Bridgestone Americas manufactures consumer- and commercial grade tires, air springs for cargo trucks, high-tech sports car suspensions, roofing materials, insulation, synthetic polymers, modern plastics, and industrial fibers and textiles. It’s one of North America’s largest corporations with more than 50,000 employees, 2,000+ U.S. retail outlets and 90+ manufacturing and distribution facilities. Many of Bridgestone’s CSR/environmental programs exceed industry standards but their “dirty industry” of tire making made the Company uneasy about touting their green and clean programs. When it came to sharing good news, Bridgestone struggled with what to say, when to say it, and, ultimately, whether to say anything at all. The company’s relative silence had a neutralizing and often negative effect on reputation.
At our point of entry, Bridgestone’s on-again, off-again communications (both internal and external) left impressions of random, disconnected commitments. One national index ranked Bridgestone’s consumer reputation 6068 out of 6074 companies, primarily due to the lack of publicly evident commitment to the environmental. A second index dropped Bridgestone for insufficient progress and self-reporting. And a third eliminated the Company altogether from annual rankings because Bridgestone’s Japanese parent company did not return their questionnaire.
Our challenge was to engineer a corporate reputation and communications plan, prioritized by 360º insights that could translate Bridgestone’s North American sustainability efforts into consumer confidence and other measures of success.
We started with a comprehensive Reputation Audit to measure the company’s public standing and to inform intentional strategies for improvement work plans. Thus, our deep discovery involved:
Interviews of 22 C-suite executives and senior managers captured individual perspectives on existing corporate strategies, omissions and achievements. We also deployed an online survey to 3,500 employees across 25 office locations to measure workforce baselines on impact and needed improvement areas.
A thorough audit of past and current reputation management efforts, both internal and external. This allowed us to identify missed opportunities, overstatements, understatements and other factors that informed the existing reputation.
Full analyses Bridgestone’s standing against its five top competitors across 29 attributes in four key performance categories. This assessment took into account key social, environmental and sustainability indexes/indicators such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, FTSE4Good, the NASDAQ Global Sustainability Index, the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index and other ratings by industry watchdogs.
Issues Identification and Analysis:
A comprehensive audit of issues, both real and perceived, that posed operational, regulatory and reputation risk to Bridgestone’s good works. This inventory identified both fundamental and sophisticated threats that many in the organization had not considered, including prioritization, 360º communication, cultural biases, and overall perception of the sustainability/CSR agenda.
Our three-month discovery project culminated with a 57-page benchmarking of Bridgestone’s reputation, and informed the Company’s first-ever strategy for achieving strategic, data-based activity toward a best in class reputation. Defining, determining and documenting Bridgestone’s leading and trailing positions enabled more logic-filled discussions with executives on how to leverage intentional actions into consumer and media value.
Ultimately, we connected the corporation’s CSR/sustainability accomplishments with improved public perceptions and provided a plan that called for more intentional reputation strategies, executive leadership commitment, brilliant teammate collaboration and communication, increased external disclosure/transparency, more aligned community partnerships, online enhancements, and enhanced message development.