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GlobeScan’s four practice leaders sat down to identify key trends to watch out for in 2013 in the areas of reputation, brand, sustainability and engagement. See the top three trends each have identified across GlobeScan’s core areas of expertise.
Femke de Man
Director, Reputation Practice Lead
If discussions among corporate affairs functions of leading global companies is any guide, reputation management will likely become a stand-alone executive function in the next several years – witness the emergence of a “Chief Reputation Officer”. New reputation-focused responsibilities and reporting lines are usually implemented when companies identify reputation as a core value for the company, indivisible from other parts of the business. While very few companies are using the CRO title at present, the creation of a group head responsible for the reputation of the group and its component parts is seen by many companies as being strongly supportive of that value. There is a consistent observation that effective reputation management relies on a cross-functional approach, because reputation risks and opportunities arise from all sides of the business. To effectively coordinate this, a senior executive is needed to monitor any newly implemented reputation management system.
Corporate reputation has generally been viewed within a risk management paradigm; this, however, is slowly shifting. To capitalize on the business value of an effective corporate reputation management system, it is vital that it be integrated across the enterprise. Leading companies on reputation will show a strong link between reputation and the “vision” or “values” of the company, and this vision for reputation will be well-articulated across the organization – i.e., positioning reputation as a corporate value and helping staff at all levels understand that reputation is everyone’s responsibility, is relevant to them, and can have a positive impact on achieving business objectives.
With the popularity of online and social media, companies increasingly want to see what is happening in these spheres that may have a bearing on their reputation. They now have the opportunity to query unstructured digitized data, including online and social media, to deliver on a real-time basis highly quantitative and metric-driven reputation analyses across all reputation drivers. At the same time, companies need to pay close attention to their important stakeholders and understand how they view the company. The best approach – and one which we anticipate will become more common among leading companies – is to integrate the online and social media outputs with stakeholder perception research to deliver comprehensive 360 degree reputation solutions.
Director, Brand Practice Lead
Globalization and the media revolution have changed how organizations need to communicate. The rise of the corporate brand will continue, as more organizations realize its potential for conveying not only what they do but why they do it. Inspired by a unique opportunity to reach a global audience, both P&G and GSK built corporate brand campaigns around the London 2012 Olympics. For GSK this was their first public campaign as a brand. We expect to hear more from other, traditionally B2B, corporate brands in 2013.
More corporate brands will be used as vehicles for organizations’ sustainability and CSR efforts, which will also address stakeholder expectations and could be effective in addressing public trust deficits in business. Sustainability practitioners are realizing that good communication – both internal and external – is essential to achieving sustainable development goals. And they are starting to embrace branding for greater recognition and effectiveness. CSR can be a key asset for a corporate brand, giving personality and warmth to an organization, while CSR’s exposure through corporate branding can help deliver on goals such as partnership building.
Better targeting of communication will also be increasingly important for brands’ success. In 2012, the Regeneration Consumer Study introduced us to the ‘Aspirationals’ – the group that’s looking for brands that improve both their own lives and society at large. Brands that offer ‘total value’ across price and quality, authentic societal benefit, and a sense of connection to a wider community will be rewarded with the loyalty of these consumers – the next drivers of sustainable consumption.
Director, Sustainability Practice Lead
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Preteens and teens need to be enabled to speak up about the future they want. Some (but not enough) are more communicative, connected, and better educated than ever before. Can we harness their appetite for online networking to push us past the tipping point required to do what we know we must, but can’t easily do given the inertia of current systems? After all, these demographic groups today are tomorrow’s market. We’d do well to deeply understand their aspirations, both material and intangible.
We need a serious conversation about our economy’s cornerstone: discounting the future. This is especially relevant given the exponential growth of consumptive and sustainability values that we have newly shown to share parallel trajectories in our most populous and fastest growing countries. Resulting from that will be a better discourse about the responsibility of long-since rich nations. Might full cost accounting become topical once again? Please visit The Regeneration Roadmap to learn more about how we are tackling this and other longer-term challenges in the area of sustainable development.
Last, we need to make crises pay off. 2013 marks the 5th anniversary of this latest edition of our global financial fiasco. Can we revalue the future such that we care more today about what we will have then than what we have now? Will the disaster that was Sandy put climate change back on the agenda? In the manner of martial arts, forward looking organizations will find ways of directing these forces to theirs and our benefit.
Director, Engagement Practice Lead
When geography ceases to be a barrier for those affected by corporate activity to make their views felt on a wider stage, as it has with the unstoppable rise of social media, issues that might once have been considered as only of local importance start to have global ramifications, and companies start needing to expand their definition of who their stakeholders really are. This is partly about managing risk and cost – oil and mining operations have long grasped that involving local communities at an early stage of a potentially contentious project can lead to significant savings on legal costs and other delays further down the line. But with such low levels of trust in business, expect that trend to continue, and to spread beyond the extractive sectors. When companies like RIM and Google can suffer damage to their reputations worldwide because of local troubles – allowing the UAE government to monitor instant messaging in RIM’s case, and censoring search results in China in Google’s – you know that things are changing, and that companies’ ‘social licence to operate’ is increasingly living and dying at the local level.
The list of companies who are formalizing relationships with non-governmental organizations to help them drive progress and add credibility to their strategies is lengthening. NGOs like WWF and CARE, and companies as diverse as Lafarge, Johnson & Johnson and Starbucks have all established partnerships in which the NGO helps with corporate objective-setting, monitoring and auditing. This is part of a wider shift that sees companies moving beyond one-on-one partnerships to broader collaborations with external partners to allow them to address complex issues more effectively. Our latest research on collaboration with expert practitioners provides insight into the challenges and opportunities of the collaborative economy.
It’s not all about risk management any more. Companies are starting to try and do more than cover their backs in their interactions with stakeholders. During 2012, GlobeScan ran a 24-hour online stakeholder Lab for Unilever, where the emphasis was firmly on idea generation – leveraging the huge diversity of expertise among the global expert participants to generate new ideas for sustainability-related practices and tools, as well as customized innovative products. But for that to work effectively, companies are going to need to be willing to be more transparent about what they’re doing, whether it relates to R&D or new production areas within their company. For some, that will go very much against the grain.