In an excellent article Chief Reputation Officer: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?, Anthony Johndrow, the U.S. managing director of the Reputation Institute in New York makes the point that ‘’the requisite skills that reputation managers and stewards need to thrive in this brave new world appear to come in five diverse skill sets’’:
- Cognitive Skills (knowledge about business and communication functions, plus stakeholder-specific know-how)
- Analytical Skills (causal thinking and drawing inferences, plus systems thinking and contextual analysis)
- Process Skills (change management, plus facilitation and coordination execution)
- Communication Skills (writing, speaking, presenting, plus comparative dynamics of old and new media)
- Organizational Skills (persuading others and mobilizing support, plus organizing and leading high-performance teams)
This is what I have been writing and saying in my presentations the past few years. I have always stated that the ideal CRO will need OD (Organisation Development), Management Consulting and PR skills,. and have used techniques and tools from these various disciplines in my courses.Now finally there is a dawning and an understanding that Communication is only but one tool to use to manage Reputation.
Let’s analyze this further, by looking at some definitions. This is vital because communication is the sharing of meaning. As Abraham Maslow, the motivational psychologist ( The Hierarchy of needs originator) said :
" If the only thing you have is a hammer you tend to treat everything as a nail". Definitions create the lenses through which we look at the world.
Here are some of definitions that I use in my work:
Public Relations is the management, through communication, of perceptions and strategic relationships between an organisation and its internal and external stakeholders.
A company’s reputation is its most valuable asset. The reputational implications of a business decision is those that impact the way in which the organisation is regarded by those with whom it interacts, including shareholders, customers, employees, the media and any other stakeholder. Reputation is not optional. Every company, organisation, individual has a reputation. The only option is whether to manage it or allow it to be inferred.
The management of Reputation includes a proactive and systematic approach to identifying issues that currently affect your company or will affect it within the next 12 to 36 months. Like it or not, your company’s policies and actions are shaped and developed in anticipation of, and reaction to, political, economic, social and technological forces. PEST will impact.
It is also a process of casting a look internally and examining processes, procedures, policies and issues that could impact and damage the company’s reputation. It involves an in depth look at the quality of management, financial soundness, use of corporate assets, community and environmental responsibility, quality of products or services, value as a long term investment, innovativeness, and the ability to attract, develop and keep talented people.
Thus, reputation management goes beyond the traditional parameters of marketing, public relations and communications. It is much more than just measuring reputation annually through some research. It is in my humble opinion a far more holistic management approach than previous traditional approaches.
Corporate Communications is quite broadly—the professional practice of developing and implementing communication “rules and tools” to enhance the dissemination, comprehension, acceptance, and application of information in ways which help to achieve an organisation’s goals( Diane Gayeski)
Organization development (which is part of Strategic Management) is defined as a planned effort, organization wide, managed from the top, to increase organization effectiveness and health through planned intervention processes, using behavioural science knowledge" (Richard Beckhard)
Looking at these various definitions and realizing that Reputation is both an organization’s biggest asset but also its biggest risk today, it must be clear that what is necessary to build, sustain and protect this asset is a multidisciplinary effort in any organisation. It is no longer a PR only function.
It is strategic management of the highest order.
Take a look again at your definitions – and you will see how it shapes your thinking and your consulting (internal or external) approach in situations.
If I have to make one point I think what needs to be added to Anthony’s list of skill sets is the ability and knowledge to handle crises of all kinds under all types of conditions. Crisis Management skills is a skill set on its own driven by experiences and knowledge gained by Emergency Management, Disaster, Crises Communication and Business Continuity fields.
Organisations will have to have a rethink of who they believe is capable of managing and protecting their organisation’s biggest asset.