Business guide to Reputation Management

Posted Sep 1st, 2013 in Crisis Communications, Public Relations, Strategic Communications

Reputation Management Reputation management is not a new concept, but with the introduction of the digital world and social media, the speed and reach of conversations are having all organizations paying more attention than they have in the past. 

A simple complaint can escalate to a crisis in the ‘blink of an eye’ , which can affect your company's reputation. Having a reputation management strategy is crucial now more than ever.

What is the definition of reputation?

Reputation is defined by Merriam-Webster as “The overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general” Charles Fombrun, Stern School of Business, NY University defines organizational reputation as “The sum of the images of the various constituencies have of an organization” Doorley & Garcia [3] illustrated this well,

Reputation = Sum of Images (Performance and Behaviour) + Communication

This definition helps make it clear that performance, behaviour, and communication are critical components of a brand's reputation

Your brand's reputation is the most valuable asset you have

  1. A healthy reputation supports a healthy bottom line
  2. Market Share (maintain and potentially increase)
  3. Ability to attract and retain valuable employees (especially when recruiting ‘Millennial’ employees)
  4. Attractiveness to prospective donors and members (they have their reputation to maintain as well)
  5. Ability to carry out their mission with relative and freedom and autonomy
  6. Stock Prices (we all remember the "Motrin Mommies" story)  

Your Reputation can be Measured

Davies, et. Al, (2004) suggests that "reputation contributes between 3-7.5 percent of revenues yearly, and that reputation should be considered an investment toward increased revenues rather than a cost to the firm” [2]

Active listening is the most important skill to preserve your reputation.

The public and other key stakeholders know that communication tools are available to these organizations, and now they not only want faster and open conversations with the companies they deal with, but they demand it.  With competition steep in today’s economy, organizations can’t afford not to become engaged. 

The most important contribution to the conversation that our key publics want from any organization is to actively listen. HEAR what they have to say and RESPOND in a TIMELY manner.     

 “A good name, like good will, is got by many actions and lost by one” – Lord Jeffery

If you are not actively listening to conversations that directly or indirectly affect your organization, you cannot respond properly.  This means you don’t even know if you have a reputation problem, let alone implement procedures to manage the problem. Yes, people make mistakes, we are human after all. BUT ..the most important thing to remember when protecting your reputation is that you be open, honest and accountable.  Social Media is not the enemy, but an opportunity to really listen and engage in some dialogue that will give you insights on what your key public really want.  Then give it to them!  That is good business.  Building strong relationships not only supports a healthy bottom line, but when there is a crisis, recovery has been proven to be quicker and often with a better than expected outcome.

A clear identity is where your reputation begins and ends – Know it well.

A Comprehensive Reputation Management is a long-term strategy for measuring, monitoring, and managing an organization’s reputation as an asset.  This strategy results in the management of an organization’s intrinsic identity (what it stands for) and external images, giving an organization a methodology for working to converge the two and should include all major departments within an organization - HR, Finance,Marketing, Manufacturing, Public Affairs, etc. [3]

 “Know Thyself” – Socrates

“Observe all men; thy self most.” – Benjamin Franklin

It is important for an organization of any size to know who they are and why they exist.  What is your mission statement? Know it! What is your Value statement? Know it!

Know the WHY behind your existence

Every employee should have this memorized.  This should be clearly communicated (internally and externally) in an open and honest way, through words and actions.

 Related Article : Simon Sinek talks about this in his Golden Circle TedTalk 

Have a plan & make sure your PR / Communication team is in on it from the beginning

Public Relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on whom its success or failure depends [1]

These men and women are the ones we call on to manage a crisis, because their job is to protect the reputation of the company.  They have training in media relations, they know the procedures and they have the skill to help key organization leaders say the right thing, to the right people, at the right time through the proper channels.

Don't wait until there is a crisis to involve your PR team in communications planning

Policies, procedures, programs and services should be evaluated with reputation in mind before they are implemented and who better to help in this area than your PR/ Communication team.

Reputation = Sum of Images = (Performance and Behaviour) + Communication


[1] Broom, Glen M & Sha, Bey-Ling, Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations  (Eleventh edition)

[2] Schreiber, Elliot S., Reputation (Dec., 2008) [3] Doorley, Jl & Garcia, H.F.,

[3] Doorley, Jl & Garcia, H.F., Reputation Management: The Key to Successful Public Relations and Corporate Communications (2007) – Chapter 1 Wilcox, Dennis L. & Cameron, Glen T., Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics (Ninth edition)

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