bias. More than 20,000 New Zealanders have been interviewed over the last seven years with an average sample size of 500 per category per year. The survey was conducted in February and March 2022.

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