Reputation Management: Practice, Trends, Public Scrutiny, and Recognition
Of the four classic functions of management: planning, organization, motivation, and control, the function of public reputation control works the weakest in the terms of reputation nowadays in Ukraine.
Reputation-oriented and even reputation-centric business philosophy has long been common decencies in the civilized world. Back in the days of ancient philosophers, medieval knights, and entrepreneurs of the early capitalist period, public trust in an individual or organization meant prosperity, and mistrust meant serious problems. Today, in a world that is becoming more and more transparent, hardly anyone would deny the importance of reputational assets. And the economy itself has turned into an economy of trust.
However, the correct and good things and the words that define them are very vulnerable, that is, very sensitive to populist speculations. Many people want to distort their meaning, use them in an incorrect context, and shift the coordinate system to swear black is white. This concerns reputation management as the most important management subsystem of any company.
Of the four classic functions of management: planning, organization, motivation, and control, the function of public reputation control works the weakest in the terms of reputation nowadays in Ukraine. Firstly, due to misunderstanding of the difference between image as a superficial perception and reputation as deep knowledge of certain people or organizations. Secondly, due to blurred boundaries between “good” and “bad” and lack of clear evaluation criteria.
That is why episodic loud PR campaigns can help hide real problems and risks in the company’s work from the public for a while. And many business managers believe that a high margin is possible even in case of a bad reputation.
Tactically, both of them are right, but strategically, the world is moving in the direction of almost complete informational symmetry i.e., everyone will know everything about everyone and everything in the near future. And the system of social norms is changing, and what was acceptable yesterday becomes disapproved today and condemned tomorrow. For example, bragging about predatory business methods is not in trend as well as a charity in the style of “made for a penny but say it was a million.”
That is why it is so important to define the benchmarks of “what is good” in relation to reputation management. Today, it is not so important to come up with a bright idea for building a business process for its implementation. And the National Corporate Reputation Management Quality Rating “Reputation ACTIVists” is intended precisely to ensure public recognition of the merits of companies that really demonstrate a systematic approach in practice. That is, they are able to:
- consider reputational risks and find sources of reputational benefits within the company;
- conduct continuous communication with the target audience that is significant for them in all necessary formats based on business goals;
- get useful feedback from society.
A significant part of them is part of international corporations that work according to the principle “I exist. Therefore, I manage my reputation.” But many purely Ukrainian business structures have grown up and learned to effectively use the tools of reputation management without foreign prompts. They deserve honour, praise, and our awards on March 29 this year at the solemn ceremony honouring “Reputation ACTIVists 2018.”
Reputation Management Functions
Microeconomic level (company)
Planning – development and implementation of relevant strategies and planning documents of different temporary horizons.
Organization – design and regulation of the Reputation Management business process.
Motivation – creation and application of effective incentives for effective work for participants in the Reputation Management business process.
Control over compliance with the strategic vector of development and execution of plans.
Macroeconomic level (society)
Planning – development and documentation of strategies at the national level (for example, improving the investment image, the reputation of government institutions in the eyes of the population, etc.).
Organization – the creation and functioning of the organizational mechanism for the implementation of strategies.
Motivation is the creation and application of effective work incentives for actors of organizational processes and society in general.
- public encouragement of reputable actors (public figures, companies), which brings them reputational dividends and material benefit;
- public condemnation of disreputable actors, which causes reputational and material damage.
10 Trends in Reputation Management from Olena Derevianko: The World and Ukraine
- Customization of communications
Thanks to modern digital technologies and Big Data processing methods, there is a real (not just declared, but practically significant) opportunity to reach a specific addressee and talk to them taking into account their preferences and prejudices.
- Personalization of trust
People are looking for a firm support point in a world of chronic infobesity and credibility gap. And they become individuals (owners and top managers of businesses, celebrities) whose names are directly associated with certain corporate and product brands.
- Engaging opinion leaders
Social media has made most existing opinion leaders visible and spawned new ones. Of course, not in the sense of expert leaders, but simply in the sense of loud transmitters and repeaters of certain messages. For companies, their loyalty is an important factor of communication, and therefore it is achieved by various methods ranging from persuasion to direct monetary reward. Thus, in many cases, creating new reputational risks and losing the strategic vector of PR work.
- Fragmentation of the information space
When social networks became a forum for direct communication of opinion leaders with the public, each of them automatically became a mini-media, which is often many times more powerful than ordinary media. Now, the direct speech of experts and simply popular residents of the networks is becoming an informational occasion for the materials of ordinary mass media, which are rapidly losing influence due to insufficient flexibility, an outdated financial model, and the influence of the beneficiary on the editorial policy.
- Civil and expert journalism
As the authority of traditional mass media declines, journalists are looking for new areas of effort and ways of career growth. As a result, the best content is created by columnists or prepared purely from expert opinions without a meaningful journalistic perspective. The domestic trend of transforming politicians and businessmen into TV presenters is a certain manifestation of a general trend (of course, apart from the obvious personal goals of certain persons). In fact, professional journalism bowed out, in many respects, to civilian and expert ones.
- Special media projects, paid content
Due to the financial problems of traditional mass media and the withdrawal of professional personnel, the highest quality content (which is paradoxical but natural) is either expert (see point 5) or paid. Native advertising, special projects, unmarked advertorials, and subjective materials without observing the standards of journalism, which are published at the expense of external commercial and non-commercial donours, have become the life standard for many mass media both with history and those that are currently being created and declare commitment to high ethical standards.
- Shady social media (messengers, etc.)
The “dark” segment of social media is growing rapidly. Some users, disappointed with the content of social media feeds, choose niche thematic channels of messengers and return to e-mail to use their time more efficiently.
- Artificial intelligence is already here
Chatbots in corporate communications are the first real appearance of AI in the PR industry. In the near future, we will see the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in the execution of various sub-business processes of reputation management.
- Internal communications are under a magnifying glass
Increasing transparency in the business environment and the development of social media of all types naturally force companies to pay more attention to internal communications. An employee can be both a brand ambassador and its destroyer-detractor; it all depends on how correctly the communication is built. Hence the serious attention to corporate mass media and other forms of personnel work at the nexus of HR and PR practices.
- Strategic efficiency is no less significant than financial
Although, as before, PR teams are required to work based on purely quantitative KPIs and calculate PR Value, voices are being increasingly raised in defence of common sense. In today’s complex information space, it is extremely important to ensure that the achievement of quantitative PR goals does not interfere with the maintenance of long-term reputation stability and strategically significant positioning for the beneficiaries.