"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently." Warren Buffet
Ethics and integrity or the lack there of, bad and good behaviour and a host of other traits can affect reputation, this I saw first-hand as a journalist. These same issues are faced by corporates and brands, especially in this age of hyper transparency. It’s one of the reasons I entered the reputation management sector. I joined Magna Carta Reputation Management Consultants, where I was presented with an interesting career challenge – bring to market an index that tracks the corporate reputation of businesses operating in Africa – it would be the company’s first commercial product developed by its business intelligence unit. It was a daunting but exciting opportunity, so I accepted the challenge to drive the creation of the Africa Reputation Index.
Why another reputation index?
First off while there is agreement on the importance of reputation, there is little consensus on the definition of reputation. As custodians of reputation management who better to go in search of a definition of corporate reputation from a consumer and industry analyst perspective. Other reasons for building an Index, included the need to innovate and create a product that would add more value to clients who are the life blood of any agency.
What makes this Index different?
Companies weren’t rated based on their advertising spend, or trust nor did we pre-select words or brands. The people we surveyed told us what or who made or had a good or bad reputation. We also rate companies that operate in the same sector rather than comparing a food retailer with a bank, for example.
How do you build an Index?
Based on our company client list and business goals, we chose to look at the following sectors: telecommunications, food retail, financial services, car makers and public services. With that done, we called upon Yellowwood, a marketing strategy firm, to work with us. Together we designed, then piloted a survey and collected data from a sample of 1306 South Africans.
How do you rank reputation?
Respondents were asked to identify different companies in a sector. For each company mentioned we calculated an Attitudal Equity (AE) score. AE equals a measure of brand strength. From that it’s possible to understand reputational drivers and their overarching attributes. A series of 44 reputational drivers were identified during the focus group sessions. Let’s just say a lot of math magic happened!
What did we find overall?
Good governance is the top reputational attribute for telecommunications companies in South Africa. Consumers want to see improved working conditions for government employees to reduce the frustration factor. Banks should distinguish themselves more in terms of their customer service offering. The survey finds that with vehicles, quality is most important reputational attribute followed by customer service. In food retail services, which is known for visibility, people really want exceptional customer service.
What do we do with the Index?
Apart from allowing us to track the reputation of companies within the five sectors, the true value is in the insights we draw for clients. Customised reports are drafted that can help companies put in place strategies to either improve a poor ARI score or maintain their high ARI score. Reports are done either specific to a corporate or to a sector. Long term, we hope to roll out the Index to other markets in Africa.
It’s been a tremendous, educational journey for me. I have learnt much, not just about research, data and data analysis – but about myself, my character and tenacity. It took hard work and perseverance but we made it through. I am so proud to be part of the team that brought the Africa Reputation Index to life!