Data management and corporate reputation – not just the what – it’s about the how

In this second article on data management, our key change and strategy associate looks at the shift in public perceptions about corporate reputation and how the requirements of the GDPR offer a unique opportunity to enhance your business and your customer relationships.

Many of us are starting 2018 with a clear focus on complying with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by the 25th May deadline. But it’s important to remember this date heralds the start of a new way of managing data – and leaders in organisations should be focusing on how they can make sure they – and their people, embrace both the spirit and letter of these regulations and maximise the benefits they offer.

People often see regulations as a burden or cost to be met with the least disruption possible. But at the heart of the GDPR is an opportunity to further protect and strengthen the trust that needs to thrive between an organisation and their stakeholders (both internal and external) to manage data they provide, carefully and safely.

This trust is at the heart of the any organisation’s reputation. And, as we know, an organisation’s reputation is a precious asset on their balance sheet and a key factor in performance. We also know, once lost, it can take organisations years to rebuild a positive reputation – if at all.

Trust and reputation were the double focus of a 2011 survey conducted by global public relations consultancy, Weber Shandwick (WS). The survey aimed to explore the changing public perceptions of corporate reputation and branding – and the results were published in 2012 in a report, “The Company Behind The Brand: In Reputation We Trust”.

Conducted among 1,375 consumers (ages 18 and over) and 575 senior executives in companies with revenue of $500 million or more, the online survey respondents were located in four key markets: two developed markets (the US and UK) and two emerging markets (China and Brazil).

Through their report, WS claims there is a need to reconsider the relationship between brand and corporate reputation. They assert, as consumers globally have greater online access to a brand’s lineage, “influence of the brand “parent”, or the company behind the brand, matters even more”. They claim more informed consumers expect more from leading companies and easily boycott those that do not live up to new standards. At the same time, leaders need to know how to do business in an environment, “where consumers are not just purchasing their products or services on their own merits, they are also shopping by company reputation”.

This means organisations need to attend not only to what they sell and how they produce it, but also how they conduct their business: the processes, structures, systems and policies they use in managing and delivering their business.

Based on the survey responses WS identified what they have termed Six New Realities of Corporate Reputation, which are:

1. Corporate brand is as important as the product brand(s)
2. Corporate reputation provides product quality assurance
3. Any disconnect between corporate and product reputation triggers sharp consumer reaction
4. Products drive discussion, with reputation close behind
5. Consumers shape reputation instantly
6. Corporate reputation contributes to company market value.

The consultancy believes each reality, “serves as a reminder to business leaders that they cannot view their company’s reputation and their product brands as separately as they once did. Aligning and integrating both optimizes their respective strengths to achieve strong business results”.



So, what does this mean to organisations considering the implications of GDPR?

As the WS report shows there is growing evidence that corporate and brand reputation are linked; consumers are seeing a porous relationship between the ways an organisation operates and the products and services they sell (i.e. consumers often believe a well-run company produces quality products and services).

Given the increasingly critical relationship between corporate reputation and brand management, organisations need to invest as much attention and resource into how they are constructing and growing their businesses as they are in creating and developing their brand. This means paying close attention to the internal processes, structures, systems and policies through organisations develop and deliver their business, as these activities now have as much impact on public perceptions, responses and actions as a multi-channel marketing campaign.

In this shift of attention, organisations need to take account of areas of public/consumer concern. As has been highlighted in the Catapult report we cited in our recent article, the management of personal data customers provide is one such area of concern, with little confidence being expressed in the way the information will be used.

The new GDPR regulations provide an ideal opportunity for organisations to not only comply with regulations by developing and implementing robust, transparent data management policies and processes that put the customer’s interests clearly at their heart. Such an approach will help organisations in enhancing their corporate reputation and potentially their market value.

Here in The Compliance Foundation we believe managing your business compliantly is critical to strengthening your reputation and trust with your stakeholders, be they customers, clients, colleagues or commentators. If you want to maximise the opportunities being presented by GDPR, contact us to discuss how we can help you enhance your business performance while meeting your regulatory responsibilities.

January 2018