Tovera Insight: Reputation Measurement

During our work advising clients on how to build strong corporate brands and reputations we’re often asked about how companies should measure reputation.

The same questions arise so we thought it useful to share our view in this Tovera Insight blog post.

In summary, if you are considering measuring your company’s reputation, be sure you can answer the following questions:

  1. What are you measuring and why?
  2. What is the role of your brand tracker?
  3. Considering the answers to the above two questions, are you sure that a quantitative ‘measurement’ methodology is what you need?

In detail:

Asking ‘what are you measuring and why’ sounds obvious, but our experience tells us that often it’s not necessarily a generic measure of reputation that clients either need or are able to achieve.

Statistically robust metrics require large sample sizes and usually, clients are seeking a measure of the impact of their efforts on the attitudes and behaviour of a distinct group(s).

These groups are often small, hard-to-reach, professional audiences (or stakeholders) such as key people in Government, Regulators, ThinkTanks, NGO’s, Investors, leading Media outlets etc. These individuals do not exist in sufficient numbers to make up a large enough base for a meaningful quantitative research survey. More importantly, we know that they actively avoid participating in research surveys as they – rightly – expect to be engaged in senior/high-level qualitative dialogue.

We also know from experience that inviting senior stakeholders to participate in what can be viewed as a mass, generic survey can be regarded as impersonal and therefore potentially damaging to the reputation of the research sponsor. Whereas professional qualitative engagement – done properly by professional researchers – results not only in deep insight, but also is found to improve reputation through the process of engagement. Win/win!

So where does that leave measurement? From a corporate communications or public affairs perspective, true understanding of reputation comes first from professional, independent qualitative mapping of, and engagement with key stakeholders. This approach doesn’t yield metrics but it does tell you what the biggest risks and opportunities are (horizon scanning) and how you’re currently perceived in that context. This provides both the basis for deep insight to inform strategy and a qualitative baseline from which to monitor progress. Again, win/win.

There is, of course, a place for quantitative methodologies but these should be secondary to the qualitative understanding of reputation detailed above. For instance, a qualitative study among key stakeholders would reveal the key reputational issues and opportunities facing a company; a quantitative study would then be designed to get measures of how a company is performing on those attributes among a larger audience such as customers, employees and/or general public.

In the scenario above, the mixed and staged Qualitative/Quantitative approach yields depth insight and understanding thus informing a quantitative study focussed entirely on the attributes that are found to truly matter to – and define – the company’s reputation. The quantitative study therefore is lean and fit for purpose proving measures on attributes that truly count. Another win/win!

There might occasionally be scenarios when you’ll want to measure the impact of campaigns or initiatives on bigger groups such as customers or the general public. An obvious (and current) topic might be gauging how a company’s new stance/commitment on plastic usage has landed with the public. In this case, the first step should be to review the company’s brand tracker. If one exists, then the quickest, most convenient and cost-effective approach is to add a question/attribute to the brand tracker that measures how the company is perceived to be performing on said commitment. This could then be modelled against purchase intent or brand affiliation so getting a true measure of how a reputation initiative is influencing outcomes (assuming quantitative modelling is part of any existing brand tracker).

If a brand tracker doesn’t exist, then what’s required is a tracker that measures the impact of all attributes found to influence the behaviour of customers and stakeholders. We know from many years of practice and our own depth research that this must include both brand and reputation attributes in a single framework for analysis.

The ideal study of brand and reputation should include both a quantitative tracker of mixed brand and reputation attributes amongst amenable survey participants (e.g. general public, customers and/or employees) and regular but infrequent qualitative studies with all relevant stakeholders, including customers. The design of both the qualitative and quantitative research should reflect a conceptual framework that allows, through the analysis, an understanding of how both brand and reputation are influencing the perceptions, expectations and support individuals hold towards a company.

We believe that it’s the conceptual framework that’s key as it allows us to consider both brand and reputation whilst providing the flexibility to work with existing brand trackers and combine primary brand/reputation qualitative studies with those trackers to provide the necessary insight and metrics.

In summary, before you rush to measure your company’s reputation, be sure you’ve answered the questions above and satisfied yourself that you have the depth of qualitative understanding of your corporate reputation required to develop a fit for purpose measurement system.

To read more about the difference between brand and reputation click here.

To read more about why Brands are relative and Reputations absolute, click here.

© Tovera Consulting 2019