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What the Media Is Really Telling You About Your Brand

Media coverage is a key factor in creating a company's reputation, which has been shown to influence both operational and financial performance. Scorecard rankings are a popular form of determining corporate reputations vis-_-vis competitors, yet many executives justifiably consider opinion-poll-style scorecards to be little more than beauty contests.

This article discusses two techniques for assessing media coverage in a way that can inform management action: profiling media communication about a company's actions and its products and services, and then examining the various facets of an organization's media reputation profile. Media profiling is an analysis of the specific words and phrases that people and journalists use to describe and evaluate a company. The authors illustrate the use of media profiling results in three exhibits that visually reflect important aspects of corporate reputation at a glance: "media salience," which shows the prominence of a company's media image, and "media tone" and "coverage breakout," which outline different aspects of company reputation.

Using the example of Apple Inc., the authors show how media profiling immediately creates a discussion that informs management action. It does so by unpacking "message macrothemes," such as profitability or service, into microthemes that a journalist uses to discuss them. Focusing on microthemes quickly moves the discussion to an expansive language about corporate reputation. Executives and public relations managers can then prioritize their responses to various reputation scenarios. First, they should try to protect and enhance the company's good message themes, then address negative message themes head-on. For mixed message themes, managers should seek to understand both sides of the story.
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