Leaders out of step with public opinion on reputation

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Senior executives are concerned with their organisation’s readiness to manage reputation, according to a new report, Reputation Reality, from consultancy SenateSHJ.

According to SenateSHJ, the survey of 146 business leaders across Australia and New Zealand, including leaders from the health sector, highlighted areas where leaders are out of step with public opinion.

“The research highlights a range of worrying differences in the way organisations and executives view themselves and public perception, as well as how prepared they are for reputational issues,” said SenateSHJ managing partner, Darren Behar.

“First, the hostility shown towards institutions and elites is one of the biggest, and most widely recognised challenges facing Australian businesses. Against this backdrop, the difference in who business leaders see as the most trusted in a crisis is fascinating.

“Respondents overwhelmingly ranked the CEO as the most trusted spokesperson during a crisis. This is in contrast to what we know from previous research, which is that trust in CEOs has fallen dramatically in recent years.

“Second, just 54 per cent identified integrity as the key driver for corporate reputation. We would have expected this number to be significantly higher given the plummeting level of trust that large organisations face.

“Third, almost nine in 10 respondents said their organisation is proactive in protecting its reputation, yet only one in four respondents have high confidence in their ability to effectively roll out their crisis plans. And their confidence in managing a crisis through social and digital channels is even lower at 40 per cent.

“In practice, this lack of preparedness means organisations run a real risk of major reputational damage, particularly given an increasingly complex business and political environment where new risks and challenges, from cyber attacks to social media crises, are prevalent,” said Mr Behar.

The results also show a disparity in the importance placed on reputation by different sectors. All respondents in the financial and retail and wholesale sectors said reputation was one of the organisation’s primary assets. Yet only 67 per cent of respondents in the healthcare sector agreed.

Mr Behar added, “It’s telling that the sectors which place greatest importance on reputation are financial services and retail – two sectors which have had a number of high profile reputational crises in the past 12 months.”