An increase in news about ethics-related corporate wrongdoing tops the 2006 Delahaye Index of corporate reputation, with more companies having net negative news for the year. News of corporate spying, improper back-dating of stock-options grants and manipulated earnings contributed to a sharp increase in negative news stories during 2006, moving Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) down 28 spots at the end of 2006 to 40th place, UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH) ranked 73rd and mortgage giant Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) in last place at 100.
The Index, a quarterly assessment of how news coverage reflects and helps to shape the corporate reputation of the 100 largest U.S. companies is conducted by Delahaye, www.delahaye.com, a provider of media research and analysis services for communications, public relations and marketing professionals.
Commenting on the latest findings, Delahaye President Mark Weiner said, “Just when it appeared that major corporations and the executives who lead them had learned the importance of protecting and advancing their reputations through good behavior, allegations of misconduct have again emerged as a challenge to everything over which corporate leaders are held responsible.”
Delahaye found that the overall coverage of news improved dramatically for the financial sector during 2006, as media shifted attention away from high-profile negative themes towards stories about corporate advancement and continued economic performance. Reflecting this trend, Citigroup (NYSE:C) moved up 11 spots to seventh place, while Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) advanced ten spots to 12th place and Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. (NYSE: MER) moved up five rungs to 15th place.
Although the Katrina hurricane news story played out in 2005, the Index year-end results revealed that the insurance industry continued to receive negative coverage throughout 2006 with fraud allegations and civil suits over policy claims, reflected by State Farm falling 23 spots to 95th place and The Allstate Corp. (NYSE:ALL) moving down 11 spots to 52nd place.
The Index also revealed a thirty-percent increase in favorable coverage relating to innovative products and services during 2006. Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE: MRK) benefited most greatly by this phenomenon.
Elevated by news of innovative products such as Vista, strong financial growth and the charitable work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft ranked at the top of the Index for four consecutive quarters in 2006.
Driven by coverage of new drugs and vaccines such as Gardasil, a cervical cancer vaccine and Januvia, a diabetes drug recently approved by the FDA and a highly publicized pharmaceutical assistance program for the needy, Merck steadily moved ahead 89 places in 2006 to end the fourth quarter in tenth place.
Among the most salient individual company Index results:
- The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) enjoyed positive media coverage in 2006 as a result of its acquisition of Pixar Studios, strong DVD and box office sales with continued growth at domestic theme parks — capping off a high volume of favorable news that boosted the entertainment giant to second place in 2006.
- Augmented by positive news of strong earnings, International Business Machines Corporation (NYSE:IBM) reaffirmed its leadership status for the technology sector, advancing to third place.
- As news stories of a quarterly profit loss fueled negative news, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) fell two spots on the Index in 2006 to fourth place.
- The world’s leading chip maker, Intel Corporation (Nasdaq:INTC), was ranked in fifth place with mixed news of declining profits and Apple’s use of Intel microprocessors for Macintosh computers.
- The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) reaffirmed its leadership position in the aeronautics industry with news of Airbus production overruns and delays, as Boeing orders rose dramatically, placing them in sixth place for 2006.
- Despite news of a strong backlash against huge profits, sky-high gasoline prices and record earnings, Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) moved up five spots to 14th place with news of strong financial earnings.
Delahaye President Mark Weiner added, “Media coverage is an important element in managing one’s corporate reputation. Unlike reputation surveys which track the public’s view at a particular point in time, the media are unique in that they both shape future perceptions even as they reflect current opinion.”
2006 Year-End Delahaye Index: Top Ten Companies 1. Microsoft Corporation 2. The Walt Disney Company 3. IBM 4. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. 5. Intel Corporation 6. The Boeing Company 7. Citigroup 8. Verizon 9. Goldman Sachs 10. Time Warner
Methodology of the 2006 Delahaye Index
Delahaye begins by gathering news from America’s most prominent national news sources. From the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to Fortune, ABC World News Tonight and Bloomberg, Delahaye captures news from all of the nation’s most influential general and business media. The 2006 Delahaye Index includes analysis of different print and broadcast news items to measure the reputations of the Top 100 U.S. companies.
Each company’s score is based on how many positive and negative reputation-driving attributes are found within each story. These attributes are classified into five dimensions: stakeholder relations, financial management, products and services, organizational integrity and organizational strength.
Delahaye (www.delahaye.com), a division of Bacon’s Information Inc., is an international, award-winning research and analysis firm that specializes in helping clients understand and actively manage their public relations and communications programs. Through Delahaye, clients gain the market intelligence they need to improve communications effectiveness and return-on-investment. The company has domestic offices in Norwalk, Conn., Portsmouth, N.H., Chicago, IL, Washington D.C., and partners around the globe.
About Bacon’s Information Inc.:
Bacon’s (www.bacons.com), a subsidiary of Observer AB, helps marketing and PR professionals maximize results in media relations. Bacon’s provides integrated service solutions designed to give clients the ability to target their messages efficiently, customize distribution of information, monitor media coverage and evaluate campaigns to determine if PR objectives have been met.
About Observer AB:
Observer AB (listed on the O-list (Attract 40) of Stockholmsborsen, Sweden) is a global industry leader in business and communication intelligence. The firm provides media and market monitoring, analysis and communication evaluation, as well as target group identification and distribution of information of PR and IR purposes. Observer AB has annual earnings of nearly SEK 1.6 billion, and has 2,700 employees in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.