Reputation Management Rules During Pandenomics

Reputation Management Rules During Pandenomics


Olena Derevianko
Partner of the PR Service Agency
Senator of the European Economic Senate
Doctor of Economics, Professor
Doctor of Political Economy (Switzerland)

The economic structure has changed: we can assume the economy is ill and turned into pandenomic during the period of relevance of the pandemic discourse.

Pain of Profound Changes

We got used to a life that has constantly been changing in recent years and decades in the whole world and Ukraine in particular, with its special path of a country with a difficult destiny. Technological revolution, social norms shift, identity blurring, and doubts on the expediency of the existence of traditional social institutions. But it was in 2020 when everybody understood how wrong we were when we thought the changes we had been facing were essential and important. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shaken humanity up and brought the question of survival to the fore. What has to change in common life, relationships, and social interaction if life is at stake? The economic structure has changed; we can assume the economy is ill and turned into pandenomic during the period of the relevance of the pandemic discourse. The world suddenly turned out to be not just digital but forcibly digital ahead of schedule. Those not particularly interested in digital services due to prejudice or generational cultural code began to actively use them under the pressure of external circumstances. A substantial part of consumers of material and immaterial goods has become poorer, more prudent, and more uncertain about their future. Of course, statesmen were afraid of responsibility, things were getting hotter, and the official positions ceased to seem very convenient for a certain time. But very quickly, many of them (completely in line with the fashionable rhetoric of personal growth trainings) found in the unprecedented global crisis an opportunity to transfer the consequences of their management miscalculations and deliberate abuses to COVID; and, most often – an opportunity to continue to abuse more actively, while public attention is focused on the pandemic. But business structures like suppliers of goods and services, employers, taxpayers, and socially responsible corporate citizens had no right to fall into a depression like mere mortals or to philosophise like statesmen. After all, business is all about money, ways to make money by guessing or creating the needs of your target audience and then satisfying them. Also, it is about responsibility to beneficiaries, employees, consumers, etc. In fact, it was business that became the buffer that held the common way of life, which was already tearing apart. Not only thanks to the “covid” CSR programs but, first of all, thanks to a cold-blooded desire to continue money-making activities in any situation, including rebuilding business processes and business models, digitizing on the go, and trying new tools. This reformatting affected all management subsystems and functions. Of course, corporate reputation management too.


Life Trends are Reputation Management Trends

Reputation is extremely closely related to day-to-day realities. No matter how eloquently the storytellers from PR and political technologies promise to turn a mouse into a hedgehog painlessly and forever, any reputation structures and their reflection in the information space have a basis: practical actions, product quality, personnel qualifications, social and environmental projects and, of course, and a deep, dark secret. However, an uninvolved ordinary person with a naked eye rarely sees the objective basis of subjective perception. If a company systematically and diligently cares about its reputation, the public image in the eyes of the public (which is not particularly attentive to details) can be very seriously different from the basic characteristics of the business. A strong positive media presence creates a smoke screen effect, so that the deep, dark secret is almost invisible behind a dense wall of standing ovation of stakeholders. And the real situation becomes obvious mainly in a case of a successful information attack by detractors or miscalculations made by the company since it did not have time to stop the reputational risk at the source and allowed the consequences to spill out. However, a black swan of the global civilizational crisis is only a black swan to dispel the image flair and tear off the masks from everyone without exception. Therefore, current trends in reputation management are closely related to the directions of transformation of public life and social relations. Firstly, even before the pandemic, attention is paid to the main global metatrends of the last decade in the corporate reputation management. Secondly, pandenomics forces us to consider objective economic, social, and psychological changes, taking them into account in the reputational strategy of companies.


Globalization (even in the conditions of quarantine restrictions on mobility and declarations of national economic selfishness – the metatrend remains relevant)

Technological revolution and digitalization

Growth of economic inequality, reduction of the middle-class

Reduction of the role of national states in favour of horizontal transnational structures (commercial and non-commercial)

Social norms fracturing, the inclusion of non-standard behavioural patterns in general social interaction

Atomization of society, encapsulation of generations and even individual individuals – instead of a relatively monolithic space of senses, each individual have their own miniature Universe of senses

Degradation of mass media as a result of opportunities for direct communication without intermediaries and mistrust of mass media content, which is under the influence of the economic and political interests of the beneficiaries of the mass media and the worldview positions of the editors and journalists

Reducing the significance of probability of information for target audiences (post-truth tolerance)


Recommendations for the reputation management organization in the conditions of pandenomics

Economic and social phenomena and processes Behaviour change Recommended reflection in the company’s reputational strategy
A. Key target audiences
1. Drop in the living standards and purchasing power, delayed demand Economy mode (in most cases), reduction in impulsive consumption, lower susceptibility to brand promotions Empathy, willingness to understand your target audiences and offer solutions that will make their lives easier
2. Decrease in social activity (lockdown, remote work, lack of personal communication, restriction of mobility – external tourism) Low interest in serious online events, replacement of offline sources of pleasant experiences with online substitutes, a need for going out safely Online activities organized like real ones; hybrid events; tone of voice that creates a feeling of “life goes on, and there is no apocalypse”
3. Information overload (remote work overtime, additional household and psychological burden in home office conditions), increased attention to alarming pandemic news Psychological instability, need to distract from routine and problems (escapism), fatigue from uncertainty, frustration, susceptibility to psycho-viruses Selective concise communication with respect and without intrusiveness; perhaps non-aggressive provocative activities that cheer up and look at the world optimistically, lift the spirits
4. Distrust of official information and traditional media, decrease in the influence of traditional media Exponential growth of interest in social media, greater willingness to perceive information directly from the first hand, i.e. companies and brands Development and promotion of owned media to avoid distortion of key messages of the reputation strategy during ineffective transmission of information through intermediaries
5. Search for new types of activities capable of correcting the economic situation or psychological state Change of types of activities, implementation of creative, social, and entrepreneurial initiatives previously postponed for one reason or another Support of such initiatives: involvement of their authors in communication activities at the very least; incorporation of relevant projects into the company’s ecosystem at most
B. Business activity
1. Quarantine restrictions of operational activities Change of business processes, implementation of online solutions Systematic informing of stakeholders about changes and their positive effect
2. “COVID” CSR programs as a must-be in corporate ESG philosophy Need to develop such programs that are socially effective, provide public resonance, and are financially feasible for the company Thorough study of each “COVID activity,” checking for hidden sources of reputational risk, reasonable and weighted informational support
3. Narrowing of financial opportunities for implementation of development projects Temptation to save on PR projects Pragmatic approach to budgeting. Availability of “protected” articles of the PR budget
4. Improving the collective image of a business in the eyes of the public thanks to efforts to combat the pandemic (including big business as a stable employer in the face of rising unemployment) Reducing pressure from the media, which has recently been mostly biased towards business activities, especially big business Probability of growth of positive organic visibility of the brand provided the proper organization of Media Relations in the company
5. Increasing importance of working with the internal public (employees) and their motivation Special attention to internal communications Implementation of motivational reputation projects, creation of a workplace for team communication, and support of the integrity of the company at the level of goals and values

We can write separate articles and give lectures about each line of this table, but this is a matter of the future. For now, it is quite enough to read about the achievements of the winners of our corporate reputation management quality rating: study their reputation management systems, view case studies, and compare their work logic with the industry market situation and the general situation in the country. Our “Reputation ACTIVists” deserve to be followed by others because in their work, if they do not completely follow the proposed pandemic rules of reputation management, they still take them into account in many respects. Unfortunately, the pandemic will not end tomorrow, and the vaccine is not a panacea, so the current changes in the way of life of mankind may be delayed for a long time, and maybe even forever. This does not mean a decrease in the level of turbulence in the external business environment; uncertainty remains and increases as already clear trends will be followed by the new ones. Therefore, the next year will force the development of new and more advanced reputation management practices. Not all of them can be predicted today, but we will definitely evaluate their effectiveness and reward new heroes at the VIII National Corporate Reputation Management Quality Rating.

Reputation Activists 2021