Delahaye’s quarterly reputation index came out again this week. I have absolutely nothing against this PR industry metric company, but am baffled and confounded with this specific gauge of corporate reputation.
The Delahaye Index compares and contrasts America’s 100 largest companies’ corporate reputations based on how the media cover them. AT&T is the big winner this time around because of the highly publicized launch of the iPhone. AT&T received top honors solely because it obtained the best quality media coverage in such categories as stakeholder relations, financial management, products and services, organizational integrity and organizational strength.
What doesn’t measure up is that this Index tries to create a direct bridge between AT&T’s excellent media coverage and having the top reputation among the media. Unfortunately, that bridge simply doesn’t exist because this Index never actually polls the media on their actual perceptions of AT&T versus P&G, GE, Microsoft, etc. Instead, what this research does is simply provide outputs that demonstrate that AT&T did a great job this quarter of building quality media coverage. That’s it. If we truly wanted to understand how these companies’ reputations have changed among a key audience (like consumers or media), then we’d need to conduct detailed qualitative or quantitative research gauging their perceptions and then conduct benchmark surveys each subsequent quarter based on the same variables.
Can one make the indirect assumption that generating positive media coverage will ultimately lead to a better reputation (or a better reputation with the media in this case)? Sure. But, what Delahaye has generated (and our industry continually does) are outputs, not end business or reputation outcomes that most CMOs, and certainly all CEOs, actually care about. Thus, the name of this particular Index is misleading.
Positive outputs in the PR World are quality media “hits,” great speaking platforms, lots of traffic to a web site, etc. Outcomes are typically those business goals such as building a better corporate reputation, sales, obtaining new investors, raising stock price, etc., that business leaders actually care about. I’ve said it before, and will now write it again. Until our industry starts to call a spade a spade by actually treating outputs as positive indicators that can lead to real outcomes, but not actually the end factors themselves, we won’t be taken seriously.