The Audi.360 has a dashboard, but it’s not a new car model. It’s their digital tool for managing their reputation, and it runs 24/7. Audi uses it to track not only their media coverage but also the reputations of their CEO, board members, and their main competitors, BMW and Mercedes Benz.
Judith Piesbergen, from Audi’s issues and reputation management team, detailed Audi’s process for monitoring its reputation worldwide while speaking at the Global Strategic Communication & Measurement Conference hosted by International Association of Business Communicators and Prime Research in New York on Thursday.
The company identified seven key factors that drive its reputation: including management, strategy, financial performance, products and services, social responsibility, appeal as an employer, and ecological responsibility. Audi also benchmarks these measures versus its two key competitors. With so many variables, Prime Research developed the 360 tool to manage the information flow, and it provides real-time information by country and time frame.
Audi set up a newsroom to monitor media coverage and a radar system to track risks and trends, which Piesbergen said enables them to “deal with negative issues quickly, and inform board members as soon as they arise.” The newsroom’s staff of two tracks Audi news from 7a.m. until 10p.m., seven days a week, and she monitors noteworthy changes. The tool automatically updates and categorizes the news so everyone is on the same page. They also created a “reputation radar” system to examine trends and potential risks as well as a capability to assess competitive strategic issues.
In addition, the company continually monitors its CEO and board members, one of the most striking aspects of the program. Germany, unlike some other countries, holds board members highly accountable. Audi’s C-suite tool stands for “chief” as in CEO, but it really means “closely.” The tool tracks board members’ media performance, including mentions and appearances in the news and the tonality of interviews, speeches, and videos. Every board member has their own spokesperson and board turnover is low.
The comprehensive program provides objective data for what is otherwise a subjective topic. Piesbergen explained that the information is used “as the basis to make our argument” when issues arise. For example, she said that initially Audi found its financial management ratings were strong while its social responsibility ratings were weak, so it set out to improve the latter.
And the reputation system helps Audi handle more sensitive management issues. Piesbergen reported that they use the C-suite tool’s findings to “point out to board members if their media appearances are decreasing or if one of their competitors has been out in front on a specific issue.” Three hundred sixty degrees indeed.