New research by the Reputation Institute suggests consumer confidence in UK companies is at a relatively low ebb. When issues of reputation are so intertwined with corporate content strategy in marketing, recruitment and employee engagement, is it crazy to think that UK companies might need a little digital redirection?
Given the deluge of dirt being thrown around at the moment in response to the EU referendum, overseas tax havens and the potential apocalyptic plight of America, it wouldn’t be crazy to think the UK public would currently have “UK PLC” on the highest pedestal. Not so, however. UK companies are lagging in our estimations, according to new research by Reputation Institute. I’m willing to bet that content strategy – internal, external and recruitment strategy – has a big role to play here.
The pressure of public trust on the corporate world is rightly high
Great Danes, Swedes and Germans
The report – Reputation Institute’s RepTrak 150 – takes into account companies’ ability to deliver on the expectations of their stakeholders in seven key areas: products and services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership and performance. Digital marketing practices in their various forms more or less underpin all of these areas.
RepTrak scores on these qualities from 1-100. The top three most reputable companies in the UK with an “Excellent” rating of above 80 are Lego Group, Ikea and BMW Group: a Dane, a Swede and a German. The first Brit – Rolls-Royce Aerospace – comes in at number five. All but two of the 27 companies that had a “Poor” rating with a score of 40 or below were British or Irish.
I’m willing to bet that content strategy has a big role to play here
According to Kasper Ulf Nielsen, Executive Partner at Reputation Institute, the UK public on the whole has a lower perception of UK companies across all seven of these dimensions, compared with international companies operating in the UK. This attitude is unique to us – we’re apparently very good at being down on our own flock. Across the rest of the world, native companies tend to have the stronger reputation.
“The impact from reputation on the business is massive, which is why the leading companies in the world are managing this asset in a systematic way,” says Nielsen.
You can pretty much guess why the top three earned their places. It’s hardly surprisingly Lego Group is first. In terms of public perception, who doesn’t like Lego? Add to that a desire for people to work there that is so great you could argue they don’t even need a recruitment strategy. And once you have your foot in the door employees are reportedly very engaged. In 2014, Lego employees reported a ‘world-class level of motivation and satisfaction.’ I can believe that. It’s a job in Lego. What’s not to love?
Second on the list is Ikea, which we all know enjoys a lot of public love (or love-hate, depending on how far you got before abandoning your Billy bookcase). We also know from previous experience that Ikea’s company culture is almost family-like, employing a superb internal communications strategy.
And in third place, BMW, a company that as well as implementing a long and polished campaign of superb visual content and a strong employer brand to match. Best Companies reports a distinct sense of family amongst BMW dealers and BMW workers are natural brand ambassadors – they’re proud to be there. In fact, eight out of ten staff have been with the company for more than five years. At BMW, people love their careers and feel they can make an impact at the firm – in turn, BMW looks after them. Its stress management programme, for example, is award-winning.
In other words, here are three exemplary content strategies that are helping build positive brand reputation. Of course there are myriad other factors at play, but across the board their messaging to external and internal audiences is undeniably bold, engaging and strategic. Their employer brand is second to none and it’s having a direct impact on their reputational bottom line.
Strong employer branding coupled with a forward-thinking content strategy
The great Brits
So how about the British contingent that did make the cut? The UK companies rated “Excellent” in the RepTrak 150 all feature the common themes of strong employer branding coupled with a forward-thinking content strategy, too.
Rolls-Royce Aerospace, coming in at a very respectable number five, has a dedicated and comprehensive employee engagement and recruitment marketing strategy. This includes a commitment to the Your Life Campaign and WISE 10-step plan to recruit more women into STEM-led roles.
Aston Martin places sixth and is regularly cited as having an exemplary luxury brand website with high quality content, a strong look and feel, and a distinctive tone. This applies particularly to its highly engaging, highly targeted campaign that tells the story of its brand heritage, helped by its ties to James Bond. Marketing Week reported late last year on Aston Martin’s excellent approach to niche storytelling and a personalised product approach that never fails to enhance the customer experience.
And finally on the list is ASOS, whose entire business model is digital-centric and highly data-driven; it’s known for its viral videos yet still it built an engaging and successful brand print magazine from scratch; and whose website is the most visited fashion site in the world for 18-34-year-olds. ASOS just posted an 18% rise in pre-tax profits for the last half-year. Need you any more evidence of a strong digital content identity?
How the UK can fare better
UK companies whose reputation is suffering according to the research include financial and utilities companies, transport companies, gambling and telecoms. While not much detail is given on who these companies are or why they fared badly, there is one notable exception worth mentioning. Nationwide Building Society bucked the trend of financial institutions’ reputations with a “Strong” rating of 72.4. It’s likely that this is down in no small part to Nationwide’s status as a ‘responsible’ business.
Firstly, Nationwide has invested significantly in social media-driven employee engagement systems while also recently launching its brand engagement campaign, ‘Living on Your Side’. This campaign aims to help 750,000 people own a home by 2017 and has an ongoing relationship with homeless charity Shelter. It aims to help its members get out of debt and educate them on financial matters. It even goes as far as encouraging Nationwide employees to get involved in their communities and just generally run the business in a nice, responsible, ethical way – including working with The Carbon Trust to reduce emissions and environmental impact.
It’s for initiatives like this that Nationwide was a finalist for last year’s Business in the Community’s Responsible Business of the Year Award. Such considerations are something that appeals broadly to the millennial generation, whose sense of ethical responsibility is strong.
Conversely it also seems likely that the reason other financial institutions did not fare so well in the RepTrak 150 is because the public see them as anything but responsible. If that is indeed the case, a content strategy focused on employer branding and changing company culture seems a good way to address this.
I’m not saying content strategy is the be all and end all of company reputation, far from it. As we’ve said before it’s not enough to say how great you are, you have to go out and be that great company, too. But we’re in an age of transparency and the pressure of public trust on the corporate world is rightly high. Communicating that message to your customers, potential recruits and employees is of paramount importance and if there’s one thing that is true of the UK’s most trusted organisations it’s that they’re doing all that and more.
If UK PLC is in need of a booster, a comprehensive, responsible and honest content strategy is one sure fire fuel injection.