The 6 components of winning corporate reputations

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One of the most useful books that business leaders can read is ‘Fame & Fortune: How Successful Companies Build Winning Reputations’ by Charles Fombrun and Cees Van Riel. It looks at the world’s most successful companies and identifies six main areas of public perception that contribute to their overall corporate reputations:

  • Emotional Appeal: whether people like, admire or trust a company
  • Products & Services: perceptions of quality, innovation, reliability, and value for money
  • Financial Performance: satisfaction with profitability, prospects, and investment risk
  • Vision & Leadership: belief in a company’s management and vision for the future
  • Workplace Environment: perceptions of a company’s people and the quality of its workplace
  • Social Responsibility: whether it is a good citizen and positive contributor to its communities

Fombrun and Van Riel found that perceptions of a company’s products and services, workplace environment, and social responsibility were the most significant factors in driving emotional appeal and overall reputation. The public tends to support companies they perceive as behaving fairly and responsibly towards their people and the communities in which they operate.

Communication implications

If you want to establish a winning reputation for your business, you need to communicate clearly about more than just your products, growth, and financial results. You must show how you treat employees and contribute to society at large.

Fombrun and Van Riel discovered that how businesses communicate is as important as what they say. They identified five fundamental communication principles that are shared by companies with great reputations.

Keep the following in mind when devising your communication strategies:

  • Visibility: top-rated firms more readily disclose information and engage their audiences directly in conversation
  • Distinctiveness: they occupy a distinctive position in their minds of stakeholders, they stand out from the crowd and are considered to be outstanding at what they do
  • Authenticity: they communicate authentically, and by doing so build emotional appeal, the primary reputation driver
  • Transparency: they don’t hide from the public, being open and transparent around how they conduct their affairs
  • Consistency: they are consistent in their actions, core messages and how they communicate with stakeholders