Get to Know Paul Argenti – MAHA’s New Board Member

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you become a reputation expert?

A: I have been a business school professor my whole career, specializing in several focus areas: creating and executing communications strategies, reputation (e.g., how to define and measure it), corporate responsibility and crisis communications. As it relates to reputation, I’ve been in this space for the bulk of my career. I actually wrote a chapter in ’92 (the first edition of my textbook, Corporate Communication) focused on brand, reputation and advocacy. In addition to research and teaching, I devoted my career to consulting with companies, with a heavy emphasis on shaping their reputation. Additionally, early on in my career, I worked with a group of colleagues in the reputation/marketing/communications strategy space, and what came out of this group was the Reputation Institute – a group of academics and business minded individuals committed to interdisciplinary research about reputation. And my interest in reputation measurement grew from there – especially the idea of connecting data to reputation in a more scientific way.

Q: What’s your favorite part about being a corporate communication professor at Dartmouth?

A: I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to design Dartmouth’s communication curriculum and to carve out my unique approach to teaching corporate communication. I began teaching what we used to call Management Communication. When they hired me, I was teaching at Columbia and the Dean at Dartmouth said why don’t you use corporate communication as the fuel for content associated with management communication. I started with corporate communication and moved into other areas (e.g., corporate responsibility). They essentially gave me the opportunity to create something from scratch and reinvent myself. And the rest is history – I’ve been working at Dartmouth for 42 years!

Q: What prompted you to join MAHA’s board?

A: When MAHA merged with Revolution Insights Group (RIG) – a company I founded with a Dartmouth professor/my colleague Ryan Calsbeek to help companies use advances in evolutionary analytics, to identify the most effective ways to adapt and excel in a competitive landscape – I became excited about overseeing some of the policies and strategies for this next-generation approach to reputation intelligence. As part of that merger, I became a board member. 

Q: Why do you believe in MAHA?

A: We have known for many years that intangible assets, such as brand and reputation, are among an organization’s most valuable possessions. It’s difficult however to manage reputation using the old model (e.g., sentiment analysis and media metrics). What attracted me to MAHA is its on-demand, predictive approach – using an analytical tool to inform what companies need to do, by obtaining real-time clarity, a multi-stakeholder view, competitive intelligence and predictive insights. As companies are all looking for better ways to reach and persuade those who matter most, the reality is that persuasion rarely works, instead, a much more powerful approach is to lead with facts followed by action. Additionally, I was drawn to MAHA’s mission – the idealistic, purpose-driven thinking of MAHA’s CEO Haider Nazar – helping organizations positively transform and build more trust with their stakeholders. Feeding into my corporate social responsibility work, it is not just about companies making money, rather, about organizations doing well by doing good.

Q: From your perspective, why should companies pivot from what they normally use (sentiment analysis – polling surveys and media metrics) to MAHA’s Darwin?

A: This is like asking the question why would you use an engine vs. a horse? Historically, reputational risk has rarely been quantified or connected to financial performance. The problem is, companies can’t drive financial planning/policy making without using a strong, predictive analytical method. MAHA’s Darwin now makes it possible for companies to quantify financial risk and build more trust with their key stakeholders, by going beyond sentiment analysis and media metrics – integrating actual industry performance. The language of business is numbers, that’s what leadership relies on. If you can provide reputation teams with a scientifically oriented research product to bring into their boardroom, and a platform that changes with the times, that’s a key differentiator (as it relates to reputation intelligence). For example, when we were conducting research back in the 90s, looking at certain signatures that affected reputation, DE&I wasn’t even on the radar. It is an evolving landscape, and MAHA considers this, by helping companies pinpoint, predict and take action on their reputation, ESG, and business risks. Sentiment is just a piece of a bigger pie.

Q: How does Darwin enable companies to predict financial risk and build more trust with key stakeholders?

A: The power of Darwin’s analytical method comes from the pairing of newly available big data with a deep bioscience intelligence engineered by Dartmouth scientists who are using the same mathematical models to isolate attributes among species that lead to survival, adaptation and extinction. For the first time, these methods can be applied to corporate data sets.

Darwin is the first reputation intelligence platform that unifies multi-stakeholder sentiment, corporate behavior as well as competitive and financial analytics.  Darwin makes it easier for management teams to see in real-time how their actions on environmental, human capital, social impact and enterprise risks compare to their competition, while isolating the reputational attributes that impact performance and drive the greatest financial risk.

Q: What are your top tips for companies interested in managing their reputation (or their ‘relevance’)?

A: Reputation is not something you manage, it is an outcome. Yet, a company’s reputation is its most important asset, without it, you cannot be successful. My first tip – reputation management teams must not be afraid of numbers. They need to rely on models/mathematics to understand what their company needs to focus on to improve their reputation. MAHA is unique in that it enables companies to truly understand the evolving drivers affecting their business performance. It’s like an equalizer on a stereo, if you have too much bass and not enough treble, you’re out of balance. You can’t focus on DE&I and not think about your environmental impact as well. Having an analytics tool to figure out where your company should place its emphasis – that is, where to put its money and time – is key to building your company’s reputation. Also, companies need to record their scores. They might have good representation of women on their board but if you don’t record it, you get a zero.