Reputation is a company’s best asset—and among its most elusive. Today, with the launch of the Signal AI 500, executives have a smarter, more strategic tool at their fingertips to reveal what drives their reputation—and what to do about it.

The Signal AI 500 is powered by Signal AI x Kelp, Signal AI’s new corporate reputation offering. The index runs on a reputation framework and scoring algorithm which digests two billion data points annually to dive into what drives positive reputation across 500 companies, spanning more than 40 industries. The debut ranking highlights leaders and hopefuls, illustrating how any company can boost its reputation and enhance impact.

Top findings from the Signal AI 500:

Purpose Remains a Polarizing Conundrum

Purpose is often seen as a reputation booster – if not the reputation booster. Yet Purpose topics make up only 18% of all corporate conversation and earn less positivity than Innovation or Performance areas – pointing to heightened scrutiny of ESG, greenwashing and more.

ESG Hype Spikes During Earnings Season

Companies talk more about ESG in advance of quarterly earnings calls. Across the index, topics like ESG, Supply Chain and Environment & Climate conversation spiked at the end of each quarter. Compensating much? Investor Relations teams may view ESG as bubble wrap for financial numbers and may want to highlight their ESG commitments in advance of added media scrutiny. But the added volume may fuel the reluctance to see those efforts as genuine and could come across as opportunistic.

Environment and Ethics Lead the Way

While the Purpose landscape can be hard to navigate, environment and ethics lead the way as among the most positive and talked about, indicating clear appetite and expectations to see progress. On the other hand, talent remains a source of tension, a trend that has accelerated in 2022 as employers have jockeyed for right-fit workers and redefined the workplace, sometimes sparking backlash from their employees. If you want to come out on top in Purpose, talent and workplace will be massive differentiators for those who can crack the talent code.

ESG Commitments, When Real, Do Have A Halo Effect

Patagonia, a longtime poster child of environmental and social governance, illustrates a larger trend: When done right, Purpose investments can lift reputation across the board.

In the wake of Patagonia’s founder’s announcement that he would donate the company to fight the climate crisis, Patagonia’s Purpose and Performance scores rose. The company’s Purpose score expectedly rose 20 percent, with its CSR score climbing 90 ranks to #2/500 for the month of September. More interestingly, its Performance score rose 27 percent following the announcement, indicating that meaningful Purpose investments lift all aspects of a company’s reputation. But that kind of reward requires credible and committed investments over the years.

To win in innovation, team up!

Partnerships boost positivity in Innovation-related storylines. It may sometimes feel like a trope, but there is real conviction in the power of collaboration to accelerate innovation. In fact, companies renowned for partnerships have higher reputation scores overall and are seen as game-changers in Innovation – whether they’re teaming up to build new multi-cloud solutions, advanced weapons systems, or anything in between.

Brass Tacks Still Matter

Doing business well is still the biggest reputation differentiator. Running your company well, operating profitably, and consistently earning shareholders’ trust generates more positivity (and coverage) overall than Purpose initiatives like sustainability investments.

Over the past 12 months, storylines that highlight a company’s market’s growth potential, the consistency with which a company can grow, and its manufacturing and design prowess in the face of adverse events fueled the Performance conversation.

In other words: Yes to stakeholder capitalism, but it’s still capitalism.

To learn more about how Signal AI can help your company’s reputation, get in touch here.