Rupert Younger

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Renowned Expert on Reputation Matters Relating to Corporations and Institutions Around the World; Founding Director, Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation; Co-Author, “The Reputation Game” (2018)

Biography

A stark truth in today’s hyper-connected world is that perceptions now seem to matter more than facts.  Our choices of who to work with, live with, and socialise with are shaped not only by how we perceive them directly, but also what our connection with them looks like to others. We now live in a world where what we seem to be determines what we actually become.

This new world applies not just to individuals.  Fake news, echo chambers, and malicious activism also shape the way companies, institutions, and even nation-states think about each other and interact.  How can we as individuals, or as leaders of organizations, engage effectively in such environments? What can organisations do to create the right perceptions around their products and their strategies? What sort of consumer or corporate activism is authentic and appropriate for organisations to adopt?  In what way is AI going shape reputation formation and destruction, and alter our ability to control how others see us?

Rupert Younger has studied these questions for twenty-five years. He has advised governments, organisations and leaders on their global reputation strategies with multiple different stakeholders, being an invited keynote speaker at business, academic and policy fora around the world.  For the last decade, he has led Oxford University’s Centre for Corporate Reputation which is the world’s leading academic research centre focused on how reputations are created, sustained, destroyed and rebuilt. His work at Oxford encompasses research direction, teaching on the MBA, engagement with companies through Oxford’s global executive education programmes, and direct policy engagement with national governments around the world on the dynamics of reputation as a policy tool.  His work and views are regularly featured in major news outlets including the BBC, CNN, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Times of London.

He is the co-author of “The Reputation Game: The Art of Changing How People See You” (Oneworld Publications, June 2018), a bestselling book now available in six languages, and the co-author of “The Activist Manifesto” an extract of which was published in the Financial Times in March 2018 and which has been published in English (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, March 2018) and German (S. Fischer Verlag, Germany, 2019) and is forthcoming in various other languages.

Rupert chaired The University of Oxford’s Socially Responsible Investment Committee of Council (2012-2017) and is a member of the Senior Common Rooms at Worcester College, Oxford and St Antony’s College, Oxford.  He is also the co-founder of The Finsbury Group, a leading global strategic advisory business; a Trustee of the international mine clearance and humanitarian charity The HALO Trust; and was appointed by HM Queen Elizabeth II as her High Sheriff of Hampshire for 2013-14. He is a member of the Royal Company of Archers, the Queen’s Bodyguard in Scotland.

Rupert Younger is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, conference talks and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Books & Research

The Reputation Game: The Art of Changing How People See You

(Oneworld Publications, June 2018)

The Activist Manifesto

(CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, March 2018)

A-Z Name

Younger, Rupert

Biography

A stark truth in today’s hyper-connected world is that perceptions now seem to matter more than facts.  Our choices of who to work with, live with, and socialise with are shaped not only by how we perceive them directly, but also what our connection with them looks like to others. We now live in a world where what we seem to be determines what we actually become.

This new world applies not just to individuals.  Fake news, echo chambers, and malicious activism also shape the way companies, institutions, and even nation-states think about each other and interact.  How can we as individuals, or as leaders of organizations, engage effectively in such environments? What can organisations do to create the right perceptions around their products and their strategies? What sort of consumer or corporate activism is authentic and appropriate for organisations to adopt?  In what way is AI going shape reputation formation and destruction, and alter our ability to control how others see us?

Rupert Younger has studied these questions for twenty-five years. He has advised governments, organisations and leaders on their global reputation strategies with multiple different stakeholders, being an invited keynote speaker at business, academic and policy fora around the world.  For the last decade, he has led Oxford University’s Centre for Corporate Reputation which is the world’s leading academic research centre focused on how reputations are created, sustained, destroyed and rebuilt. His work at Oxford encompasses research direction, teaching on the MBA, engagement with companies through Oxford’s global executive education programmes, and direct policy engagement with national governments around the world on the dynamics of reputation as a policy tool.  His work and views are regularly featured in major news outlets including the BBC, CNN, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Times of London.

He is the co-author of “The Reputation Game: The Art of Changing How People See You” (Oneworld Publications, June 2018), a bestselling book now available in six languages, and the co-author of “The Activist Manifesto” an extract of which was published in the Financial Times in March 2018 and which has been published in English (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, March 2018) and German (S. Fischer Verlag, Germany, 2019) and is forthcoming in various other languages.

Rupert chaired The University of Oxford’s Socially Responsible Investment Committee of Council (2012-2017) and is a member of the Senior Common Rooms at Worcester College, Oxford and St Antony’s College, Oxford.  He is also the co-founder of The Finsbury Group, a leading global strategic advisory business; a Trustee of the international mine clearance and humanitarian charity The HALO Trust; and was appointed by HM Queen Elizabeth II as her High Sheriff of Hampshire for 2013-14. He is a member of the Royal Company of Archers, the Queen’s Bodyguard in Scotland.

Rupert Younger is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, conference talks and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

REPUTATION: Why & How Reputation Has Become Your Most Valuable Currency

Reputation in today’s hyper-connected society is the most valuable modern currency, and it is set to be hyper-charged by the data and AI revolution. Humans have used different forms of currency over millennia – from goods and services in the barter economies of the early millennia through the creation of cuneiforms and other physical currencies of the middle ages to the digital currencies that underpin global trade today. Since the start of the 21st century, reputation has taken over.  We are now rated and ranked in ways that have never before been possible, and which seem a far cry from those invented by the credit bureaus of the late 1800s.

Getting the right job, securing a place to stay, and even our love lives are increasingly dictated by the reputations that surround us.  It’s a game that we are all in, whether we like it or not. But we delude ourselves if we think that current reputation systems are advanced.  China’s Social Credit Score, and other AI data systems being developed in California’s Silicon Valley and Beijing’s Zhongguancun district will over the next few years supercharge the power of reputation in determining what we are allowed and enabled to achieve.

Rupert Younger is a leading global expert in how reputations are created, sustained, destroyed and rebuilt.  Director of Oxford University’s Centre for Corporate Reputation, he is co-author of bestselling book ‘The Reputation Game’ and has consulted major organisations all over the globe on their reputation engagements and strategies.

ACTIVISM: Polarisation, Inequality and Social Division in Western Societies

What would Marx and Engels write today? This was the question Rupert Younger, together with his co-author Professor Frank Partnoy (UC Berkeley) set out to ask in the summer of 2017, 170 years after the publication of arguably the most famous manuscript of the nineteenth century. What resulted was The Activist Manifesto, a reimaging of The Communist Manifesto, updated to reflect again on the phenomenon of inequality in today’s society.

As in 1847, the elites had appropriated wealth and power at the expense of the voiceless mass. As with 1847, wider social trends were driving the rise of populism and notions of radical change. However, Rupert is no Marxist, having co-founded and grown a global strategic consulting firm in the mid 1990’s. And he is not voiceless, being arguably one of the elites that he takes aim at in this reassessment of one of the biggest societal movements of our age.

The Activist Manifesto is an entry point into a discussion around the underlying forces of populism and social division that characterise Western developed economies and societies today. Rupert speaks to this theme, drawing insights that explain the rise of Trump, Brexit and other contemporary European fracture points. He also outlines the actions that modern organisations and their leaders can take to embrace what has become a pervasive and growing global movement, and why this is not only the right thing to do but also a savvy commercial strategy.

CRISIS: The Analytical Power of Capability/Character Analysis

Crises come in many different forms. In the last year alone, we have had IT failures, data breaches, corruption scandals, health and safety crises, and plain daft stupidity in customer care to name just some. The impacts of these have been equally varied. Some have seen share price collapses, others have seen virtually no share price impact; some have seen significant punitive fines often amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds or – in the case of the banks – billions of pounds. All of them have been subject to this oft repeated phrase that the scandal has ‘left their reputation in tatters’.

Well. Is that really true? United are still flying planes. BP is still producing oil. VW is still selling cars. If there is reputation damage, where is it hitting the business?

Research shows that we mostly think about organisations and their leaders through two reputation lenses. The first is capability – perceptions about the ability of a company to do what they say they do from making cars, getting you from A to B, creating and selling complex financial products, making good quality clothes, and so on. The second is character– perceptions about HOW they go about doing what they do including how trustworthy are the management team, how transparent are they about their supply chain, and so on.

VW’s ‘dieselgate’ scandal is clearly a character crisis. VW makes great cars, and no one doubts that they continue to do so. What is in the frame when it comes to reputation is HOW they go about doing the work they do.  By contrast, the terrible Toyota accident that happened on the freeway outside San Diego involving an off-duty policeman and his family in 2009 was for them (at least initially) a capability crisis. The mechanics failed. And all too often, capability crises morph into character crises as well, as management fails to be transparent and as human as they should be. BP remains a good example of this.

Why do these distinctions matter? Because the impacts of the crises are felt in different ways by different stakeholders. Capability reputations matter most to customers, while character reputations matter more to counterparties.  This simple insight also helps organise and direct response strategies. Capability crises need to be anchored in rebuilding trust and reputation with customers. Character reputational issues require a focus on rebuilding counterparty trust.

This matters even more in today’s digitally connected world. Social media has connected us with more people, enabling this wider set of connections to be serviced with an almost infinite amount of information. All of this means that there is now a new battleground, an battleground for our attention. It is attention – not information – that has today become the scarce resource in the natural economy of cyberspace.

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Books & Research

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Workshops

Rupert Younger has advised major companies and their leaders on reputation strategies for over 25 years, having co-founded the Finsbury Group in 1994.  In this role he has worked with organisations to create narrative and engagement strategies aimed at creating a license to operate in the specific sector or geographical environments in which these firms operate. Rupert is available for workshop events where there is a need to review reputational strategies and create powerful and effective engagement plans in pursuit of specific organisational aims.

Recommendations

Praise for “The Reputation Game”

“Trust is the foundation of friendship, society, business, and brand. A must-read for those who intend to build a reputation of authenticity and enduring value.”

—Biz Stone, Co-founder, Twitter

“From the soft power of nation states to the brand popularity of commercial products, reputation is supremely important. This interesting book places the issue in its rigorously argued context – an important matter for every senior executive in the public and private sectors.”

—Lord Patten, Chancellor, University of Oxford

“The insights in The Reputation Game are a masterclass of pattern recognition. This book shows us that no matter who you are, your industry or hustle, reputational capital is at the centre of success or failure. Waller and Younger use as examples the rise and fall of great companies, countries, gangsters, and pop-culture icons to show us the moments and choices that are truly the ‘art of changing how people see us all.'”

—Steve Stoute, CEO of Translation LLC

“An insightful and really rather fascinating study of what one might argue is the issue of our age: the creation and management of a reputation. The authors have clearly managed to get great access to a huge number of people and the results make for very compelling reading. It’s well-written, too. In fact, it’s required reading for anyone who truly wants to understand the modern media age.”

—Tom Bradby, Presenter, ITV News at Ten

“In life and in business a good reputation is probably our most prized possession, hard won and easily lost. This book provides insight into the sources of reputation, illustrates by case study the impact of loss and charts the route to recovery. It is a valuable contribution to this increasingly important topic.”

—Sir Roger Carr, chairman of BAE Systems

“You’ll learn why reputations are more valuable than money; you’ll learn how they’re built and tended and enriched; and how, if neglected, they can catastrophically implode. It might have been called, ‘How to ensure that everybody knows just how good you know you are really.'”

—Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP

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