Read almost any survey of chairmen and chief executives and you will see a fear of losing ‘corporate reputation’ as one of their greatest worries. There will also be wide agreement that this reputation is made up of the opinions of a broad range of stakeholders.
We have moved a long way from a blinkered focus on ‘shareholder value’, and it is a dramatic transformation from just 20 or so years ago. And yet, if you enter the vast majority of their boardrooms you would find that the conversation hasn’t kept up with the ambition. All too often discussion of corporate reputation is reduced to anecdotes from recent conversations or recollections of articles individuals have read or heard in the media.
Where every other function in the business is data-driven, with consistent charts and analysis for the quarterly board pack and monthly executive meetings, the corporate affairs offering all too often appears like ‘show and tell’: “this month we’ve been really busy doing X “. I know, I have been guilty of this myself.
Understandably, there has been a search for something more ‘rigorous’ and a call to use more data. Yet rigour can all too quickly turn into complexity, which then leads to lots of people ‘counting stuff’, but ultimately does not lead to greater insight.
So the problem isn’t a lack of data. In fact, part of the problem is that there is too much data. And that isn’t changing, the data flood waters will only continue to rise.