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The Reputation Journey - 07.07.2013
Report from the 17th RI conference, Barcelona, June 2013

Report by Peggy Brønn

The theme of this year’s Reputation Institute (RI) international conference on corporate reputation, brand, identity and competitiveness was The Reputation Journey. The Reputation Journey represents RI’s new way of thinking and working with reputation management, namely that it is a journey. Things take time, the road is long, and there are many detours. But the point is that having a path is important and the analogy to journey allows the use of lovely words such as exploration, discovery, awareness and impact. The handouts for the conference compared it to Christopher Columbus discovering the New World.

There was a great deal of interest in communication and reputation at the conference and it is clear that this is a growing area. This was highlighted in discussions of and by corporate reputation officers (CROs). And the issue of who should be in charge of reputation (CRO versus CCO) has been a ‘hot topic’ on RI’s Linkedin site.

The second day of the conference started with the subject Reputation and Communication with presentations from senior executives at Pirelli and Nestlé and outgoing chair of Global Alliance Daniel Tisch. This was followed by Cees van Riel’s discussion on what makes a 4-star CCO (corporate communication officer), moderated by head of group communications at Allianz. According to van Riel, 4-star status can be obtained by paying attention to three performance areas: internal, external and skills. Internally, the head of communication should be well connected and be perceived to have an impact and externally, they should be perceived as having influence and as being taken seriously. Lastly they should not only have communication skills, they also need to understand business.

There were also sessions on CSR stakeholder engagement, exploring a communication constituted dialogue with Laura Illia from IE School of Communication and examples provided by Diageo Corporate Relations Director. Four contributors to the Handbook of Corporate Communication and Reputation (edited by Craig Carroll) had a session on communication and reputation.

The conference attracted many highly placed executives, although no CEO’s.  Firms represented included (among others) Diageo, Banco Santander, Nestlé, TNS, BBVA Compass, Huawei Technologies, Telefonica, MicroBank, Pirelli, Allianz, Ogilvy and Mather, Vestas Wind System. They also were able to obtain sponsorship from local businesses and consultancies.

Reputation is something all firms work with, but it is not limited to the private sector. Reputational issues associated with the public sector and non-profit organizations were missing at the seminar. And even though the conference arrangers felt academics were well represented, the general feeling was that it was heavily dominated by practitioners.

More info:
Conference website

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