Editorial: Reputation: It’s out of your hands

The reputation game is changing. Reputation is more important than ever but cannot be controlled by slick marketing and advertising campaigns. ‘Citizen journalism’ and online forums are examples of the democratisation of dissemination of information and opinion; the people have taken over the airwaves and organisations have little control over what is said about them.
Organisations that value their good reputation and have commitment to ethical principles and practising excellence embedded in their culture are likely to achieve long-term sustainable success. This year’s NZ Management and Hay Group’s Most Reputable Organisation, Beca, was slow burner reputation-wise for much of its more than 90-year history. It went about building its considerable business (2010 revenue of $366m) in quiet way, letting its professionalism and commitment to excellence speak for themselves.
The past five years have seen raft of industry awards for the international engineering consultancy, topped off by the Company of the Year Award at the Deloitte/Management magazine Top 200 Awards last year, and now NZ’s Most Reputable Organisation award.
Reputation is not built off the back of overnight success, but that’s not to say that can’t happen. And in the Facebook and twitter generation, almost anything is possible. The ‘farmy army’ and ‘student army’ community free labour groups that emerged to help citizens with properties battered by the Christchurch earthquakes gained almost overnight sainthood status. But reputations, hard or easily won can be just as easily destroyed; witness both the adidas and Vodafone PR disasters of recent weeks.
When Beca won the coveted Top 200 Company of the Year Award last year, we noted that, although the company has long history, it represents the future face of New Zealand corporate success. Not only was it private company, the first to win the award, but Beca sells professional service – IP if you like rather than tangible product.
It’s game-changer in other respects as well, all of which have contributed to its burgeoning reputation. It’s employee-owned, invests in leadership development in the firm and encourages its people’s involvement in community projects as well as professional bodies.
It’s easy to see why such solid performer with sound and consistent principles should win the respect and admiration of its business peers – those who voted in Hay Group’s Most Reputable Organisations – in world whose foundations can seem to be floating on shifting sands.
I was in the UK during the financial storm that buffeted world sharemarkets in the first week of August and the riots that followed. I felt relieved and extraordinarily lucky to touch down back in Aotearoa. While we do have serious issues, by and large our lives here at the bottom of the Pacific are protected from the worst ills of the rest of the world.
Can you imagine any other country where the police force and the tax department would top the list of the most reputable government departments?.

NB: I’d like to acknowledge the sterling professional work by Hay Group management consultancy’s NZ chief executive Ian MacRae and his team in conducting the research and analysis for The Most Reputable Organisations project.

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