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Article • 12/10/2023

Exec Connect NYC: Measuring corporate reputation in the age of AI

Why is corporate reputation such an important asset to safeguard and how do we go about measuring it? These questions and others were central at this week’s Exec Connect event in New York City, co-hosted by special guest Spencer Ante, vice president of public affairs and communications at American Express, and presented in partnership with Financial Narrative, the world’s leading community for senior financial marketers and communicators. 

The discussion covered much ground, with key topics including:

  •   The inherent fragility of corporate reputation
  •   The difference between brand equity and corporate reputation
  •   Leveraging innovation and data to drive reputation

The inherent fragility and undeniable significance of corporate reputation

In our increasingly digital world, brand reputations can be built and shattered in mere moments. Spencer kicked the conversation off with a discussion of the “halo effect,” the psychological phenomenon where positive brand image amplifies consumer interactions. Conversely, he also highlighted the fragility of corporate reputation, and how a singular unfortunate event could rapidly tarnish what took years or even decades to build.

This makes it more important than ever to accurately track and measure corporate reputation. But while today’s PR and comms professionals have a wealth of data to work with, it often comes from a disparate range of repositories and vendors. Turning this fragmented data landscape into a cohesive, accurate, and actionable view of corporate reputation can be a huge task.

Delineating boundaries: Brand equity versus corporate reputation

Understanding the intricate interplay between brand equity and corporate reputation is critical for modern businesses. Spencer offered a simple rule of thumb for contextualizing one against the other. While brand equity is about the way a brand is perceived by consumers, corporate reputation encompasses a broader perspective. It encapsulates the viewpoints of a diverse range of stakeholders, including employees, investors, partners, and the media. An intriguing observation was the stark contrast between equity and reputation for many brands, particularly in the tech sector. 

Innovation and data as core reputation drivers

The theme of innovation was a recurring point throughout the conversation, with participants offering a wealth of insights. Attendees universally voiced the importance of pursuing cutting-edge technology, especially in attracting and retaining top-tier talent. Yet participants also flagged a counterpoint — that in our relentless pursuit of innovation, we might lose sight of the human experience. The challenge lies in finding a middle ground — ensuring technological advancements don’t overshadow human-centric touchpoints.

Participants also discussed the evolution of how organizations interpret data and leverage it to drive their decision-making. Many companies are hindered by an overly narrow view of communications objectives. Rather than focusing solely on KPIs, companies should ask more fundamental questions like “How future proof am I perceived to be?” or “What effect does our business have on the environment?”

In our roundtable, many spoke of resistance to embracing data, especially from veteran decision-makers accustomed to traditional methodologies. Ultimately, participants agreed that a perspective not backed by data is merely an opinion. The best thing companies can do to ensure their campaigns and initiatives land with audiences is to weave their narratives around validated data.

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