Reputation measurement

1. Definition
Reputation is fundamentally based on stakeholder group specific images. Image is generally used to mean a simplified, typified, value-judgmental and action-guiding idea formed on the basis of impressions, perceptions and thought processes in the minds of persons or sections of the population about products, persons, facts and circumstances, or entire organizations. The reputation and image relationship can be described as a long-term, dynamic, mutual relationship determined by corporate images in various manifestations. Reputation can be influenced only indirectly – via a kind of image network based on cumulative corporate identity perception and association processes. Reputation is also bound up with other attributes such as trust and credibility, reliability and responsibility, and comprises support potentials as well as certain expectations of behavior. A high reputation is considered to promote trust and confer a competitive advantage over rivals.

The terms image, reputation, good name and prestige are very similar in their definitions and barely distinguishable in measurements. 

2. Applications
Reputation measurement beings at the outcome level. Standardized surveys are used to investigate attitudes and opinions regarding the test article, in most cases the respondents' overall impression of an organization or brands. As an intangible variable, reputation can be an indicator for the outflow of communication, as the support potentials (including customer relationships, supplier partnerships, good employer) associated with the construct have an indirect effect on commercial success, EVA or brand value.

The various measurement methods differ largely in terms of the chosen test article, the depth of the questions, and with respect to the reference groups questioned. "Subreputations" can be determined by questioning specific target groups. Most methods enable comparisons between how something is viewed by others (outside view) and how it is viewed by the subject (self-image, Corporate Identity).

Measurements can take place at three levels: at the cognitive level, knowledge diagnostics takes place which enables the strengths and weaknesses of the test article to be identified. on an emotional-affective level, analysis of self-image and third party image can help to determine the extent of individual image dimensions. The conative level finally measures internal activation and embedding or utilization of the item under consideration – a specific brand, for instance – in everyday life or everyday business.

Numerous benchmarking projects exist alongside discrete analyses investigating a specific test article. Examples of benchmarking project offerings range from surveys in various magazines (e.g. Manager Magazin, Fortune) to studies by specialist consultants (e.g. CEO-Reputation Burson Masteller; Corporate Reputation Watch Hill & Knowlton; Reputation-Survey Trimedia) to international research projects of the Reputation Institute based on the reputation quotient.

However, most such comparisons enable only a limited insight into key factors influencing reputation or certain sub-reputations. Moreover, individual, one-off reputation measures are static variables that do not completely cover the dynamic properties of image or reputation change. To achieve the latter, repeated measurements at intervals of time would be necessary.

3. Implementation
Reputation measurement deploys quantitative and qualitative methods of empirical social research. The image of an organization in the minds of non-members is determined in most instances by surveying key influence groups and by qualitative evaluation based on media analysis. An organization's self-image is determined by surveying management and staff. Standardized questionnaires determine attitudes and opinions in respect of the item being investigated. The method used is a combination of qualitative in-depth interviews, semantic differentials, and various assessment scales. This information is used to construct polarity profiles reflecting and comparing statements and opinions of the respondent groups. Researchers also use cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses linked with psychological tests such as association tests or sentence finishing tests, which reflect trends in terms of issues and times. Depending on the desired depth of analysis, other methods such as semiometrie and conjoint analysis may also be used. Causal and regression analysis helps to identify relationships between different factors.

Darstellung angelehnt an: Wiedmann/Fombrun/van Riel 2005, S. 51

A multidimensional standardized measurement method to investigate corporate reputation is available in the form of the Reputation Quotient (RQ) developed by Charles J. Fombrun (Reputation Institute) and the market research institute Harris Interactive. The method has been used world-wide since 1999 for comparative reputation studies, i.e. benchmarking. It enables the identification of critical success factors for corporate reputation from the points of view of different stakeholder groups. Respondents are asked to estimate 20 attributes in six key dimensions (emotional impact, products and service, vision and leadership, working environment, financial reward, social responsibility; see figure alongside) These attribute values are then condensed to a reputation value, via various factors. The maximum score is 100 points. The impact of individual attributes on this value can then be calculated by regression and factor analysis.

The RQ value appears to be heavily dependent on the respective industry and says little on its own. Reputation preferences and dimensions are industry-specific  and result in different final reputation values due to standardization of transfer. Comparison of individual dimensions within one and the same industry may produce meaningful insights, however. Nevertheless, RQ cannot show a direct correlation with EVA and hence with the outflow level of communication.

4. Service providers
Determination of the Reputation Quotient and storing of the result is done by the Reputation Institute. Common image measurement methods which differ from each other only marginally are offered by practically all market research institutes. The Cision method is to combine media response analysis with market research techniques as a means of determining reputation. More information on image analysis is available in Skopos and the tns-emnid webside. The latter also contains information on the Semiometrie method.

5. Indicators

6. Links

7. Further reading
Fombrun, Charles J. (2001): Corporate reputation – Its measurement and management. In: Thexis, 18. Jg., Nr. 4, S. 23-26.

Fombrun, Charles J. (1996): Reputation. Realizing Value from the Corporate Image. Boston (Massachusetts), Harvard Business School Press.

Van Riel, Cees B. M./Fombrun, Charles J. (2006): Essentials of Corporate Communication: Implementing practices for effective reputation management. London: Taylor & Francis.

8. Case studies

Please send us short texts from your projects on this topic in the same structure as the existing case studies, and more information (pdf or links) on the methods employed in as much detail as possible.

deutsch english

Initiated by: