Rankings Management

Why companies should systematically manage their presence in rankings

May 03, 17

Each year, hundreds of corporate rankings are released worldwide, such as "Germany's best employers" or "The World's Most Admired Companies," many of which are done without the participation of the listed companies. Depending on the placement, rankings can be a communication opportunity or a risk for companies. With an active, systematic management approach, reputation effects can be influenced, and opportunities for reputation building can be utilised.
Scientific foundations are often secondary
The scientific foundation of many corporate rankings is often lacking. Rankings are popular because they simplify complex information and make it easy to understand, and they can be shared and spread easily through social media and other platforms. However, most readers don't pay attention to the scientific validity of the ranking methods used. This can be problematic when a company's messaging is called into question by a bad ranking or when competitors consistently have good ranking results. Even rankings with questionable methods can still be published in reputable and widely read media. This lack of critical evaluation of the results leads to the acceptance of the rankings as accurate without question.
The inflation of rankings
The number of company rankings has risen rapidly in recent years due to media interest in concise content and the ease of creating rankings through online surveys. Rankings can be used to increase pressure on specific industries, sell consulting services, collect data, or generate content for articles. However, the quality of the results can vary depending on the goals of the ranking institute. Ignoring or waiting out a ranking is not the best strategy. Instead, companies should express their opinion on the ranking and contact the publishers and institutes. Many companies understand the importance of rankings for reputation, but few have a criteria catalogue for selecting relevant lists and connecting them to reputation management. Rankings are often managed unsystematically and decentralised, which can make it difficult to achieve long-term goals for corporate communication and reputation management.
Four steps to ranking management
To effectively manage company rankings, companies should first identify which rankings they appear in or could appear in, focusing on those that are reputation-relevant and in important markets. Next, they should prioritise these rankings based on their reputation impact, considering factors such as visibility to important stakeholders, past performance, scientific validity, and opportunities for participation. These key rankings should then be discussed with internal departments to verify the selection and gather feedback and ideas for improvement. Finally, an action plan should be created, outlining steps for improvement and communication of results. These steps may include short-term adjustments, such as filling out questionnaires more effectively, or long-term changes, such as improving performance in certain areas. Rankings can also provide valuable insights for internal discussions and benchmarking.
Storytelling instead of self-praise
When communicating company rankings, creativity is key. To effectively communicate to employees and external stakeholders, more effort is required than simply releasing a self-congratulatory press release. Good ranking results can serve as an excellent communication opportunity when placed in a larger context. For example, what is behind a good placement in an innovation ranking? How does it align with the overall strategy? What are further measures planned to increase innovation? The key is to use the ranking position, which is just a number, as a foundation for storytelling. It is also important to communicate bad ranking results, at least internally. Employees are well-informed and connected, so interpretations of ranking results spread quickly, even if they are based on false information or misconceptions. Therefore, it is important to reliably communicate bad results. Sometimes, the reasons for lack of or bad placement are easy to explain. In some rankings, for example, certain indicators are emphasised that are not relevant to the company. If the results are negative due to poor performance, communication around the ranking can focus on measures that have been or will be taken to improve in the future.


Read the complete article from the magazine "Kommunikationsmanager" (german edition):  Warum_Unternehmen_ihre_Praesenz_in_Rankings_systematisch_managen_sollten.pdf


Steffen Rufenach
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