5 Lessons About Corporate Reputation from Celebrities and Politicians

Is it really true that any publicity is good publicity? In a digital world that revolves around a 24/7 news cycle where hashtags and retweets dominate public perception, it’s easy for celebrities and organizations to gain publicized attention.

The theory that what people say about you doesn’t matter, as long as they say something, might work for celebrities who thrive on controversy like Kanye West. But, for organizations whose survival depends largely on positive stakeholder perception, a good reputation means the difference between skyrocketing success and unrecoverable failure.

We recently surveyed 500 people across the United States to compare the levels of familiarity, favorability, and trust, for 13 public figures and leading organizations across seven industries. We used these findings to examine the nature of reputation across entities and how it should inform future decisions.

Here are 5 key takeaways:

1. Reputation starts with familiarity.

Most people conceptually understand that awareness of a person or brand is the first step to trust. However, lower favorability and trust scores also were seen in industries like healthcare where people had less familiarity with a specific brand. Only 37% of participants said they trusted the healthcare industry compared to 57% who said they trusted the food and beverage industry.

People’s lack of knowledge about a company, as is often the case with individual pharmaceutical brands, makes them initially distrust the brand. With only a 16% approval rating, congressional leadership is a prime example of this issue, since most people aren’t familiar with politicians as individuals and don’t understand what they value or the reasoning behind their viewpoints or decisions.

Helping people understand what your brand is about (e.g., mission, values, and offerings) is important to overcoming this obstacle.

2. A gap between familiarity and favorability represents opportunity.

Familiarity, favorability, and trust tend to be linked. Some people and companies have a disconnect between these factors though, which represent an opportunity to improve their reputation. Emma Stone is one individual that falls into this category. With a 37% familiarity ranking, she fell below many other celebrities, including Tom Hanks, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Beyonce. However, her trust rating of 46% was higher than everyone except Tom Hanks.

If your organization deals with a similar disconnect, focusing on high-level content that spreads awareness of your brand is key to closing the awareness gap and furthering your public image.

3. Industries and brands tend to have greater trust than groups of individuals.

One advantage for your organization is that apart from exceptional people like Tom Hanks, with a soaring 67% trust rating, individuals in the spotlight tend to have lower favorability and trust than companies with well-known brands.

On average, 31% of participants said they trusted politicians as a whole, 33% trusted celebrities as a whole and 45% trusted companies and brands as a whole. In fact, healthcare was the only industry who fell below 40% trust on average.

4. Industry-specific disturbances can take a negative toll on your reputation, even if they don’t involve your company.

Everyone is aware of events in the travel industry over the past year; however, certain brands like JetBlue which has remained out of negative headlines is still only favored 4% more than United Airlines, which instigated serious concerns about passenger treatment.

Your company doesn’t have to be completely helpless, though. Monitoring and tracking these cross-industry disturbances helps you understand how events outside the control of your brand might impact you, and allow you to prepare to combat them.

5. We should all take a page out of the Nicest Man in Hollywood’s playbook

Not only did Tom Hanks have the highest familiarity ranking, at 67% he had the highest trust ranking as well. We all know him from Blockbuster hits like Forest GumpCastawayand Toy Story, but starring in movies everyone’s seen isn’t enough to make them trust you. The reality is, Tom Hanks is surrounded by good publicity and is widely known as the “nicest man in Hollywood”. Whether it’s taking the time to make a fan’s day or his extreme dedication to doing a good job (he was named an honorary member of the U.S Army Ranger Hall of Fame due to his performance in Saving Private Ryan), articles are overflowing with positive anecdotes.

Take a page out of his reputation playbook. Dedication to providing value to clients in a way that delights and engages them is key to gaining consumer and public trust.

Monitoring your organization’s brand reputation and perception is a crucial indicator of success. For more information on the differences in reputation across businesses, industries, politicians and celebrities, download the full Dynamics of Reputation report and leave a comment, letting us know what you think.