Three lessons to take from the 2012 Corporate Reputation Index

Start-ups have been urged to learn from the companies in this year’s Corporate Reputation Index, which saw Apple Australia take the top spot in its inaugural year of inclusion in the survey.


The Corporate Reputation Index, produced every year by research consultancy AMR, is based on a survey of nearly 6,000 Australians aged 18-64.


In addition to collating overall reputation, the index also measures how Australians feel about each company on the seven drivers of reputation.


These include products and services, innovation, workplace, citizenship, governance, leadership and financial performance.


According to this year’s index, Apple Australia is viewed by Australians as having an extremely strong reputation across the entire range of reputation dimensions, topping all but citizenship.


Telco giant Telstra rated the largest improvement in the 2012 rankings, moving up from 15 places to 45th. Most evident was improvement in innovation, and products and services.


Oliver Freedman, reputation practice director and general manager of AMR Sydney, identifies three lessons start-ups can learn from the company’s in the 2012 Corporate Reputation Index.


1. Don’t be afraid to start small


“What actually drives a company’s reputation among consumers out there are their products and services, which are key in terms of their quality,” Freedman says.


“With whatever industry you are in, there is an opportunity to break away and have a stronger reputation than others.”


“You can be relatively new and be in the top 15 [in the index]. JB Hi-Fi (3rd), for example, was not a national company prior to 20 years ago.”


“Similarly, ING (8th) is still relatively new, as is Aldi (17th). This proves you can enter a market and establish a reputation relatively quickly.”


2. Change from within


“Telstra has shown a strong improvement, which proves you can be struggling… and [still] be able to convince a community that you’ve changed by doing things better.”


“It’s not just about communication – there needs to be a focus on internal processes.”


“Telstra focused on making the customer number one – making the business customer-centric – and then went out and did the communication and the brand change.”


“There needs to be a combination of those two… It’s about looking at internal processes and then communicating to the market.”


3. Maintain good governance


“One of the challenges is people think of governance and then think we’re talking about ticking all the boxes for a tax audit, OH&S rules, etc.”


“Governance means being open and being ethical about the way you do business. I don’t see how that would be different for a small business than a corporate.”


“If a small business has supply issues – where a product is not coming in for a while – they need to explain what happened and deal with the ramifications.”


“It’s about having that conversation with stakeholders rather than creating spin.”


Freedman says every business will be dealt a blow at some stage, so the focus needs to be on how you react to that.


“There are occasions where keeping your head down doesn’t work,” he says.


He says even when issues in an industry did not directly involve a company, it was worthwhile to keep the lines of communication open and ensure that a company’s reputation was not adversely affected by the behaviour of other companies.


“We saw a drop with Fairfax (from 48th to 56th)… because there was no communication from Fairfax [following the News of the World scandal involving News Corp].”


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