Like any tool, a reputation constantly needs sharpening to be effective. But it can be double-edged instrument that can cut you and severely damage you, if you’re not careful, or mishandle it.
Reputation can be a hard concept to wrap one’s head around. So, bolstered by wise words of wisdom, I’ve listed five characteristics of reputation of which businesses and individuals need to be cognizant when seeking to change or improve their reputations.
1. A Reputation can’t be built on false promises - "The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear,” said the Greek philosopher Socrates. Your advertising materials won’t fool anyone if your promises are’nt being kept. If your luggage is lost, you will not believe the ad calling the airline “competent”, will you? In the same way, your company’s reality-on-the-ground must match the rhetoric your Reputation Agency is putting out about you, in order for your believability to remain intact.
2. Reputation must reflect what you’re doing NOW - Automobile manufacturer Henry Ford said, ‘You can’t build a reputation on what you're going to do.” It’s all well and good that you PLAN to do something great. But if you’re not doing it yet, or (worse) if you don’t follow through, it will hurt you more than if you hadn’t promised to do it at all. In short, your reputation is a result of what you’ve done in the past.
3. A reputation pays off in the long run - “A reputation for good judgment, for fair dealing, for truth, and for rectitude is itself a fortune,” said social reformer Henry Ward Beecher. There’s not really a way to weigh the value of a good reputation, or that of a good one that’s been lost. Your customers, if they’re happy, reach out to dozens of people about your products and services, but also about your attitude and helpfulness, and that of your employees. A reputation pays off in many innumerable ways, most of which you will never know.
4. A reputation can’t be a con job - Author and artist Elbert Hubbard wrote, “Many a man’s reputation would not know his character if they met on the street.” A reputation must be true and reflective of the subject it purports to represent. APR cannot “create” a glowing reputation for someone who’s character is genuinely bad. Again, today’s consumers simply are too smart for such a cynical exercise in deception, and frankly, APR (along with every other ethical PR professional) will not participate in such a deception. As in other examples here, the perception must match the reality. A con job will simply further tarnish a damaged reputation, and it’s simply not worth it. Issues involving the character and practices of your company must be addressed BEFORE “re-launching” yourself and your name to the public.
5. Your reputation can be ruined by others - George Washington said, “Associate with men of good quality, if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” If you’re associated in the mind of the public with a rouge company or an unscrupulous person - even if it’s not YOUR company or employee - your reputation could be hurt by it in the eyes of the public. That may not be fair, but it’s reality. People sometimes don’t distinguish between you and a bad act committed by someone close to you. As Washington said, in that case, it’s better to be seen alone and apart from them, and APR can help you distance yourself from trouble with a clear reputation management plan.
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