The Increasing Importance Of Reputation
At a time when trust in politicians and the media is falling, the role of reputation is increasingly important. A strong reputation can cut through the noise and ensure that you are listened to.
Reputations are not created overnight and they need time and effort to build. Putting a plan in place is an essential first step but this has to be built on a knowledge and understanding about what your stakeholders expect of you.
It does not matter what sector or industry you work in. It does not matter whether you work in the private, public, NGO or charity sector. A strong reputation can deliver attention and makes sure people listen to what you have to say.
What people look for in a reputation varies between sectors and individuals which is why definitions of reputation can be a little difficult to pin down. Many are also obsessed with the corporate sector but in reality reputation applies to all.
The list of definitions could go on. However, what it really boils down to is what people think of you.
Some opinions will, however, be more important to you than others. Not all carry equal weight. Their relative importance will come down to how influential they are on you or your organisation. So typically, a political or regulatory audience, main suppliers or customers would all rank highly in the corporate sector. For charities and NGOs, what donors think of you would be of critical importance.
Reputations are made up of often complex and overlapping strands including trust, confidence, competence, ability, standards, and fairness. These components can vary between organisations and individuals but key drivers nowadays are being seen as honest, open and transparent.
That means keeping promises you make to stakeholders—be they explicit or implicit.
Reputations are informed by a mix of fact, perception, reporting, instinct, and relationships. So when building a reputation you need to consider all of these elements. Reputations need constant attention and they stand or fall by the quality of communications.
Some bodies have strong leaders which embody everything that the organisation stands for. This sort of approach can really help when dealing with the media. They like a high profile leader who is prepared to state opinions. A very public profile commenting on issues can also be accompanied by a robust approach to thought leadership.
If you are offering your intended audience something of relevance and value to them, then your influence will grow. Influence also means maintaining contacts and building them over time. So using the opportunities presented by commenting in the media and thought leadership. I would also recommend being proactive through your networking and use opportunities to strike up new relationships. Again, using reputation to ensure that you are heard and listened to.
None of this will mean that you go unchallenged by the media or through social media. They will continue to play a valuable role in holding us all to account. But that should not mean that you simply have to take whatever they say. You may need to hold the media, especially social media, to account yourselves. Again a strong reputation will enable you to do this more effectively.
“We will make judgements on the facts and endeavour in a complicated world to provide our audiences with the information they need – so they can make up their own minds.”
This demonstrates that you need to think clearly about your communications channels and where your stakeholders are as well. If you want to respond to a media or social media comment, how can you make sure that you are effective?
Media organisations themselves too have to think about their own reputations which can be damaged as well.
Building, maintaining and protecting reputations should be a full time job for us all especially in an era of global distrust.
Doctor Stuart Thomson
Head of Public Affairs at BDB Pitmans