It must be the season to measure corporate reputations. Here is the results of the Cision Index, formerly the Delahaye Index. Microsoft comes out on top as it does in the Edelman Trust Barometer.
The bigger news is the astounding recovering of reputation enjoyed by the US auto industry. Hmmm–let’s see, losing billions, on their backends due to continuous and effective competition, losing market share constantly, but reputation up?
I think Microsoft’s stunning recovery and the automaker’s improvements are related phenomenons. It is the monopoly vs, underdog situation. As I blogged before, Microsoft’s reputation didn’t turn around because of bloggers (they helped) or any massive PR campaign, or even Bill Gates doing his marvelous philanthropy. Google did it. Google demonstrated that Microsoft was vulnerable. Not to the general public because frankly I don’t think most non-tech types understand the clear and present danger that Google represents to the software giant–but the influencers who understand technology get it and their opinion is now showing up big time in the public (see the comments discussion about the Edelman Trust Barometer for differing opinions about the role of influencers).
I don’t think people have gotten to feeling sorry for Microsoft, but their loss of position as a fearful monopoly along with Google’s transcendence have contributed greatly to their reputation. Auto companies? Well, we still like Americans and made in America. We just don’t like big huge powerful monopolies or anthing close to them, particularly when they don’t operate with humility. GM, Ford, Chrysler have been humbled. they are fighting for their lives. They have huge obstacles to overcome–not just Toyota and Honda but their own labor force and the changes in the world that they were slow to adapt to. They now appear weak, vulnerable, but their efforts also seem somewhat heroic. We want them to win–if not get back to dominance, at least show they can still compete well in a world increasingly dominated by smart people from Europe and Asia.
Perhaps, as a PR person, it would be better for me to conclude that the reversal of fortune of these companies was due somehow to the brilliance of PR strategists and the far thinking of corporate leadership. I think circumstances–often dictated by competitors–can have a lot to do with reputations. It is the smart communicators who understand these dynamics and know how to take full advantage of human psychology as well as changes in the world.