Where did we get these results?

Thanks to intelligent and creative methodology employed to quantify an undoubtedly important but easily underrepresented metric — reputation — the annual RepTrak™ Survey allows South African companies an unprecedented understanding of their customers and key stakeholders. While statistics such as revenue and usage are clearly critical, it’s thanks to the work of studies like this that companies are able to fully understand the underestimated aspects of their business and move towards the future with an awareness of self that provide easily discernible signs pointing in the direction of success.

The annual RepTrak™ Study was conducted during March and April this year, with the intent of analysing corporate reputation among the South African public. As a finished product, it provides an incisive tool for local businesses to understand their respective standings in the minds of the people of our nation. To an outsider, it seems a daunting and complex process: to garner the opinions of an entire country. So, how is it done?

The study begins with a survey of the general public. Respondents were chosen with the intention of reflecting the national demographic profile, including age and gender, of South Africa, which can be an obstacle to gaining accurate insights if not done correctly – details may vary year on year. Cawi (Computer-Assisted Web Interviewing) or online questionnaires, as they’re colloquially known, present the most efficient manner through which a study such as this can start to compile the requisite data. Although incomparable in efficacy to an in-person survey, this quantitative approach is without doubt the most viable option when dealing with the significant number of respondents needed to attain a cross-section of the country’s population.

The sample size of the survey comprised 5 702 interviews, representing roughly 0.01% of the population — hence the importance of choosing respondents who accurately represent the economically active population and digitally connected people within South Africa. Moreover, it makes clear the need to ensure respondents are “qualified” to answer the questions accurately and usefully. This was realised through two metrics, the foremost of which was familiarity, or how well the respondent knew a given corporation. Those who considered themselves at least “somewhat”, or ideally “very”, familiar with the companies in question would be considered qualified. The latter of these two metrics serves as a safeguard, allowing only respondents who have answered at least 75% of the questionnaire to qualify, removing the possibility of data becoming skewed by incomplete answers.

As to the contents of the survey, it was based on a proprietary research model developed by the Reputation Institute. The survey was not “open”, instead opting to find respondents by invitation, after they had been screened based on market research organisation ESOMAR standards. Each selected respondent was randomly assigned five companies to rate using the Pulse system. In addition, respondent were assigned the task of completing a Deep Dive questionnaire on two of the companies with which they were most familiar.

For each given company in the study, at least 100 respondents were surveyed to obtain the score assigned in the Pulse Study. The Pulse study asked each respondent how they felt about a given company and to rate their feeling on a scale of one to seven, from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”. These statements each reflect an aspect of the RepTrak™ Pulse, which will be further elaborated upon later. After the test was concluded these scores were transformed into 100-point scales for ease of comprehension and interpretation.

Where possible, deeper insights were garnered by gathering information from a greater number of respondents. When companies were widely known to the general public, this high level of familiarity allowed for the minimum of 300 respondents required for a Deep Dive study.

The answers were then compiled and analysed to create the RepTrak™ Pulse, a simplified depiction of the results, which is used as the main indicator for measuring corporate reputation. Using a normative scale backed by past studies dating back as far as 1998, RepTrak™ data allows for companies to be benchmarked against others and to track over time. In other words the RepTrak™ Pulse also reflects how high or low a score is in comparison to previous iterations or similar studies, allowing for a more nuanced analysis. The Pulse measure is derived on the basis of statistical calculations that gauge not only the data but also the level of confidence we can have in the accuracy of the analyses. The less deviant the answers for a given question, the greater their confidence in their insight. The less responses garnered in total, the less their confidence. RepTrak™ research reports scores with a 95% confidence interval in the surveys that we conduct. The interval describes our confidence that, if we conducted the same study repeatedly, 95 times out of 100 the obtained score would lie within that stated level of accuracy, which from the point of view of statistical analysis is outstanding.

As for how the studies themselves are quantified, the RepTrak™ Pulse, the core construct signifying the level of emotional connection or strength of emotional bond a stakeholder has towards a company or organisation, has four key elements: esteem, admire, trust, and feeling. Although these speak to how a company emotionally resonates with a given respondent, seven rational Reputation Dimensions underpin the rational aspects that further inform stakeholder perception. These dimensions are the corporeal aspects, the levers a company can work on to impact how they are perceived by the general public.

The emotional spectrum could be understood as thus: esteem comes from products/services and performance, admire from innovation and workplaces, feeling from citizenship and leadership, and trust into governance. From these seven rational dimensions RepTrak™ expands further into attributes: highly specified aspects of each rational lever. For instance, innovation speaks to those who are often first to the market, the driving force of the statistic being how adaptable and actually innovative a company actually is. This pattern continues, allowing effective insight into exactly what a company is faltering at, and where its strong suits are; essentially creating a guide to growth for any company, by plainly representing how it is perceived by the people within a specific/particular stakeholder group.

The RepTrak™ methodology is a great tool for helping companies better understand stakeholder sentiment and expectation in what has globally become the reputation economy in that it allows companies to analyse among other considerations, whether they’re perceived as trustworthy and whether they’re likely to be given the benefit of the doubt in case of crisis. In the Reputation economy as much as 70% to 80% of a company’s market value can be reliant on intangible assets such as reputation, meaning that any significant damage to a company’s reputation could have financial consequences.

The results are remarkably tangible, despite the ephemeral nature of their variables. The study is of considerable importance in the gauging of the minds of the South African general public, specifically allowing us to understand how consumers perceive and rate corporations, allowing them to look at what’s important to stakeholders as well as expectations stakeholders place on corporations operating within the South African economic landscape.

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James Nash
James Nash
James Nash is a writer, poet and teacher based in Leeds. I spend much of my week working from home [at present on my next collection of poetry to be published in October 2018] or in schools, libraries and other venues within Yorkshire. But as Leeds is a city with great travel connections, there aren’t many parts of the country I can’t get to and back within the day. I travel by train, bus and taxi. This suits me. I have time to write, to read and to observe the world.

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