A funny thing happens when you start asking about the concept of reputation: almost every answer will say, in a way or another, that reputation is everything. It’s not everyday that you see a majority of people agreeing upon something, but reputation seems to carry a different gravitas in our heads.
Of course, reputation is important, particularly for medium and large companies. In a world where a mere rumor can bring down stock prices, reputation multiplies its value. Surprisingly, a staggering number of companies bump into problems at the moment of building (and keeping) their reputations strong. Why does this happen?
To begin with, many companies have been around for decades, and in some cases for centuries. Along the course of history, things change: what yesterday was accepted – or overlooked – might not pass today’s legal or ethical standards. And here lies the reason behind the hardships of maintaining a good reputation: perception tends to change faster than anything else, and not every company can keep up to rapidly shifting scenarios.
Perception, however, isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to reputation: facts are just as important. In disregard of what media and audiences perceive, companies shouldn’t incur in unlawful behavior or foul play. Wrongdoing is nothing but fertile soil for potential PR disasters, and hiding behind ancient (or unnoticed) practices won’t be of much help. But what are the steps toward a good reputation? We’ve compiled a short guide with some important questions and tips:
- Who’s your primary audience and what do they care about? Logic above everything else: a company must start building its reputation by reaching out to the audiences that stand right by it. These audiences are often composed by customers, suppliers and external contractors. Being connected to the company in a way or another, they’ll notice the slightest of changes before anyone else does.
- Secondary audiences: measuring impact and weight. Secondary audiences are defined by people that might get interested about your company, but aren’t necessarily attached in any ways to it. This group encompasses journalists, competitors and regulatory authorities among others. There aren’t many grey areas when dealing with this type of audiences: if you do bad, you’re bound to get bad press or sanctions that will affect reputation. If you do good, the company’s reputation will be boosted.
- Facts so lovely. When our agency receives a reputation project, we often put ourselves in the skin of investigators. It’s simple: in order to deliver results, we must know everything. Bad habits, problems, legal aspects, shameful acts, everything. Minimizing wrong practices or hiding facts is a terrible thing to do: whatever happens (or happened in the past) must be traced, known and actioned upon.
- Time to act. Working towards a better reputation is always an exciting thing to do, albeit not always possible. In occasion, damage control is a more urgent need – nobody wants to call attention upon themselves when there’s a skeleton rotting in the closet, right? Nevertheless, companies should always aim for better reputations, and that means they’ll need to move forward in a way or another.
To conclude, it’s good to note that reputation can be compared to a living entity that, from time to time, can detach itself from the company’s reality. In addition – as bigger companies know – it’s practically impossible to keep everyone happy all the time. Hecklers and critics are part of the game, and that’s fine; as long as a company can rely on facts to defend itself from accusations, things will run smoothly on the reputation department.