Tagged: reputation management

Your Name is a Precious Commodity


Your name will arrive at a destination long before you do, so best make sure you have a good name, so the old adage goes.

I was reminded of this last year when I arrived in Beijing to facilitate a Crisis Management & Crisis Communication for Reputation Protection seminar at the Grand Millennium Hotel.

There were a number of delegates that had flown in from places as far as Hong Kong and when I asked the audience what brought them there, the delegates specifically replied. ‘My Reputation’

This just reminded me again of the importance of reputation in marketing & communication. But this subject also worried early authors and philosophers. Here are a few selected quotes worthwhile of thinking about:

“Early impressions are hard to eradicate from the mind. When once wool has been dyed purple, who can restore it to its previous whiteness.”–St. Jerome.

‘Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly be possessed of – for credit is like fire; when once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavour to be what you desire to appear.” (Socrates – 469 BC – 399 BC)’

Individuals sometimes forget that they themselves have a reputation- just like their organization. Countless studies show that Corporate Reputation is an organization’s biggest asset, yet most dangerous risk in the marketplace.

It is no different for a person. In fact depending on your chosen career, position and stature, it becomes your stock in trade and a lever for success. For consultants and professional service providers reputation is sacrosanct.

It boils down to three crucial elements:

1. Know-how (Your intellectual capital i.e. what you know);

2. A Network of contacts (Social Capital – who you know);

3. Your Reputation (Reputational Capital – who trusts you).

The key for any person who is interested to build their own reputation is to work on these 3 elements as part of their own career development plan.

Many years ago someone shared the concept of the 3 E’s with me. I think it is a Dale Carnegie concept that I am sure you will find valuable in the building of your reputation.

The Three E’s:

E – Earned the right. You can only address a person or a group if you have earned your “stripes” be it through qualifications, experience, and preparation. Doing research, reading and studying your chosen field adds to this. It is about what you know.

E – Be Enthusiastic. Will you buy from a salesman whose product does not generate enthusiasm in himself?.

E – Be Eager to share. Are you eager to share your knowledge, the gem or nugget of wisdom that you have with the person you are talking to or the audience?.

In my own life experience I have found the concept of the 3 E’s incredibly helpful. If you go to my personal profile at http://za.linkedin.com/in/deonbinneman and read the recommendations by other experts you will see how the three E’s have manifested themselves in my career and how they added to the 3 key elements of building a reputation.

The implications of these words is that reputation is something that needs constant work just like a gardener attending to his flower beds. Like as in gardening it does not take much for weeds to grow, pests to come and flowers to wilt.

Constant attention and vigilance is needed if you want to maintain and safeguard your reputation. Do you know what drives your reputation? Do you know what can add or subtract from that reputation?

In an area of instant information exchange, where new technologies support new ways of working and communicating, the task of managers is to develop good interpersonal skills and the ability to use new communications technology appropriately.

This use should include an understanding of the misuse and dangers inherent in social media. These days there are companies that for instance specialise in online reputation management — companies that attempt to remove damaging Web content for embarrassed clients.

Just as everyone was once promised 15 minutes of fame, each of us can now expect to have our own “WikiLeaks moment,” the CEO of The New York Times.

Social media expert and former dating columnist Julia Allison likens bad news on the Net like a digital tattoo. It’s like tattoo removal, Allison tells the Times. Although it is possible to erase, it’s expensive and painful and it may always leave some kind of mark.

This implies that companies and individuals need to be more organised and think strategically about the messages that they communicate, advertently or inadvertently. In today’s knowledge economy your reputation and name is your stock-in-trade. Manage it carefully.

Benchmarking is an Important Research Tool

I am little bit shocked. For the past 2 days I facilitated an Effective Communication & Stakeholder Management Master class at one of our local hotels for a conference organization.

One of the topics that I dealt with, was that of Strategic Communication. Emphasizing the importance of research, I asked the audience whether they used benchmarking as part of their secondary research methods. The audience which consisted primarily of communication practitioners did not know what I meant. This is worrying. Benchmarking is such an important research tool and can shorten the learning curve or reveal important gaps.

To help these delegates, I have prepared the following article which readers might find useful.

What is Benchmarking?

Benchmarking is an objective & analytical technique that compares a firm’s business processes with those of other companies that achieved recognition for excellence for a specific process or function. With other words, if you are designing and writing a strategic communications plan, find out what others are doing. Why re-invent the wheel?

The goal is to identify and profile another organisation that achieved radical improvements, which significantly impacted their bottom line or reputation.

Benchmarking is not limited to a company’s financial performance, or industry. It’s a process that seeks to identify a company’s best qualities, regardless of industry. It focuses on practices used by industry-leading companies who constantly increase market share and profit margins by using radically better processes than their competitors.

This means you’re looking for companies that do something better than anyone else, in order to learn how they do it, so you can incorporate their processes into your inductive business plan. Thus Communication processes and/or Reputation can be benchmarked.

The most frequently used benchmarking tactics are:

ACTIVITY BENCHMARKING, which is directed at converting such support processes as order processing, project management, inventory, customer service, accounting and information technology into a competitive advantage.

COMPETITIVE BENCHMARKING, which compares a company’s processes, products and services against that of industry leading competitors.

WORLD CLASS BENCHMARKING extends the activity beyond your own industry. It looks at who is best irrespective of the industry.

It’s used for those processes that are generic of nature, plus such activities as product development, engineering, manufacturing, and customer service. At least half the new technologies that transform an industry come from outside the industry itself. Also, by seeking the "best of the best" of non-industry standards, instead of the ‘"best of breed" in your own industry, you can leapfrog over your competitors.

The lesson – Benchmark your organisation’s Reputation building processes, communication and crisis management against best practices. That will assist you to build a sustainable lasting reputation for the future.


Which Decision-making Model are you using?

When I entered the business world, the flavor of the month decision-making model was the Kepner Tregoe problem solving & decision-making model.

Soon that was replaced by a model from a book, that is if I can remember its name– something like the 1001 things I did not learn at Harvard Business School. And, just when I got my breath back, De Bono came along with his 6 Hats.

And so it went on…De Bono…..to various techniques involving linear and creative thinking methods. Just read Michalko’s Thinkertoys as an example.

In my own consulting experience in reputation management I have found that the MISTRUST that is created in companies or by companies today is a direct cause from a lack of stakeholder understanding and misperceptions that is created when decisions are made. (For more information on this, read this blog’s archives)

Perhaps the following information can add to your decision-making model that you wish to develop. Perhaps you could even develop a model that will grace the charts worldwide (Please quote me…)

This is my theory.

Every decision that an organisation must make has four broad sets of implications. The obvious three sets of implications are operational, financial and legal.

The fourth set of implications is generally ignored, delegated or included in the process only on the basis of the "gut instinct" of one of the participants. This fourth set of implications is reputational.

The reputational implications of a business decision can be defined as those that impact the way in which an organization is regarded by those with whom it interacts, including shareholders, customers and employees, as well as suppliers, government regulators, the media and even competitors (and any other stakeholder).

This fits in well with the ecology model of organisational effectiveness.

The New Collins Concise English Dictionary defines ecology as: "The study of the relationships between living organisms and their environment, the set of relationships of a particular organism with its environment."

This means that the ecology model is concerned with the organisation’s ability to deal with internal and external contingencies, and its ability to manage interrelationships between stakeholders in the context of its environment.

Any organisation is dependent on its stakeholders for support and the strategic importance of any stakeholder depends on how dependent the organisation is upon it. And this relationship can change over a period of time or due to indiscretions. It is thus important to realise that any decision has reputational implications if it has the potential to affect the relationship between the company and any of these stakeholders. In other words, it is difficult to think of a decision that does not have reputational implications.

Reputation, most managers today would agree, is an asset, even if only a perceptual asset (or, if mismanaged, a liability). It certainly is not optional. Every corporation, organization, institution, individual has a reputation. The only option is whether to manage it or allow it to be inferred.

If it is to add value, it should be managed with the same care and attention as any asset. It should be obvious that if a decision has four broad sets of implications, and only three are formally and routinely considered, the potential exists for flawed decision making. After all, the role of a manager is to manage all the assets under his or her control effectively.

It is certainly conceivable that financial considerations are often deemed more important than reputational impact, but even that is not to say that they should not be considered and factored into the process. There is mounting evidence though that as general rule reputational implications is important to sustained corporate success. The scrutiny under which business operates today (Witness the success of investigative TV programs), the amount of information in the hands of consumers and other publics, make reputation a vital asset, and in some industries the most important.

And, interestingly if this was not important, how come it is specifically included in the new recommended King Code 3 of Corporate Governance (Section 8). For more information, go to the website of the Institute of Directors and check it out for yourself.

Unless decisions are scrutinised through a stakeholder lens, problems are due to erupt.

Key Questions to ask about Managing Reputation

As reputation is most often considered a collection of perceptions and opinions, past and present, about an organization which resides in the consciousness of its stakeholders‘, it appears absolutely necessary to get a better grasp of the main drivers.

Managing that reputation is becoming increasingly important, according to Charles Fombrun, professor of management at New York University‘s Stern School of Business. He says that reputation is becoming central in the language of strategy and competition, rather than in the old language of public relations.

He states that a strong reputation can help a company: attract resources (e.g., new employees, customers, and investors); improve employee loyalty and morale; secure customer retention and loyalty; develop a competitive advantage; and increase sales and income. Executives around the world overwhelmingly agree that, when several companies‘ products or services are similar in quality and price, corporate image often determines which company customers do business with ―The majority of executives also agree that companies with strong reputations can charge more for their products and services.

Here are some key questions to ask about managing reputation in your organisation:

  • What kinds of proactive steps should companies take to augment their reputations?
  • What aspects of reputation risk are unmanageable?
  • Who are the key players in managing a company’s reputation? (The need for a systemic approach)
  • How should a company’s organization reflect its interest in preserving and enhancing its position? What level of risk assessment is expected and how should companies approach this task?
  • How can a company identify key risks, analyze their root causes, and take proactive steps to preserve the corporate reputation?
  • How can a company’s regular risk assessment process help to point out particularly critical areas that could affect reputation?

If reputation risk is any action, event or circumstance that could adversely or beneficially impact on an organization‘s reputation‘, the drivers of reputation, and sources of potential risk, need to be identified, analysed and managed.

To learn how to do this attend one of our training seminars.