Beverages global behemoth Coca-Cola was announced as the overall winner, followed by retail healthcare group Clicks in second position. Photo: AP
JOHANNESBURG – Business Report in collaboration with Plus 94 Research announced the 2019 results of the Top Companies South Africa: Reputation Index at an awards ceremony last week.

Beverages global behemoth Coca-Cola was announced as the overall winner, followed by retail healthcare group Clicks in second position and warehouse and household trading chain Makro in third position.

The survey, conducted by black-owned research agency Plus 94 Research, in collaboration with Independent Media and Business Report, is considered as the leading reputation management indicator of companies in South Africa.

Sifiso Falala, chief executive of black-founded and black-owned research agency Plus 94 Research, which conducted face-to-face in-home interviews with 2793 respondents as part of the sample for the reputational survey, said the reputation measure employed was comparable to reputation measures that are used in the US, UK and other parts of the world.

The criterion for visibility was being included in the top 50 advertising spend businesses in South Africa, which already created a premise for direct engagement between corporate South Africa and the public. Respondents were also given an opportunity to say which businesses in their opinion are the most reputable.

Falala said: “Reputation is very important. In fact, the one thing that you have as a business, which you can compare directly with any other business regardless of who they are is in the same industry as your industry or in a different industry to yours is your reputation. People expect you to do certain things and not to do other things, so it becomes a necessary facet of what your company is all about. As a country, we have a reputation, as an industry we have a reputation.”

He said: “Coca-Cola being the big winner with the overall best reputation is indicative of the changing consumer and how they interact with brands and companies daily.”

He said that their data revealed that South African consumers would support businesses with good reputation and that about 50 percent would avoid buying from companies with a poor reputation. “So if consumers know that you’re doing a lot about your reputation, they will go out and get your product. If they know that you’re not doing anything about your reputation, they’ll avoid your product,” said Falala.

Companies needed to know what drove their reputation. Falala listed elements such as products, service, transformation policy, workplace environment and leadership, as some of the markers of corporate reputation.Falala said his company invested in the reputation research space as far back as 2001, because they were aware of the value of reputation as an agent to change, corporate development, social and economic development and transformation.

Keynote speaker Tshepo Sefotlhelo, the co-chief executive of Vuma Reputation Management, which manages the reputation of some of the biggest listed corporations in South Africa, said transformation in the current milieu in South Africa was a significant beacon of reputational capital.

“Transformation is a significant defender of reputation management in South Africa. And if it’s not, it should be for organisations, companies and those in government. This commitment is something that we should do, because it is an imperative,” said Sefotlhelo.

He said in the digital social media era, to which he referred as the era of alternative facts (fake news), reputation management had become one of the notable challenges that we faced.

“There is no doubt that fake news is significantly a challenge for those who manage reputation on a day to day,” said Sefotlhelo.

Sefotlhelo said while social media had “intensified the scrutiny of brands” because of the globally pervasive phenomenon of citizen journalism, there existed room to improve how reputation management practitioners understand this relatively new environment.

Sefotlhelo said: “Everything that we do is being watched and the consequences are dire. We must be more diligent when it comes to managing reputation. Employees may find themselves online tainting the entire organisation. This means those leading reputation should be thinking of how to educate the entire organisation on the dangers and pitfalls and social media, in particular. So, we have to adapt.”

Sefotlhelo pointed to a study by the World Economic Forum, which showed that on average 25percent of a company’s market value was its reputation.

Refilwe Ramatlhodi-Ndhlovu, corporate communications and reputation management specialist at carmaker Mercedes-Benz, one of the category winners, said: “This award means a great deal for us. It means we are doing something good and the public is recognising us. It talks to the value we place on our employees, our customers and other stakeholders. So it’s very important to keep that reputation intact.”

Mike Ntsasa, the group executive public sector at Independent Media said: “We are proud of our association with Plus 94 Research. This survey is not only a powerful indicator of how important a company’s reputation is to its share price and performance. Consumers are loyal to a brand or company when that company operates ethically and is a good corporate citizen.”