Organisations come up short with respect to reputation management for a number of principal reasons. Here are some:
1 . Managers have been trained in every conceivable discipline except reputation management. Many managers with reputation responsibility have not been trained for that assignment. Perhaps that describes you. You do not have the same level of experience in managing that function that you do managing others. Perhaps you are not entirely confident in leading the people and programs that are pivotal to perceptions of your organizations. Because you are not as comfortable with reputation management as you are with other aspects of your business, it may not be at the top of your priorities. In the turbulent years, you need to gain control over your reputation destiny, or it will control you.
2. Because the importance and scope of reputation is new to many managers, there is often little or no program in place to sensitize employees to the importance of your company’s good name. Employees do not understand that need. If they did, many of the contacts all of us have with employees would be far different.
3. Reputation expectations have never been set. Nobody has empowered employees to ask this question: "If we do this, will it hurt our reputation?" Managers address questions of cost, of timing, human resources, and pricing regularly, but they pay scant attention to questions of reputation and, by default, the potential for reputation damage is always present.
4. Far too often, management’s expectation is that good public relations after the fact can fix what ails them. But this type of thinking is wrong and leads to reputation problems, not solutions. The truth is this: Even the best public relations programs cannot overcome flawed policies, bad results or inappropriate actions.
All managers would do well to pay attention to what Warren Buffet said to Salomon Brothers employees when he stepped in as interim chairman in 1991: "If you lose money for the firm by bad decisions, I will be very understanding. If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless."
If you consider that organisations spend millions every year in building and sustaining operations, building market share and confidence,should reputation, the organisation’s main perceptual asset and biggest risk, not be managed?
Perceptions are reality.
What are you doing to manage those perceptions? Answer the following questions objectively to start a dialogue in your company :
1. Are all your stakeholders – suppliers, customers, the organisation, and its people aligned in one value chain from an value chain perspective?
2. Who in your company has specific responsibility, authority and accountability to manage perceptual assets , such as the company’s good name – it’s reputation or is it being left to chance?
3. Are internal and external ( Verbal and non-verbal)messages aligned i.e. Is there congruence between internal and external messages?
4. Have you identified the blocks, the barriers and the hindrances that prevent this alignment?
5. Have you determined a value that can be placed on the element of name, reputation or goodwill components?
6. When last have you taken a fresh look(introspection) at how your organisation’s operations, systems, policies & procedures, impact on the building of your company’s good name?
7. Have you equipped the people in the organisation with the resources such as knowledge, skills and attitudes to build, maintain and sustain the good
name of the organisation?
– To maintain a favourable reputation in the market and workplace;
– To enhance and Build your organisation’s good name;
– To establish practices, policies, procedures and systems and standards that, will avoid damage to the organisation’s reputation;
– To prepare and equip your Management team to take full responsibility for managing the organisation’s reputation.
Here are some guidelines as to what an integrated reputation management approach should embody:
1. Undertake a formal assessment of your company’s reputation – internally and externally.
2. Identify and advise on areas for improvement.
3. Introduce a Reputational Auditing system, to suit your needs.( After all it is an asset and a risk and should be managed accordingly)
4. Establish the necessary documentation, recording, reporting and safekeeping of data.
5. Conduct reputational monitoring.
6. Present and co-ordinate the presentation of relevant training courses to various levels in your organisation( Reputation is more than just customer
service – It is the sum total of everything we sell, deliver, communicate and do).
7. Establish, attend and guide the Company’s Reputational Committee meetings for an initial impact and report.
8. Report to and maintain contact with your CEO and person responsible for RM. All managers would do well to pay attention to what Warren Buffet said
to Salomon Brothers employees when he stepped in as interim chairman in 1991: "If you lose money for the firm by bad decisions, I will be very understanding. If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless."
9. Co-ordinate and perform a bi-annual compliance audit of your Company’s reputational programme to ensure that standards and requirements are being
Always remember that a company’s reputation is an asset and a risk,( if only just a perceptual one) and that it is like a fragile vase – Once broken, not easy to restore. And, while that might seem melodramatic, don’t try soft selling its meaning to Exxon, Johnson & Johnson, or to Union Carbide who had a shadow cast over its operations since the Bhopal disaster where thousands of people were killed due to a gas leak.
The list is endless. Grim reminders that crises can strike a Business at any time; and during these crises a Company’s image and reputation can be damaged significantly.
So what constitutes a good reputation? This depends from organisation and organisation. There is no one reputation that works for an organisation that will work for another. Each organisation must find its own version, based on the industry the company is in and what the customer requires. Research studies by institutions like the Reputation Institute have revealed a number of dimensions or drivers that can be used as a guide.
BUT one thing stands out "A Company with a good reputation is one in which the deliverable and the demands are in synch". When perception and reality is in alignment.
But let us not make a mistake – Crises do not have to be big. For an entrepreneur a crises is losing one client through not delivering on time. Having systems and policies in place, having trained reputation conscious people such as suggested above will go a long way to maintaining and enhancing your organisation’s good name.