Reputation study reveals when things go wrong for business or government, Canadians form opinions quickly and hold them firmly

TORONTO, May 27, 2014 /CNW/ - The StrategyCorp Reputation Report, a new annual national survey of how reputations are impacted by crises, reveals that when a major issue hits an organization, the majority of Canadians form opinions very quickly - 61 per cent within one day and 92 per cent within one week.  It also finds that once that opinion is formed, 62 per cent said their opinion stays the same or doesn't change at all - even after hearing the organization respond to the crisis. Fewer than four in ten respondents said that their opinion would probably change as time goes on.

The report, prepared by StrategyCorp Inc. and conducted by Innovative Research Group, looks at specific public relations issues from 2013 involving the City of Toronto, the Ontario Government, the Canadian Senate, BlackBerry, Lululemon, and others.  The report reveals that among the crisis and issues tested, the above-named organizations suffered the greatest damage to their reputations.

"What stood out clearly in this report was that each of these controversies had a definite and measurable negative impact on the reputation of each organization.  Even more interesting was the finding that when negative news emerges about an organization, most Canadians form their opinion very quickly - within a few hours or in the first day  - and that their opinion most often doesn't change," said John Perenack of StrategyCorp.  "When organizations react to negative news, they only have one opportunity to get the response right, and have an extremely short timeframe in which to respond."

The survey asked respondents their opinions on the individuals and organizations that experienced public relations crises in 2013, and assessed how the responses by made by each organization or individual influenced respondents' opinions of the organization as a whole. The episodes that were tested are now notorious reputational issues for the organizations and individuals involved, and include:

  • The Ontario government's decision to cancel two natural gas power plants at a cost of $1 billion
  • City of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's admission to smoking crack cocaine
  • The Canadian Senate's expenses controversy
  • The Quebec government's proposed 'Charter of Values'
  • BlackBerry's financial losses, employee layoffs and CEO resignation
  • Protests against TransCanada Pipeline's Energy East pipeline in New Brunswick that turned violent
  • Lululemon Athletica's yoga pants recall and subsequent comments by the CEO about the company's clothes not being appropriate for some women

The study found that the organizations that suffered the biggest negative impact on their reputations were the Canadian Senate (69 per cent negative opinion), the Ontario Government (68 per cent negative opinion), City of Toronto (67 per cent negative opinion), Quebec Government (64 per cent negative opinion), BlackBerry (58 per cent negative opinion), Lululemon (51 per cent negative opinion), and TransCanada Pipeline (44 per cent negative opinion).

When organizations did respond to a crisis, the survey found that Canadians gave them low marks for their response:

Organization Good Job Responding Poor Job Responding
Ontario Government 15% 64%
Government of Quebec 26% 61%
Senate of Canada 31% 61%
City of Toronto 30% 59%
Lululemon 25% 52%
BlackBerry 26% 51%
TransCanada Pipeline 27% 41%

"In every case, the findings show that many more people thought the organizations did a poor job of responding to the issue, compared to those who say the issue was handled well," added Perenack.  "These were complex situations, some completely unforeseen, and would have been undoubtedly difficult to manage under the best of circumstances. The importance of preparation is crucial to avoiding being caught by surprise on the day an issue hits, and to gaining control before it spirals into crisis."

Additional Key Findings

  • Canadians form an opinion of the organization at the centre of a controversy almost immediately: 40 per cent within a few hours and 61 per cent within the first day.
  • Once Canadians form an opinion about an organization, it doesn't tend to change.  62 per cent said that even after hearing the organization respond, their opinion stays about the same or doesn't change at all. Less than four in ten said that their opinion will probably change as time goes on.
  • Initial responses to political controversies were much more negative than to business controversies.
  • Canadians had the strongest negative reaction to the Rob Ford revelations (7.5/10), followed by the Ontario gas plant cancellation (7.1/10) and Senate expense scandal (7.0/10) (Scale: 0-Extremely Positive / 10-Extremely Negative)
  • Canadians tend to follow controversies mostly on television (44 per cent), followed by web sites (19 per cent), newspapers (18 per cent), radio (12 per cent), and social media (7 per cent)

A full version of the StrategyCorp Reputation Report can be found at http://strategycorp.com/index.php/reputation-report-2014/.

About the Survey

The survey of 2,604 Canadians was conducted by Innovative Research Group on behalf of StrategyCorp Inc. and included respondents from every region in Canada.  The poll has an estimated margin of error of ± 2.2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

About StrategyCorp Inc.

StrategyCorp is one of Canada's leading communications firms and is led by a skilled team of communications, political and business strategists.  We bring together unique experience in strategic and corporate communications, reputation management and public affairs.  StrategyCorp was founded in 1995 and has offices in Toronto and Ottawa. Visit us at www.strategycorp.com.

About Innovative Research Group

Innovative Research Group (INNOVATIVE) is a strategy firm that offers significant research capabilities. In today's world, perception is reality. It has become critical to stay on top of current trends and ensure that you are being perceived in the way you wish. We provide companies, governments and non-governmental organizations with high-level strategic counsel and communications advice, reputation management, issue and crisis management, performance assessment and public affairs counsel. More information can be found at http://www.innovativeresearch.ca.

SOURCE: StrategyCorp Inc.

For further information:

Aliya Jiwan-Thawer, StrategyCorp
ajiwan-thawer@strategycorp.com or 416-999-3355


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