Leading a large multinational company might be a complex and challenging task, but global business leaders believe that heads of state have a much tougher job than they do when it comes to managing reputation. When asked which is harder to manage—a country’s or a company’s reputation—executives chose country reputation more than twice as often (68 vs. 29 percent respectively) according to global public relations firm Weber Shandwick. 

The survey, Safeguarding Reputation, was conducted in 11 worldwide markets in partnership with KRC Research.

On an individual market basis, executives in Spain and Hong Kong were approximately three times more likely to believe that country reputation is harder to manage than company reputation (74 vs. 24 percent and 74 vs. 22 percent, respectively).

“In a challenging sociopolitical global environment, business leaders clearly recognize that managing a country’s reputation or brand is complex and subject to many external forces,” says Weber Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist Leslie Gaines-Ross. “Recent problems with manufacturing in China, news about terrorist breeding grounds in Pakistan and U.S. government efforts to improve its reputation internationally show how difficult it is to effectively manage country brands today. By comparison, managing a corporate reputation looks tame to senior business people.”

Global business executives agree that when it comes to managing perception, some industry and publicly held company reputations are more difficult to oversee than others, while managing an individual’s reputation is considered easier than both according to business executives.
• An industry’s reputation is perceived to be harder to manage than a company’s reputation—approximately one-and-one-half times more difficult (57 vs. 39 percent, respectively).  Interestingly, executives in Italy differ from most of their regional peers and consider a company’s reputation harder to manage than an industry’s reputation (54 vs. 30 percent, respectively).
• Publicly held company reputation is considered much more difficult to manage well than privately held company reputation—nearly three times more difficult according to global business executives (71 vs. 24 percent, respectively).  North American executives, compared to those in Europe and Asia, were the most likely to agree with this finding (82 percent vs. 63 percent vs. 76 percent, respectively).
• Company reputation is nearly four times more difficult to manage than individual reputation (77 vs. 21 percent, respectively).  With the exception of Brussels executives, the vast majority of global executives agree with this finding.  Belgium executives believe that company and individual reputation are equally hard to manage well (50 vs. 48 percent, respectively).

“Managing an industry reputation or publicly listed company reputation requires greater strategic communications skills than ever before. An increasingly complex portfolio of stakeholders including investors, bloggers and investigative journalists has higher expectations and places greater demands on all types of organizations,” says Weber Shandwick President Andy Polansky. “Industries, as well as public and even private companies, now recognize the vulnerability of their reputations and often seek outside counsel to effectively communicate their strengths for the long-term.”