Interpreting Reputation Management Analytics

Author: Peter Shafer

The 4 C’s of Reputation Management

One of the most used quotes over the past 40 years is, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Hundreds of consulting firms have formed to address this quote – and to help leaders develop metrics and measures that can then lead to systems and processes to manage towards those metrics.

The 4 C's of Reputation Management Analytics

Regardless of the mission of your organization or its size, reputation management matters. Reputation, like brand equity, is an asset. And the statistical science of quantifying reputation as an asset continues to evolve. This evolution and advancement has made reputation management services and measurement accessible and possible for all types of clients. The REAL key in today’s frantic environment is knowing what to measure and then how to use those measures.

Reputation management as a practice and profession continues to see an explosion of metrics and measures aimed at helping executives and entrepreneurs better manage overall reputation. From creating reputation dashboards to building reputation equity scores, the ways and methods to measure reputation are diversifying rapidly, causing confusion among many corporate communications practitioners and C-suite executives.

The 4 C’s Approach to Reputation Management Analysis

Strategic advisory firms, lawyers, and c-level execs of small and medium-sized businesses face significant reputation management needs requiring honed expertise without an appetite for retaining public relations industry titans like Edelman or Brunswick Group. Everest Communications meets this need, specializing in providing guidance and reputation management analysis to communications teams, law firms, and directly to c-suite execs.

So many of today’s reputation metrics are either volumetrics (counting things) or simple math models that try to prove cause and effect (i.e., 10% of our Twitter followers retweeted our post, which got us even more visibility.) And the nature of many of these new measures lends itself to “simple math,” which makes it easy to calculate and thus easy to justify the interpretation of the measures. But the simplicity of that math frequently hides or, worse, reduces the importance of the actual measure.

Everest has adopted a 4 C’s Approach to Reputation Management Analysis to provide decision-makers with comprehensive reputation analysis. The 4 C’s framework provides a holistic approach incorporating calculations, content, context, and conclusions into your reputation management analysis.

Reputation Management: Calculations

We start with calculations – the math and the statistical modeling that goes into creating your company’s key reputational measures. Some of the metrics are immediately available, and some take time to develop.  These calculations are often created externally (i.e., Net Promoter Score) and used either as a stand-alone metric or in other internal models.

Calculations are also (1) subject to data that is available at any point, and time and (2) on the subject it is you need to measure. For example, internal metrics show a food company and its brands have strong reputation scores as measured by a number of external benchmarking sources. A product recall occurs because of contaminated products found in three states. The stock price drops, which many executives believe signals that harm is being done to the company’s reputation. But other data collected reveal that consumers are not concerned, and the company’s reputation is intact at this time. The challenge is to get calculations that allow for both immediacy and define what actions (or inactions) should take place.

Reputation Management: Content

The second C for reputation management is content. Being prepared to amplify or defend a reputation is almost a daily endeavor. “Walk the walk, talk the talk” is one of many quotes in modern management that say your content should be on display in your words and your actions.

In this age of constant posts, replies, and shares, bad content is much more prevalent than good content, and that content negatively impacts reputation. We see this with the erosion of trust in so many institutions. One reason people lose trust in these institutions is the poor management of content across multiple channels.

Reputation Management: Context

Context is a critical element in reputation management analysis, especially when posting to social media and talking with journalists. Today, many incidents and episodes are looked at singularly or from within a bubble.  As a result, context is almost always missing or an afterthought. And the Covid crisis has shifted the way people interpret context.

For Everest, context answers the question, “Why is this important enough for us to address and explain?” And there is a difference between explanations and excuses. For example, before Covid, scientists as a profession received some of the most stellar and highest trust scores. On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies rated some of the worst reputations. Today, Big Pharma’s reputation is much stronger as an industry in the context of vaccinations and rising to the occasion. At the same time, scientists have suffered a blow to the profession’s reputation resulting from the inconsistency of their recommendations and their research.

Reputation Management: Conclusions

Finally, conclusions are Everest Communications’ final C to reputation management analysis. Conclusions are simply the “take-aways” we get from the data. But in almost every case with reputation management metrics, all conclusions are subjective and open for challenge and debate. The main hurdle that most corporate communications professionals face is how entrenched a mindset can be, even in the face of overwhelming measurable evidence.

Consider the following quote of sociologist Diane Vaughn’s on executives surrendering their mental models take from a May 2002 Fortune Magazine article called “Why Companies Fail”:

“They (executives) may puzzle over contradictory evidence, but usually succeed in pushing it aside – until they come across a piece of evidence too fascinating to ignore, to clear to misperceive, too painful to deny, which makes vivid still other signals they do not want to see, forcing them to alter and surrender the world-view they have so meticulously constructed.”

Making Reputation Management Work to Your Benefit

With so many communications channels, managing reputation takes on a new scope and new urgency. To successfully maintain, grow, and preserve reputations, adopting a simple and straightforward approach like the 4 C’s of Reputation Management can save time, money, and a lot of headaches.

The best approach is to be clear about how YOU calculate your reputation and how others do the same. The next is to make certain that your content and the context within which it is delivered are also clear. Content and context development happens naturally and deliberately, making it essential to balance and maximize both. And a firm like Everest Communications can be a valuable resource in working through content and context challenges.  And finally, challenge your assumptions about your reputation because that will help you draw better conclusions about how to grow and preserve your reputation.

The 4 C’s analysis framework of reputation management is a straightforward way to assess and act in ways that will build a positive reputation.