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Why reputation matters

Written by Lesli Boldt on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 09:31AM
Filed in: Business Vancouver Public Relations Communications Values
Comments: 1

I was inspired to write this blog after an unpleasant experience yesterday with an auto broker who told me he wished to only work by phone...and that he’d charge me double if I ever texted him again as part of our business relationship. The first thing I did after firing him? I texted the friend who recommended him to let him know what a lousy experience I’d just had.

Reputation matters in business, for many reasons. Your reputation says something about who you are as a person, and what you value. It defines your position in the community, and – for folks nearing retirement – reputation positions your legacy for the future, and how you’ll be remembered. Reputation is the difference between being the one everyone wants to say hello to at the party…and the person people try to avoid at the party.

And most importantly, from a business perspective, a strong and positive reputation helps to drive sales and referrals, in both the short-term and over time. We all know from personal experience in our everyday lives that word of mouth is one of the most powerful and compelling forms of communication. Just look at the explosion in reviews on travel and customer service sites.

So why don’t more people – and companies - pay attention to their reputation, and how they’re perceived? It’s a good question.

The nuanced art of reputation management

There’s a reason there are public relations firms out there that actually specialize in reputation management. It is critical – particularly for owner-operated businesses – that your employees emulate your approach, brand and dedication to service. If they don’t, your own reputation can suffer.

Too often, companies and organizations only think about reputation management after something’s already gone wrong – an employee issue, a scandal or a major mistake – and after it’s already too late to prevent the reputational damage. The Conservative government’s Senate expenses controversy, the XL Foods tainted meat scandal, and the current federal temporary foreign workers program debacle are all well-known examples of this.

Most people in business are mindful about things like how they dress and present themselves, the car they drive, etc., as being important elements in how they are perceived. However, many of the same people think much less about how their day-to-day interactions with people (in person and online), or their way of doing business, affect they way they are perceived with audiences. It’s an oversight that can cost you both clients and influence in the community.

Tips for managing your own reputation

  • Above all, provide great customer service and project management, and deliver a great product. Don’t give your clients anything to complain about when it comes to the quality of your work.
  • Give some serious thought to how you wish to be perceived, both as a person and in the marketplace. Write down your thoughts about what you’d like your reputation to be, and try to make them words to live by.
  • Think about the company you keep. As many a mother has told us, you are defined by the company you keep. Now, some hoi polloi folks out there may think that means hanging out with the “right kind of people” on the social ladder, but I’m talking about the character of the company you keep, and spending time and money on those people who share you values, work ethic and sense of integrity.
  • Think before you speak. Whether you’re doing a media interview or interacting with an unpleasant person at a business event, always think about how what you say or do will affect your reputation and the way others perceive you, and choose your response accordingly. As Kenny Rogers so aptly put it, you gotta know when to hold ‘em…and know when to fold ‘em.
  • Never assume that there’s always another sucker out there. Some business people seem to believe that there’s always another client around the corner who won’t have heard about the shoddy work you did. People love to talk and eventually, your bad reputation – like karma – always has a way of catching up on you.

Do you have anything to add to this list? Feel free to share your thoughts on reputation, and your own tips for managing your reputation well.

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  1. A thoughtful column, Lesli. I would add that, where a business reputation is threatened, act quickly and decisively.

    You mention XL Foods which was pilloried because they were seen as being evasive and uncaring. Earlier, Maple Leaf Foods had a much worse situation where people actually died but the company emerged with its reputation intact. The difference was that Maple Leaf quickly took responsibility, apologized and took action to assure the public that it was fixing the problem.

    Written on Sunday, May 11, 2014 at 9:51hrs by Ken Coach