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7 Keys to Influencing Public Perception

Reputation Enhancing Tips from Some of the World's Top Brands

It's All About Trust

According to a survey by Reputation Institute, in 2010 the ten most trusted large companies in the U.S. were Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, Kellogg, the Walt Disney Company, PepsiCo, Sara Lee, Google, Microsoft, UPS, and Dean Foods; other notables near the top included Apple, Caterpillar, HJ Heinz, and 3M. (Unsurprisingly, financial institutions dominated the bottom of the list, with AIG coming in last at 150.)

What accounts for the success of the top firms? Forbes reporter Laurie Burkitt notes that "The secret to Johnson & Johnson’s success rings true for all of this year’s reputable companies: Each has direct connections to their consumers and their families." Food producers did well as more Americans ate at home, thereby increasing brand recognition in the process. Philanthropy also boosted reputations: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, helped lift the reputation of Microsoft. Such attentiveness to status matters: Anthony Johndrow, Reputation Institute’s president, states that reputation translates into customer recommendations, "and you can bet you’ll improve your bottom line."

Another survey, focused on US "thought leaders," put Apple at the top, followed by Google, Southwest Airlines, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel, RIM, Coca-Cola, and Whole Foods. Trust, authority, innovation, admiration, and the competitive advantage of their products all helped to define these companies as best.

What should you pay attention to? Different advisers recommend different metrics, but they generally coalesce around a few main themes.

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