Trylon Communications  - March 2004


It may come as no surprise, given the scandals plaguing corporate America, but according to a recent Harris poll, public trust in corporations is down and skepticism is up. In fact, 74 percent of those surveyed characterized corporate America’s reputation as “not good” or “terrible.”

Corporate reputation management has always been important. But in today’s market, where consumer trust is at an all-time low, discerning companies are acknowledging the importance of their own reputations as corporate assets.

"Investors want to see companies demonstrate financial strength while the public wants to see evidence of corporate social responsibility," said Dr. Joy Marie Sever, senior vice president of Harris Interactive. "To many people, these motives are incompatible. Although most corporations recognize the perceived lack of trust, they underestimate the communication challenges this presents—the path to restoring trust, and, with it, overall corporate reputation, requires an understanding of how people process the various impressions they have about large corporations."

This is where the successful practice of public relations comes in. It is imperative that legitimate third-party credibility be established in the form of positive news stories, reported community activities, socially responsible behavior, and positive impressions at all media touch points. Occasional press releases and business announcements are just not enough.

Dr. Charles Fombrun, executive director of The Reputation Institute and co-founder of the annual study, pointed out that "the average person turns out to be a very insightful judge of corporate character and isn’t easily fooled by mere branding campaigns or media spin. If you look closely at top-rated companies like J&J, UPS, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, or FedEx, it’s clear that they invest heavily in doing what it takes to be visible, consistent, distinctive, authentic, and transparent. And that’s really a good thing for both financial and non-financial audiences alike."

For more information on the survey and a chart of findings for specific corporations, click here.