Reputation Ups and Downs

December 10, 2010

Reputation Ups and Downs

I’ve been very busy so have not had a chance to mention two studies related to reputation that are worth reviewing.
The first one is about industry reputation which continues to intrigue me. The Harris Interactive Poll found that the most credible industries among 2,152 adult Americans are supermarkets, hospitals, banks and electric and gas utilities. They have been doing this research since 2003. Not too surprisingly but disturbing nevertheless was that when asked this question about 17 industries, a large 48% said “none of these” industries are trustworthy. This was the highest number of people saying this since 2003.  Overall, no one industry is doing particularly well and this speaks to the overall downturn in perceptions of business over the decade.

“Which of these industries do you think are generally honest and trustworthy – so that you normally
believe a statement by a company in that industry?”

Base: All U.S. adults

Electric and gas utilitiesn/an/a141415161619+3n/a 
Computer hardware companies2729272018172316-7-11 
Computer software companies2225222317162015-5-7 
Online retailersn/an/a161110101612-4n/a 
Packaged food companies2323211412131611-5-12 
Pharmaceutical and drug companies1314971110911+2-2 
Life insurance companies111510111091010-1 
Car manufacturers1418139111088-6 
Health insurance companies79977778+1+1 
Managed care companies such as HMOs45545557+2+3 
Telephone/Telecommunication companies12131110109107-3-5 
Oil Companies44333454-1 
Tobacco companies34423232-1-1 
None of these3732374044444448+411 
 Note: Multiple-response question;  n/a = industry not asked about that year 

The second survey that should be on your radar is research by Nora Ganim Barnes. She has been diligently surveying Fortune 500 companies with regard to their social media usage.  Social reputation is a growing component of reputation which is why I am writing about this. This is the third survey that she has done on this topic at the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Here are some of her key findings for 2010 (conducted in August/September 2010) which are great to track over time.

1. One quarter (23%) of Fortune 500 companies have a public-facing corporate blog with a recent post over the past 12 months. Two years ago, only 16% had blogs so this is a healthy increase.

2.  When it comes to industries, the industries with the most blogs are computer software, peripherals and office equipment. This includes companies such as HP, Microsoft, Apple. There have been increases in blogs in the specialty retail industry (Best Buy as an example) and telecommunications as well (Verizon, AT&T).

3. About one third (32%) of top 100 ranked Fortune 500 companies had a blog, a slight dip from 38% in 2008. 

4. A whopping 90% of  Fortune 500 blogs take comments, have RSS feeds and take subscriptions. That is good news to see that these blogs are interactive and not one-way.

5.  They looked at corporate Twitter accounts (had to have tweeted in the past 30 days) and 60% had Twitter accounts, a jump up from 35% in 2009. Nine of the top 10 Fortune 500 companies had accounts and consistently posted.  Specialty retail companies were the most likely to have Twitter accounts. Since they are so consumer-facing, makes sense.

6. A fairly large 56% of the Fortune 500 companies are on Facebook. Not bad but not up to the level it should be and will be over time.

Industry reputations are still failing but social media seems to be exploding (Twitter and Facebook) among the top companies in the US.  We are witnessing the Great American Reach Out. Industry reputations could begin the climb upwards if there was greater adoption of interactivity. No doubt industries will take this seriously and jump onboard. CEOs as well will become more socialized in the years ahead.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

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