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Look after your reputation

THE POWER of reputation has been very evident in the news recently. Like it or not, we have all witnessed the collapse of the reputations of the three female Celebrity Big Brother housemates.

It was cringe-making TV… these very naïve women were oblivious to the damage they were doing to their reputations and subsequently to themselves.

Reputation is powerful but how many of us stop to consider just how powerful? Many decisions we make in our personal and business lives are based on reputation: the restaurants we eat in, the solicitor we use, where we shop and in business, if a company or an individual has a good reputation, it will undoubtedly influence our decision to work or be associated with them.

And this is where public relations sits in business. Public relations is about reputation: what you say, what you do and what others say about you. The practice of public relations is the discipline that looks after reputation.

Reputation has to be earned through providing quality products, good services and customer care and is vulnerable and critical to the actions, statements and behaviour of your business.

Your audiences all play a significant role in shaping and maintaining your company’s reputation and this includes your employees so work closely with your human resources team and ensure your internal communications procedures are working well.

To start on your journey of putting reputation management at the top of your board room agenda, here are six main elements that are essential to maintain an effective reputation:
Vision You need to have a clear and consistent vision that can be easily communicated to staff and stakeholders. And that vision needs to be put into practice.

Don’t forget your internal communications; staff need the communication tools and the encouragement in order to become ambassadors for the organisation.

Good stakeholder engagement Know and understand your key stakeholders – those people that influence your company’s ability to perform and succeed. Maintaining a strong relationship with them is central to building good reputation.

A strong and consistent brand Recent studies show a strong and direct link between the reputations and brands of companies, the trust and emotions they generate among stakeholders, including employees and overall financial performance.

Companies such as Virgin, Nokia and Tesco have leveraged their unique corporate reputations to create super brands and used these to gain and sustain competitive advantage over their rivals. But as importantly, when the going gets tough, positive corporate reputations help organisations defend their hard-won success where others with lesser reputations might fail.

Customer focus and delivery
Listen to your customers and stakeholders and build responses into your strategies and ensure that services are delivered in a way that meets your customer needs.

You may be in a business where you need to consult with the public and other stakeholders. Ensure you have a feedback system and explain the impact that the consultation had on your final course of action.

Effective risk management and crisis communications
On how you handle a crisis can reputations be won or lost. Know what risks you face and ensure crisis management procedures are in place. Get experts in if need be to advise you on crisis management.

It is far cheaper to invest financially now before a crisis occurs. After all, can you put a price on loss of reputation?

The public relations role of managing reputation is on-going and must constantly be monitored and assessed which is why PR is so important and not limited to writing press releases and getting your name in the paper.

A company has to live the reputation it wants to have.

For more information, visit www.jardine-michelson.com