No company has a better reputation among those who matter most – its customers – than General Mills, a new poll shows.
The food company topped Reputation Institute's sixth annual ranking of the most reputable public companies. General Mills earned the distinction by scoring strongest in three key drivers of reputation: products and services, governance, and leadership and citizenship. The Reputation Institute is a reputation management consultancy.
Ken Powell, General Mills chairman and CEO, said the company tremendously values its reputation and works hard to foster and honor the trust of its stakeholders.
"For us, building this trust includes delivering nutrition and value to consumers through innovation, strong community engagement, a commitment to protecting the environment, as well as developing strong leaders to grow our business around the world," Powell said. "We believe consumers reward companies that operate with integrity and stay focused on doing what is right over the long-term."
Joining General Mills in the top 10 were a number of its grocery store competitors, including No. 2 -ranked Kraft and fourth-ranked Kellogg's. Coca-Cola and Pepsi also ranked in the top 10, along with Amazon, Apple, Johnson & Johnson, UPS and Proctor & Gamble.
While the majority of companies saw their reputation score stay the same as last year, a handful, including AIG, ExxonMobil and Abbott Labs, logged significant improvements.
The study attributed these improvements to being largely viewed by the public as turning in strong financial performances while doubling down on successful citizenship efforts.
The biggest reputation drops, meanwhile, belong to Time Warner, Bank of America, AMR, Altria and UAL.
The study underscores just how seriously companies take their reputation. More than half of those surveyed said their company's CEO drives reputation strategy, while 96 percent said reputation priorities are built into their annual business planning.
Additionally, 41 percent of the surveyed companies use reputation as a Key Performance Indicator, a higher percentage than indicators such as customer retention/loyalty, brand health or Net Promoter scores.
"The best corporate reputations of the next decade will not be built by accident or through products alone," said Anthony Johndrow, Reputation Institute managing partner. "Companies who both have and are able to tell a differentiated, enterprise-wide story that translates into employee ambassadorship and earns marketplace support from external audiences are the emerging leaders of the Reputation Economy."
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.