Society Insights

Corporate reputation management: how the role of communication is evolving

The trend

With the dramatic evolution of recent years, the role of corporate communicator (CC) is becoming a multipurpose position in organizations. From scouting strategic partners to trialing innovative technologies in company workflows, CCs have gradually been taking on new responsibilities, embodying a mix of traditional operational competencies and a strategic mindset. 


The Ipsos Reputation Council Report 2024 explores this evolution, offering a wide-angle view of the challenges involved in protecting and promoting the reputation of an organization. Based on conversations with 135 senior corporate communicators at companies headquartered in 23 global markets, the report presents their insights on an array of topics: the potential of generative AI in transforming organizations, the balance between local autonomy and global communication, the expanding scope of communications in mergers and acquisitions, and the importance of building lucrative partnerships.  

Key takeaways

The breakout of artificial intelligence for consumers and businesses has sparked contrasting reactions, both enthusiastic and apprehensive. If on one hand people grasp the transformative potential of AI, on the other they still worry about the risks and ethical implications. Another Ipsos study run in 31 countries reveals that a sizeable portion of the public is aware of the dual nature of AI, recognizing the opportunities it brings (54%) as well as the risks (52%).  Communications experts may sound optimistic about AI’s ability to streamline work flow and enhance engagement strategies, but they’re taking a cautious approach, impelled by concerns about possible threats to reputation, security and privacy.  


Although some have already started dabbling in AI in their daily activities, among Reputation Council members the consensus (80%) is that human supervision and ethical guidelines are needed to govern the use and guarantee the accuracy of AI. As they see it, to mitigate the risk of damaging the corporate reputation, effective crisis management strategies and investments in tools for detecting disinformation are critical.  


Beyond AI, in an ever more interconnected world, the concept of “glocal” communication is fundamental for companies that do business in different markets. It’s true that uniform corporate communication is something to aspire to. But in light of local market features, cultural nuances, and diverse regulatory frameworks, flexibility is a must, and that applies to communication strategies too. In fact, to some degree local comms teams should be empowered to deal with crisis response, according to 82% of the interviewees. Yet what also emerges from their responses is that top-down coordination is still crucial. Balancing centralized global messaging and local execution necessitates effective coordination among teams. Transparent, consistent communication combined with the flexibility to adapt to regional differences: this is vital in both crisis management and daily operations.  


M&As represent another area that sees the active participation of corporate communicators, who are indispensable in handling stakeholder relationships and ensuring successful outcomes. That said, CCs may not always have a seat at the table (case in point, 35% say their role in M&As is not very clear). Although their expertise normally comes into play during execution and integration, onboarding CCs from the due diligence phase can definitely be worthwhile.  


Every acquisition calls for a personalized touch, which means carefully drawing up a detailed map of stakeholders to understand their needs. What’s more, the communication plan has to tailor messaging to suit various platforms, while securing the trust and support of stakeholders throughout the entire process. The strategic involvement of corporate communications can continue through the post-acquisition phase in terms of monitoring stakeholder opinion and dealing with potential fallout on the company’s reputation.  


Moving on to the topic of sponsorships, the current climate is marked by greater scrutiny and demand for corporate responsibility, which means these promotions can be risky as well as advantageous. A successful partnership will enhance a company’s credibility and reputation, but by the same token, a misalignment could cause major damage. Reflecting this, in fact, 60% of Reputation Council members see sponsorship as a tool that is simply too costly. In any case, strategic alignment, shared values, and long-term relationships are what make sponsorship programs successful. In this sense, due diligence is essential to guarantee that such initiatives add value and align with the mission and purpose of the company, to the benefit of all stakeholders. 


Reputation risk is a growing concern with regard to sponsorships. This is particularly true when they involve controversial individuals, organization, or events. Often companies avoid partnerships that could alienate stakeholders or conflict with their values, yet 62% of the interviewees said that corporate sponsorships are still a big part of their communications mix. These initiatives are an invaluable tool for boosting brand visibility and reputation, even though many companies still have a hard time evaluating the financial returns generating by sponsorships. 

How the role of communication is evolving