Amazon's reputation is taking a beating from all sides. Here's what a reputation expert says it should do to turn things around.

Mark Makela/Getty ImagesAmazon is fielding criticisms from all sides.
  • Amazon‘s reputation has fallen in a ranking of popular companies.
  • This comes after high-profile figures like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Fox News host Tucker Carlson have slammed the company, citing news stories that report Amazon’s fulfillment-center workers earn low pay and endure tough working conditions.
  • In order to swing the pendulum back in its favour, Amazon should speak up more and “own the narrative” surrounding the company, brand-reputation expert Ana Angelovska said.

Amazon‘s reputation is slipping, at least, that is, according to the latest version of the Reputation Institute’s annual RepTrak ranking, which was released on Thursday.

The company notably lost the top spot in the retail category to Barnes & Noble and fell to second place.

Among all companies globally, Amazon fell from 18th to 23rd place. It was the top company in the US from 2014 through 2016 but is now 10th.

Many of the listed companies fell in the ranking year-over-year. The Reputation Institute determined its ranking from a survey of 10,000 individuals, saying that it “quantifies the emotional bond stakeholders have with leading companies and how these connections drive supportive behaviour”

Amazon’s reputation fell in all of the categories measured by the survey, but it was hit especially hard with regards to citizenship – essentially, how it gives back to its community – and how it treats its workers.

It’s not a complete surprise. Amazon, especially when it comes to issues in its workplace, has taken a constant barrage of hits from high-profile figures like Sen. Bernie Sanders, who often holds the company up as a villain of capitalism. Sanders has focused on reports around the large number of Amazon employees who rely on food stamps and the conditions inside the warehouses where the company fulfils orders.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson has recently addressed Amazon on his show using many of the same criticisms – a sign that Amazon’s reputation decline is not limited to one side of the political spectrum.

Amazon hasn’t taken it lying down. The company wrote a blog post addressed to Sanders on August 29, calling his statements “inaccurate and misleading” and going on to cite Amazon’s median pay of $US34,123 a year for full-time workers in the US.

The company has also come up with a new program that takes warehouse workers from their regular jobs and has them instead tweet nice things about the company, calling them “FC Ambassadors.”

Taking both of these together shows that the company is making steps to try and control the conversation.

Amazon may have to do more than that, however, according to Ana Angelovska, a research director at the Reputation Institute. Amazon needs to “own the conversation,” she told Business Insider.

“If they don’t take that narrative and make it their own and create a positive reality, within their company that they can then talk about, it will really be a difficult area for them moving forward in terms of their reputation,” she said.

This week, Sanders introduced legislation aimed at forcing huge companies like Amazon to pay their employees better wages.The bill is called Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies, or “Stop BEZOS.” An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on Sanders’ bill.

Still, a large percentage of the public that the institute surveyed had no opinion, Angelovska said.

“This is an opportunity for them to make the workplace and be the employer of choice that they want to be and own that narrative that will naturally be promoted when it happens,” she said.

Amazon came first on another ranking, the 2018 Harris Poll, which measures reputation for the US’ most visible companies. Still, Amazon performed worse in the poll’s “social responsibilty” and “workplace” categories.

Is Amazon moving in the right direction with its new initiatives?

“I really think it’s more of an internal change that should happen rather than a few tweets,” Angelovska said, referring to the FC Ambassador program.

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