Summer 2020: Five Reputation Predictions for the 2010s

Looking out into the new decade ten summers ago in my role as a senior advisor at Reputation Institute, I identified five major trends that would shape the rules of corporate reputation, brand, identity and competitiveness for the 2010s in the pages of Reputation Intelligence, a practitioner-focused magazine published from 2009-13. It was fun to look back at those predictions this month (excerpted below as RI is now RepTrak and has changed its website/digital content library multiple times since I left in 2016) as I think about what the reputation economy battlegrounds of the 2020s are for global organizations in the midst of a global pandemic and economic uncertainty. While #1 wasn’t specific and #5 is still a ways off, #2-4 were pretty much on the mark. Interested to hear what fellow travelers think about what went down in the 2010s and what we learned across each of these areas!

  1. Which venture-backed companies will burst on the scene and change their industries the way Amazon and Google changed the 2000s? The Wall Street Journal launched an annual Top 50 Venture Backed Companies in the US ranking in 2010 where more than 1/3 of the weighted ranking comes from the track record of the founders and a qualitative measure of the firm’s intangibles, including reputation. The leading venture-backed innovative industries from this Top 50 Venture Backed Companies in the US ranking were information technology, health care and consumer services.
  2. Private equity and sovereign wealth funds (SWF) will start to understand they have a responsibility to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. The companies they buy are more than just a “goodwill” number, and firms such as TPG, Carlyle Group, KKR, Apollo Global Management, Bain Capital, Blackstone and SWFs in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, China, Singapore, Kuwait and Russia are effecting real people, cultures and supportive behavior with their financial investments, whether they realize it or not.
  3. Sustainability will continue to impact corporate behavior long after the disappointment of the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit fades. More and more multinational companies than ever before are reporting on citizenship metrics in both their annual reports and special CSR reports than ever before. The fact that consumers the world over care about the companies behind the products and services they use means there is an opportunity to integrate a company’s social responsibility actions into its reputation platform.
  4. Social media’s second decade of influence will have more impact on corporate reputation than e-commerce’s second act after the bust a decade ago. Rather than attempt to turn back the clock and reassert strict, top-down control over stakeholder relationships, the smartest companies worldwide are responding with bold new digital communications strategies based on transparency, authenticity, and inclusion, instead of secrecy, artificiality, and exclusion.
  5. The Chief Reputation Officer job description will emerge at the same time that reputation management becomes a viable career path for the next generation of corporate strategists. It’s time for companies to invest in reputation management training that builds out five diverse skill sets (cognitive, analytical, process, communication and organizational) necessary in order to create the bench strength to power the world’s most respected companies of tomorrow. This will create reputational intelligence inside an organization strong enough to outlive a single charismatic leader or favorable market conditions that can lull even the best of the best into complacency or even apathy.


  • Douglas Brand Posted January 3, 2021 3:28 am

    Excellent prognostication, John. ESG investing has been a game changer, driving corporate re-prioritization.

  • Loren-Christopher Schneid Posted January 7, 2021 3:21 pm

    I would add one more: a truly diagnostic focus on Reputation Risk. With cyber/security risk falling to the top of most risk registers today, companies need to get REALLY serious about what that means from a broader reputation standpoint.

  • JONATHAN M. STERN Posted January 9, 2021 4:02 pm

    Totally agree with #3. Sustainability has been such a big part of corporate reputation today especially with Wall Street. Retailers like Walmart demand companies do their part to even carry products and consumers (such as millennials) demand it.

  • Chirantan Ghosh Posted January 21, 2021 5:52 pm

    Agreed, John. Sustainability continues to be a key pillar to drive Circular Economy, Industry 4.0 and Insourcing (Manufacturng, Healthcare, etc.) throughout 2020.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *