By Barry Janoff
February 18, 2016: The public has spoken, and in this case it's good news for the likes of Amazon, Apple, Google, USAA and Disney.
Those five companies led a group of 100 U.S. firms named as have the best corporate reputations, according to a new The Harris Poll 2016 Reputation Quotient Summary Report.
Of the 100 companies that were part of the report, eight had reputations deemed as being "excellent," 35 were seen as "very good," 24 were classified as "good" ad 19 as being "fair."
The remainder were seen by the public as being "poor" or "very poor."
The Top Ten companies among the general public were (in order): Amazon, Apple, Google, USAA, Disney Co., Publix Super Markets, Samsung, Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson and Kellogg's.
"Best-in-class companies demonstrate that corporate reputation matters — to your customers, employees, potential hires, business partners and investors," Sarah Simmons, senior reputation consultant for The Harris Poll parent company Nielsen, said in a statement. "Not only does it matter, but corporate reputation is critically important to measure and understand in the context of your company's business goals."
According to The Harris Poll, in addition to the general public, the study was also conducted among a group designated as "opinion elites," described by Harris as a "sub-segment of the general public who are more informed, more engaged and more involved in current issues. Because of this interest, opinion elites tend to exert influence over the general public."
The Top Ten companies among opinion elites were: Apple, Amazon, Google, Kellogg, UPS, Costco, Meijer, Coca-Cola, Berkshire Hathaway and BMW USA.
"Eighty percent of the companies in the RQ study have a better reputation with Opinion Elites than among the general public," said Simmons. "Companies that have a lower RQ rating with Opinion Elites than with the general public have had significant and high-profile reputational issues in recent times, reinforcing the lesson that having a plan and managing communications with this highly influential audience is essential."
Following the Top Ten, the Top 25 companies among the general public were (in order): Vanguard Group, FedEx, Costco, Clorox, Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Honda, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Microsoft, Meijer, UPS, Chick-fil-A, Netflix and Kraft-Heinz Co.
The Top 100 is listed according to RQ Score based on 20 attributes classified into six corporate reputation dimensions: Social Responsibility, Emotional Appeal, Products and Services, Vision and Leadership, Financial Performance, and Workplace Environment.
According to The Harris Poll, 80 and higher is "excellent," 75-79 "very good," 70-74 "good", 65-69 "fair," 55-64 "poor," 50-54 'very poor" and 50 or lower "critical."
Harris said that 'In light of its recent emissions scandal," Volkswagen Group USA declined steeply, dropping 20.5 points overall from a "very good" (75.21) score in 2015 to a "very poor" (54.75) rating in 2016.
Volkswagen Group also fell more than 25 points on Emotional Appeal (includes attributes of trust, admiration and respect) and 20 points on Social Responsibility (includes attributes of environmental and community responsibility).
"Best-in-class companies demonstrate that corporate reputation matters, to your customers, employees, potential hires, business partners and investors."
CVS (-5) and Starbucks (-4.6) also experienced declines, dropping from "very good" to "good" ratings. JCPenney fell four points to a "poor" RQ score after showing the largest RQ increase in 2015.
According to The Harris Poll's report, the biggest risks to corporate reputation are lying or misrepresenting facts about a product or service, or intentional wrongdoing or illegal actions by corporate leaders, with both scenarios cited by 80% of those surveyed.
Other risks to reputation damage include security or data breaches (74%), product recalls due to contamination that may cause illness (66%) and unfair workplace conditions and culture (64%).
In addition, 25% of those surveyed said that employee strikes or work stoppages were "not at all damaging" or "not very damaging" to corporate reputation. Other scenarios that are less damaging include employee conduct (20%), a product recall due to technical or equipment failure (15%), negative financial news about the company (12%) and safety-related product recalls (11%).
"A positive reputation can provide competitive advantages and help your company achieve its objectives while a poor one can obstruct your ability to execute against your business plan," said Simmons.
The 2016 Harris Poll reputation quotient survey was conducted online in English, among more than 23,000 U.S. respondents from Nov. 13-Dec. 24, 2015. Preliminary nominating waves of research were conducted among 4,078 respondents from Sept. 8-10 and Oct. 6-8, 2015, according to Harris.
See the full The Harris Poll 2016 Reputation Quotient Summary Report Top 100 here.
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