Corporate reputation - HOW to measure your reputation
We’ve now looked at WHY you should measure reputation, WHAT you should measure and WHO you should ask. But how should you be measuring it? Next, I’ll take you briefly through some of the main tools we use to measure reputation.
Broadly these fall into two categories: direct and indirect. Indirect measures look at a proxy for your reputation, rather than asking people what they think of you. The most common example is media or social media monitoring. This can be a great way of getting a regular drumbeat of data about what your audiences hear about your brand.
To make sure you get the most value out of this monitoring, try to compare it with some direct data so that you get a feel for how much impact the coverage has. Otherwise, you will at some point have the unenviable task of explaining to your boss why they should or shouldn’t panic about the media monitoring without any evidence to prove it. It is also important to have a really good look at which outlets your monitoring covers and to tally those up with your stakeholder map. Are you capturing the media most read and most trusted by the people who matter most to you? Your monitoring team may even be able to create different indices for each audience if you give them enough information about the media habits of each one.
By ‘direct measures’, I mean research techniques where you actually ask your audiences what they think of you. Here you have two primary options: Individual Depth Interviews (IDIs) and surveys. IDIs are the gold standard for reputation research. A researcher talks to your stakeholder for 20-60 minutes, usually over the phone but sometimes face-to-face. This means that the interviewer hears not only the words they say about you (and your industry and competitors) but also the intonation and any hesitation. A good researcher will notice the questions where they don’t get full answers and knows when to probe for more.
After conducting, 20-100 of these, the research team will not only have a holistic and nuanced understanding of what your stakeholders think about you but they will also have gleaned a lot about stakeholders’ expectations of the future, the subjects they are most interested in, what they think of your comms functions and how to improve. Allowing interviewees to express themselves in their own words provides data that you just can’t get any other way. The catch? They are relatively expensive (£400-£1,500 per interview) and time-consuming and that limits the numbers that most firms are happy to commission. But if you have a relatively small pool of people whose opinion matter disproportionately to your organisation this is what you need. Also worth noting: most politicians, think tankers, academics and journalists rarely do online polls.
If the pool of people who matter is larger and more open to taking a survey, then you have the opportunity of reaching out to them in this way. This is great for testing your reputation amongst the public, for example, or some specialist groups might be reachable by telephone. Any gaps or confusing data could be filled and supplemented using focus groups to gain a bit more colour and insight. Using polling/surveys also means you can achieve a lot of goals with one survey and potentially save on the costs. Why not combine your reputation questions with a regular marketing poll, for example?
There are a lot of options here – and many more for specialised groups. If you are trying to navigate your way through this and don’t know where to start, drop me a line and I will be happy to discuss the possibilities.
Pretty much the only hard and fast rule is to not rely on what stakeholders tell you themselves. This can provide helpful colour but is deeply unreliable as a general measurement. If you don’t believe me, consider how much you trust the response of your spouse if you ask them if you look good. They would probably tell you if you looked really bad or really good, but in-between there are myriad reasons for them to gloss over the details. This is not only misleading but a waste of both your time.