Business School

Corporate reputation 

Global firms must do more to stop uneven perceptions of their reputation across the world

The reputations of global firms can vary widely from country to country, according to experts who have urged multinational companies to do more to stop uneven perceptions of their performance across the world.

The same organisation can be perceived differently across the world by clients, competitors and staff, according to the study.

Experts have said the findings show managers need to do more to ensure work is carried out to the same standard wherever the company operates.

Annual surveys and other general methods of measuring reputation don’t do enough to show diverging reputations in different parts of the world, the researchers have said. Organisations should instead find ways to measure the different reputations they have. They should also carry out regular “identity checks” to ensure employees perceive the firm in a similar vein to the leadership team.

Professor Will Harvey, from the University of Exeter Business School, who carried out the research, said: “Corporate reputation is often considered through a lens, but we find it should be viewed through a prism because different groups can have disparate and often competing perceptions.“

“Our work shows that organisations shouldn’t be depicted in a narrow way, as if they were cut from a single cloth. But it is important that staff in different offices and countries all believe in their claims about the company’s expertise, otherwise the firm will lack credibility.”

Academics carried out interviews, focus groups and workshops and observed staff at a leading global professional services firm. The research was carried out with 116 participants across eight countries: Austria; China; Croatia; the Czech Republic; France; Germany; Hungary and the UK. The researchers also interviewed clients, competitors and alumni of the company.

The study also shows potential and former employees have different views about the company’s reputation compared to when they were employees. This suggests that organisations need to tailor communications to these groups. Senior executives may be best placed to create and preserve corporate reputation through early engagement with different stakeholders, rather than focusing only on organisational-level activities.

Lens or prism? How organisations sustain multiple and competing reputations, by William S. Harvey and Marwa Tourky from the University of Exeter Business School, Eric Knight from the University of Sydney Business School, Sydney, Australia, and Philip Kitchen, from The Business School, University of Salford, Salford, UK and ESC Rennes School of Business, France, is published in the European Journal of Marketing.



Date: 14 February 2018

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