Cameron Stone, BOLDT Partners 

Understanding the ingredients of strong reputation can be difficult at the best of times. Amidst huge global uncertainty, it is even tougher.

And in the UK, it can seem tougher still for businesses at the moment. Over the course of the last six months, the country has made its way through three Prime Ministers and just as many Chancellors.

Conflict in Europe has exacerbated a cost of living crisis that was already making it difficult for so many. The world is managing the post-pandemic effects. And on top of all of this, Britain’s long-term future feels uncertain post-Brexit.

When making decisions about what to say and what to do to promote and protect positive reputation, knowing where things stand economically, politically and in market sectors is important. But with uncertainty being the recurring word of the day, these times are a nervous prospect for business leaders and people managing corporate reputation.

Part of the problem is knowing quite what to believe from politicians at such unprecedented political times. Another is that businesses want to communicate in ways that acknowledge short-term disruption and problems, and take a risk-averse approach to communicating long-term change and sustainable transformation, so feel restricted in their ability to build reputation that strikes a better balance of promotion and protection, and is truly differentiated.

Historically, such challenging times for reputation management would have called for the services of ‘spin doctors’. In political circles, they often still do. But the ‘dark arts’ of communicators who convince journalists to write pieces in certain ways, time their communication to deflect bad information and  rely on a well-thumbed contacts book have less value at a time when media has fragmented, when disinformation swirls all around us and when many companies want to know what to do to assure good reputation, not just guess.

Reputation has become about science as well as art. For Norwegian companies doing business in the UK, there are surely many questions about how political movements have compounded or undermined certain issues, about how competitors are responding to these challenging time, and what matters most when it comes to ESG goals given the war in eastern Europe. Understanding how those macro factors really impact individual corporation reputations has become critical for long-term reputation strength and short-term decision-making.

Building the reputation of your business over the long-term is a sure fire way to help weather any storm. Building a belief among your customers and consumers – an understanding of what you and your business stands for long-term – is a defence mechanism that will protect the value of your business through the most uncertain of times. And data analysis techniques can now help by assessing sentiment and the nature of conversations across external media platforms – not just who is saying what, but how audiences are reacting, and listening to those changes at enormous scale.

Whereas reputation management was once considered a kind of ‘reading the tea leaves’ reserved for the craftiest of spin doctors, there is now so much more to it. Data-led methods enable reputation to be analysed and plotted for the long-term over distinct factors that are demonstrably material to your business. You wouldn’t plot your reputation on a hunch, and these methods reward a certain patience, letting you build ‘policy’, maintain resolve where necessary and assess calculated risks.

The point here is that while disruption and chaos is making it all-too-tempting to look only to the short-term, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that building long-term reputation now is one of the best ways to ensure your business weathers the storms of today and tomorrow. And with the UK being disrupted on so many fronts at the moment, the value of that is only increasing.

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