Good reputation never hits the headlines

“Character is like a tree, and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

Back in 1980, when Abraham Lincoln was quoted using this phrase, he probably couldn’t suspect how easy it would be in 2024 for someone to play with shadows bringing down entire trees. The catalytic role of technology in manipulating reputations was not even science fiction yet, and mass audiences did not shift opinions as easily as today. But, there is something that the then candidate USA President was clearly seeing and it has always been true: The tree is real and the reputation is a shadow of it.

Nowadays, reputation management is one of the fastest growing communication fields. This trend is being constantly fed by our cultural obsession of judging other people’s choices, often using standards that we don’t follow ourselves.

The gap between reputation and reality

It may take years for a good reputation to be built and a few seconds to be destroyed. It sounds common but it gets more true day by day.

Reputation management is about controlling or shifting perceptions, in a world where perception is at least 80% and the rest 20% is reality. Audience beliefs and expectations related to a brand may change dramatically, even within hours, because of a single event that goes viral or an online campaign hurting its reputation.

Add to that the mass media factor, that rush as soon as they smell blood, and the reputation in question is already shaking in front of the public.

Are you ready to offer them your fall? Don’t give them this pleasure. Don’t wrong yourself and the heritage you have been building. Reinforce your good reputation, protect it like a gem, as the fortress of your dignity. Because in your long-term plan of your projects and your vision, that is exactly what it is.

It is relatively easy to praise the virtues of a good reputation, based on facts that depict credibility, authority and integrity. On the contrary, communication tactics that build a bad reputation are based on stories of dishonesty, unreliability or even inappropriate behavior. But this is the bitter pill that most reputation management firms worldwide fail to share. When a bad reputation has been established against you, you have huge work to do and a very long way to go in order to get rid of it.

Well worked techniques to protect and improve reputation

Is there a guide or a recipe on how to grow a good reputation? No. Reputation management is mostly art, not science. But. based on my experience around the world and in the field of real crises, I can guarantee that there are some well worked techniques that bring excellent results.

Identify the battlefield where your reputation may be decided

Understand in depth the world in which you function. Identify your allies and potential adversaries or competitors, detect their real motivations. Their motivation are the ones that define the real market you operate in.

Understand the unbiased dimension of your reputation

Get a clear, unbiased view of your real reputation, how all your stakeholders see you. And keep in mind that the mirror and your “court” is not very helpful. The reputation truth is completely unique for every stakeholder group. Bear in mind that the beliefs of one stakeholder group can be completely opposite to those of another group, which might be equally important for your holistic reputation. There is a huge trap here, hiding a potential crisis and, as a consequence, a crack in the reputation that you enjoyed until then.

A strongly positive reputation can be useful as an accelerator to get you out of the center of a potential crisis. It gives you time to react in order to come back faster and with fewer losses to the initial path of progress and growth that you had carved out.

Maintain constant alert

In the era of completely interconnected technologies of mass media and networking, nothing should go unnoticed. A comment on a social network, a photo or a short live video which was mismanaged, can become a spark of fire in a corn field.

Adopt an active, short and clear communication style

Your communication should be short in size and duration. Forget the dominant view of extensive communication, with long texts, many answers, arguments, Press Releases and Corporate Announcements. In our days, massive content means being guilty, concealing the truth and using cheap communication tricks. Our era demands clear and extremely concise communication, even though 1-2 sentences, of 1’ duration. But it has to be continuous and systematic. This is the new global communication language.

“Do not cause harm”: Make a public commitment and faithfully implement it

It is essential for owners, shareholders, executives and every partner to self-commit on that. This way, the operation mode and the behavioral value system is well established, reducing the probability of crises that could harm a reputation that has taken years to be built.

A good reputation never hits the headlines, but it is the prominent issue in the hyper value of companies and their products or services. It is also the dominant issue connected to the name of every leader and every person.

Published on INSIDER