Leading corporate affairs professionals are getting ahead of their company’s reputational risks by gathering unique insights about how their company is perceived and where it is falling short of its stakeholders’ expectations.
According to Company Director magazine’s 2018 RISK FACTOR FORECAST, three of the five greatest risks facing companies, relate to reputation. Meaning boards are not content with hearing how the corporate affairs team is addressing the latest issue, they want their corporate affairs leader to proactively identify the reputation risks and outline a plan to address these emerging issues.
So, how do corporate affairs leaders proactively identify reputations risks?
Companies that really want to know about their reputation risks and how they are perceived, interrogate those best placed to know, their key stakeholders. The customers and suppliers that deal with them, the rivals that compete against them, sector partners who seek to collaborate with them, the communities that live with them and clean-up after them, the regulators that police and investigate them, the lenders that finance them, analysts that cover them, think tanks that challenge them and the people that work for them.
These key stakeholders see your company’s behaviour from very close range, observe its priorities under pressure, witness its decision-making and are well informed about its market, strategic position, history, environment and leadership. Their perceptions are insightful, educated, evidence based and up to date, ensuring they are leading, not lagging.
Reputation research methodology
These companies use reputation research specialists to identify how they are falling short of stakeholder expectations. These ‘reputation researchers’ conduct confidential in-depth interviews with the key stakeholders ideally placed to provide an informed perspective of the company.
Reputation risks can only be brought to the surface through searching, in-depth interviews. The questions, carefully crafted to gather the informed perspectives of those close enough to speak about your business in detail.
The perceptions of key stakeholders are analysed and summarised by the independent reputation researcher to become key findings. The reputation risks that emerge represent advanced warnings to the company. When the corporate affairs leader brings these powerful perspectives as evidence and facts to the executive team and board, they bring robust and valued insights.
Most importantly, these conversations with key stakeholder can also yield their ideas for overcoming these issues and concerns, meaning the corporate affairs leader brings solutions to these reputation risks, already endorsed by key stakeholders.
Reputation research among key stakeholders is not for the faint hearted. When a capable independent researcher asks 30 senior key stakeholders to privately and confidentially discuss their perceptions and expectations of your company, the results will be confronting. This process is not some open-ended exercise in diplomacy or stakeholder consultation. It is a searching, structured and strategic exploration of your company’s specific reputation risks and how they should be addressed.