Maintaining a hard-earned business reputation is one of the primary duties of the PR pro. That's why listening to what your community is saying about you—to protect your brand—is as important as the messages you broadcast.
You may have heard about reputation as a child, or maybe it fell on deaf ears during those precarious teen years. It’s the age-old adage, “it doesn’t matter what other people think of you, but only what you think of yourself.” It’s the easiest advice to give, the hardest to take, and one of those life lessons that gets repeated in nearly every coming-of-age story. It’s also false.
Crafting a positive reputation is different than simply leaving it up to the opinions of others. For an individual, developing self-esteem is an essential milestone for sanity and survival. It’s self-esteem that protects you when a stranger treats you like you’re stupid because you have tattoos, or as a criminal because of your skin color or because your religion has a bad reputation in some circles. You can’t control the biases of other people, but you can nudge positive or negative sentiment to a greater or lesser degree.
Reputation stems from a person’s judgment then blossoms into a cloud of darkness as it poisons the collective judgment levied on an individual or business. This new “identity” (reputation) becomes overlaid on like a blanket, becoming all someone sees. Today, this identity, others perceive, exists both in real life and online. Everyone, from teenagers to entrepreneurs to entire corporations, has a reputation— whether that is good, bad, or somewhere in between.
So despite what your guidance counselor said in high school, it does matter, to an extent, what others think, what they say, and what they promote online. Because of the importance of reputation, as a society, we wouldn’t survive without the opinions of our peers. As a social species, we are hardwired to care about the opinions of others.
The fastest way to a good reputation, whether at home or in the workplace, is to behave in a way that benefits your social circle. According to a US News article, traits like kindness, generosity, and honesty help to foster a good reputation in the workplace. It seems that group-oriented behaviors, especially, pay dividends when it comes to bolstering your reputation. This is true for people and businesses as well.
In fact, research has demonstrated that your closest social circle may be the main thing holding you accountable to actions. Without the impending threat of losing your good reputation among friends, there’s little to hold you back from doing the “wrong” thing. The reason it works is simple: a bad reputation among peers often leads to exclusion from the group. We know what it feels like to be left out, but in our ancestors’ circumstances, group exclusion could equate to death.
This is step one and should be top of the list. The easiest and simplest way to grow a good reputation and maintain it. At the end of the day, if you can’t or won’t do something then people will find someone else who can, and will. Take every moment as an opportunity to highlight your skills and your reliability.
Never let ego get in your way. Nobody likes an overly puffed chest, it belittles you and people don’t like being made to feel less than they are. This doesn’t mean you can’t have passion and ambition and drive, just don’t be that person who thinks they are better than everyone else. Remember the quote that somebody at some point said – “If you think you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room”.
Accountability shows that you are prepared to fix a problem and as a result ensure it doesn’t happen again. Nobody is perfect and admitting that you are not will ground you.
If you are open, it means you have nothing to hide and if you have nothing to hide then people know exactly where they stand with you. This can be risky and there are many case studies where transparency has come back to bite many people and organisations. In the long run though, not being transparent can be even riskier.
This develops relationships and highlights your integrity, not to mention the fact that you will feel good about yourself as you pass your knowledge onto someone else. Some of the most successful people in the world regularly speak about their mentors and mentees and how they have helped shape them to become who they are. If you don’t have time for this it means that your priorities aren’t right and it’s time to re-evaluate your schedule. So any excuse about not having time won’t fly here, make the time.
Not only will this give you’re a warm, fuzzy feeling, but it actually in turn makes you look good. Now this might sound like point five, but it’s not. I was once asked to describe what I do for a living(in the world of PR and Communications) and after some thought, my response was ‘I make people look good. If they have made a mistake, I help them look good again. I make sure people hear about it. If they haven’t done anything, I help them find opportunities to look good.’ This is all about allowing other people their time in the spotlight or supporting other causes. From an individual perspective, this could be as simple as volunteering for a charity or pointing out someone else’s success, and from a business perspective, it can be as simple a well-executed CSR plan or strong, honest internal culture.
It’s the age-old axiom – ‘If you want to be professional, you need to look professional’. This refers back to my point regarding calling yourself a ‘Social Media Expert’ when your social media accounts tell a different story. I am a big believer in personal presentation whether that be the way you dress, the way you talk, the way you act in the lunch area, etc. It is all about presentation. Would you trust a real estate agent who was in a shabby suit and with unkempt hair? Would you trust your architects if they didn’t have a nicely presented office with models and drawings around the place?
There are many things in life and work that you can’t control, but your reputation is something you can absolutely be in control of. When all else fails it is worth remembering the wise words of Warren Buffet – “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you remember that, you’ll do things differently”.
Brand reputation isn’t very different from individual reputation in its importance. It’s been studied quite a bit in recent years, in light of the ease with which information is transmitted and falsehoods spread online, as well as the effect of reputation on commerce. At the beginning of 2017 everyone was talking about “fake news” because of its effect on political reputation. According to Davies and Miles in the 1998 Corporate Reputation Review, reputation in business terms involves three things:
Managing a business reputation requires the alignment of these three elements. When even one of them is out of balance, the company’s entire reputation can come crashing down. Here’s a closer look at the factors that shape a corporation’s reputation.
Clearly, brand reputation is a complicated machine. So who is in charge of it? According to a 2005 study by Rosa Chun, senior lecturer at Manchester Business School, it’s unusual to find an internal reputation management department that’s directly responsible for managing corporate reputations. Instead, it’s often a shared effort, with marketing and communications handling the external perceptions, while human resources manage internal culture. Many companies even outsource their reputation management to firms that specialize in this field.
Creating, curating, and maintaining a positive reputation for a corporation is no easy task, but one of the most important facets regarding human psychology is to be consistent. Research by Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management has shown that a customer’s loyalty to a company or brand relies more on familiarity than organic “trust.” Customers love to do what feels comfortable, so companies that are quick to change their identity in the face of a PR disaster may be more likely to lose customers in the long run. The better approach is often a slow and steady one, focused on rebuilding trust through multiple channels.
As we’ve explored, a positive reputation can provide group inclusion, while a negative one can ostracize you in a social setting, or lead to job loss or employment problems in a professional environment. The business outcomes of reputation are even more far-reaching, impacting how all stakeholders, from customers to shareholders to executives, behave toward the organization.
The digital era has invited a whole new way of showing ourselves to the world, one that’s rife with complications for both individuals and businesses. When you’re doing business with someone on the other side of the globe, sometimes your reputation is all you have — so it’s in your best interest to make it the best it can be and to strive to curate a positive reputation.
Want to learn more about how Meltwater media monitoring can help you track, measure, and manage your online reputation? Get in touch today!