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The power of a reputation audit in a changing world

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Written by
Manager, Financial Communications

Amie Lauder

Manager, Financial Communications

It’s been an unprecedented year for many companies. From the challenges brought on by COVID-19 to the much-needed reckoning around diversity and inclusion, some companies pivoted strategically, adapted with ease to the changing landscape, spotted opportunities amongst the strife, and translated it all into a stronger reputation. Many did not.

Is your company about to launch a new strategy or engagement campaign, but has been dragged down by reputational issues? Are you looking ahead to 2021, but unsure how to get your public profile back on track?

As world-renowned author and activist Dr. Maya Angelou once said: ”If you don't know where you've come from, you don't know where you're going.”

So, start the new year by knowing exactly where you stand at the end of this one. Taking stock of your reputation can help you chart a new path forward.

What is a reputation audit?

A reputation audit is an in-depth investigation into what is being said both internally and externally about a company—and it’s often a major indication of how audiences perceive management, operations and ultimately, the business.

This intelligence is not only critical to rebuilding a tarnished image, but it’s also used for taking stock so that you have an accurate baseline for developing strategy and engagement, as well as messaging, that address the current company perception and effectively bring audiences with you to your desired future state.

Quite simply, it is the foundation on which to build when looking to launch a new business or product; it provides key insights to raising capital, and most importantly, for understanding how the company is positioned in the market and stacks up against competitors.

Why companies should consider a reputation audit

When customers, investors and other stakeholders search for a company online, they are looking through your “shop window”. They should see a well-run website, active social channels, thoughtful commentary and analysis by your executives, positive news coverage and company reviews.

If these are not easily found—or worse, negative customer feedback, a broken and disconnected website, damaging employee reviews and embarrassing news articles are found instead—they can have a detrimental impact on how a company is perceived, and even hurt its bottom line. As such, many organizations are now relying on reputation audits to help ensure their image remains intact and is well positioned to realize its strategic objectives.

NATIONAL Capital Markets, together with the Firm’s Strategy and Integration practice, have developed a comprehensive reputation audit that has become increasingly in demand during the pandemic as companies rethink their engagement with the market and key stakeholders. Our approach informs the companies’ plan for enhancing reputation, employee recruitment or go-to-market strategy. We audit the company against a list of its peers to find out how the company truly stacks up, assessing the gaps and opportunities of three core aspects:

  1. Influencer interviews: We develop a detailed list of probing questions and conduct candid, anonymous interviews with partners, clients, competitors and other stakeholders, which provide deep insights into the company, its management and their outside perception.
  2. Market analysis: We diligently research and analyze the company’s earned media presence, assessing how the media perceive the company against competitors, its status as opinion leaders, as well as comparing its share of voice in the market.
  3. Owned channels: We take a look at the “shop window” by assessing social media presence on channels like Twitter and LinkedIn. We also provide a detailed assessment of the strength, credibility, and searchability of its website.

We customize the audit to the specific business objectives of the company and can include bespoke analysis in other aspects such as:

  1. Employee analysis: The reputation inside a company is just as important as its reputation outside. And employees who leave a company are some of the most credible influencers. We can quickly deploy an anonymous survey to employees and/or undertake focus groups with a cross-section of the company or specific teams.
  2. Leadership impact: We can provide a detailed analysis of the company’s leadership’s strengths and weaknesses over a specified time period to showcase their impact on the business’ strategy.

2020 has been especially complex from a reputational standpoint as the economic fallout from COVID-19 and social movements rippling around the world have increased the stakes for companies and their stakeholders. While there have been major challenges to navigate and opportunities to seize, for many companies, this will be a defining time.

Businesses can transform their reputation by applying the information and insights gained from the reputation audit exercise to better resonate with their key stakeholders, address reputational concerns and effectively position themselves to adapt and thrive during rapidly changing and uncertain times.

If you’re interested to learn more about your company’s reputation, reach out to us here.