The Reputation Institute recently released an interesting report on the trends that are going to drive reputation management until 2020. While primarily focused on the reputation of organizations and corporate brands, the report does provide useful insight for place branding professionals.
Key Trends Driving Reputation Management:
1. Know who you are first, and stick to it
In one word: authenticity. Whatever you do, make sure your branding is based on an authentic narrative. Spin and false marketing promises were yesterday. As place brander, you will have to listen even more closely to your stakeholders, especially the citizens of the city, country or region you are managing and promoting.
Honesty and transparency are an important part of this, and this video by Tourism New Zealand on how it is developing the 100% Pure brand identity is a good example.
2. The big data revolution will have consequences
Big data is something we hear mentioned but most of us know little about. For the Reputation Institute, it basically comes down to high volume, high velocity and high variety. By 2020, complex algorithms will be able to “read” and monitor the reputation of businesses or places. For place branders and marketers, the challenge will be to make sense of big data = a lot of data, in a process (of developing a brand strategy) that often takes months if not years.
3. Reputation management will be a long journey
That said, understanding a place’s reputation means to analyse image over time and across countries, cultures and types of audiences. Just like our case study on the rebranding of Barcelona has shown, trying to alter a place’s reputation takes time and patience – which doesn’t go well with electoral cycles and politicians pressured to deliver results.
4. The CCO will lead reputation management in 2020
While the CEO – or place equivalent, such as lord mayor in the case of cities – is the one responsible for reputation management, the Chief Communications Officer will become more important, which requires a person not just highly qualified but also respected both inside and outside the organization. In other words, public diplomacy skills will be essential for those in charge of branding a city, region or destination.
5. Employees will be your reputation ambassadors
More than ever before, places will compete in their attempts to attract talent. According to the Reputation Institute, by 2020 companies will face an unprecedented war for talent due to a growing scarcity of talent. At the same time, business is moving online, which means that skilled workers have a real choice where to live. Less place marketing and more place management (actually improving the place, such as by providing modern infrastructure) is one consequence from this trend.
6. Reputation management will increase the value of the business (or place)
Big data makes reputation measurable and quantifiable, which means that it will become essential part of how performance in general is measured, for example on a city, regional or destination level. Measurement of place brand equity will become more sophisticated.
7. Stakeholders will increase in numbers and influence
Because we live in a global and interconnected world, place brand managers and strategists will have to think about and deal with much more stakeholders than just citizens, visitors and investors. NGO’s, specialized media, bloggers and journalists (like The Observer) are part of this growing group, but also financial institutions and inter-regional alliances.
The reputation of a country (for example Spain) can greatly differ from the reputation of its cities (e.g. Barcelona). Or, as Hila Oren, Founder and Director of Tel Aviv Global, put it, city branding professionals need to take a pragmatic view on when to associate their city brand with the country.
From a reputation perspective, each level of place – country, nation, region, city – influences each other, which makes collaboration desirable, if not essential.
8. Personalized messaging will be the norm
The way destinations (for instance) communicate with stakeholders is going to change. The Reputation Institute predicts a much more personalized experience by 2020, dominated by individual messaging, rather than provision of (mostly unread) reports and other information.
Less focus on mass media and advertising, which will become less effective. Instead, companies or places need to be proactive and very well-connected in order to know where critical conversations are taking place. Big data (trend two) will help, but ultimately collaboration is key.
9. Industry reputation will more closely affect individual companies
This trend is particularly relevant for place brand managers. Especially with regard to the place-of-origin effect. Not just companies, but also entrepreneurs or students want to benefit from the reputation of the place they are choosing to study, live and work. Cities or destinations that only distinguish themselves by stressing their uniqueness in comparison to others will find that people’s associations with the host country will be attributed to them as well.
10. Social relevance will help you stand out from the crowd
Lastly, the Reputation Institute identifies social relevance as the most important reputation driver in 2020. In a place context, social relevance means to what extent a place/brand contributes to healthy environments and to what extent it fosters the sustainable development of a city, region or country – and how well it communicates this.
Reputation Institute is the world’s leading research and advisory firm for reputation. We provide senior communications and marketing executives at global companies the single-best way to measure, communicate and manage reputation performance. With this insight, companies can protect their reputations, analyze risks and drive competitive advantage. We serve clients in more than 400 of the top Global 1,000 companies.
Reputation Institute’s RepTrak® decision tool is the global gold standard for reputation measurement and management.
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