Cision's latest Reputation Index is out and as usual Microsoft tops the list. Not surprisingly financial services companies are down, car companies and phone companies are up. But as I read the release, I put myself in the shoes of a PR person for Merrill Lynch or Bank of America or GM. What does this data do for me? What do I do with this data? Do I pump up the stock price to get my reputation score up? Resign to improve profitability?
In the interest of transparency I used to work with these folks and the original Delahaye index was an outgrowth of an annual index study I invented back in the late 80s. But when I read that
"Media coverage of financial services companies was dogged by issues such as the subprime mortgage crisis and the weakening economy, heading into what could be a tough 2008," ... "And home improvement companies also suffered from unfavorable financial stories that affected their rankings due to the ongoing housing slump.
it reminds me of just how little PR can do about results of studies like this. When your quarterly results go into the toilet and your stock price sinks, according to this study your "reputation" plummets as well. When you settle a labor issue, or have a hot product, your reputation goes up.
But does it? Is that really what reputations are based on? When I think of a company's reputation, I think of it in terms of my relationship with the company or the brand. Certainly in my mind Microsoft and General Motors would not be on the my top 10 favorites companies. I'm much more of an HP and Honda kinda gal. I've never owned and never will own a GM car or an X-Box. I won't set foot inside Wal-Mart, but it ranks 7th on this list. That's because my experiences and relationships with these companies colors my view of their reputation. Can PR people influence that? absolutely. Earlier this year, HP turned around my hostility by listening to my comments on this blog, and sending me a brand new iPAQ. Honda has won my undying loyalty by creating great cars but also committing to new greener cars -- loyalty built by the reading about these efforts in the media. I'm not suggesting that the good PR folks at the top of this list aren't doing a good job. I'm offering hope to everyone else. There are lots of things you can do to improve your reputation, they just won't necessarily be reflected in this study.