Perception is reality, especially when it comes to your company’s image.

A business will likely struggle if the target market finds it untrustworthy or simply doesn’t identify with the brand. On the other hand, establishing core virtues and creating a unique persona attracts consumers in any industry.

Brand reputation can make or break a business, as evidenced by a recent study.

The Harris Poll Reputation Quotient recently released its 13th annual ranking of the most and least reputable companies in the United States. The nation’s 60 most visible businesses were ranked on social responsibility, emotional appeal, financial performance, products and services, vision and leadership, and workplace environment.

The top ten include:

1. Amazon
2. Apple
3. Walt Disney
4. Google
5. Johnson & Johnson
6. Coca-Cola
7. Whole Foods Market
8. Sony
9. Procter & Gamble
10. Costco

The bottom of the list was rounded out by:

51. Comcast
52. Wells Fargo
53. JPMorgan Chase
54. BP
55. Citigroup
56. Bank of America
57. American Airlines
58. Halliburton
59. Goldman Sachs
60. AIG

It’s not difficult to see why these various companies ranked as they did. The rise and fall of businesses on the list often directly correlates to the year’s events. Businesses that were perceived highly have distinguishable characteristics and elicit largely positive feelings, even for those who are not regular customers. The majority of the companies ranked as least reputable have experienced some sort of image crisis in the last several years, and most consumers have heard negative reviews  of these businesses from a friend or the media.

Corporate PR efforts are part and parcel of improving how businesses are viewed by the public. Proactive brand building helps companies improve their image, while proper crisis management can minimize the damage of unfortunate events and even increase perceived integrity.