• Tracey Gordon

What every CEO should know about reputation

No CEO can ignore the public reputation of the company they lead.

But, how do you get a great reputation, and when you have it, how do you keep it?

A good reputation is the gold standard of the business world. It speaks to the DNA of an organization, and for great companies it’s a matter of getting a lot of things right. Sure, a company can have a reputation for a single measure, financial health, management, a successful product line etc. But, it’s getting most, or all of these right that CEOs strive for.

There are a lot of factors that go into the broadly defined mix that makes up reputation, and a lot of people have a stake in building one for the company. But the CEO has to be the champion and set the tone, both in defining the company’s values and what it has achieved. And remember, in a time of 24x7 social observations of everything you do, your company and its reputation are on display every single minute.

In a digital “share it all” world, years of hard work can quickly come undone by even the smallest things that escalate into big things. There was a time when a frustrated customer with a bad experience, would at the most, write a letter. Today, the experience is tweeted before she leaves the store or hangs up after a frustrating service call.

We also have the blurring of audiences or constituencies – employees can also be customers and even shareholders – and this makes reputation management a cross-functional initiative. It can no longer live in one department or with one executive. CEOs and their management teams must recognize that reputation seeps across and affects the whole firm.

Build a modern monitoring and response infrastructure

We know that information flows very fast, and its impact on a company’s reputation can happen just as fast. To protect the brand and help you control the reaction process, you must have an internal communications structure that matches the world outside. I’ve always recommended companies have an internal structure that matches both the technology and the style of today’s users. You can’t react to a negative that’s immediate without knowing where it came from and its source.

Remember your employees are your best ally

Companies should never ignore the importance of this core stakeholder in building and sustaining a positive reputation. As mentioned, employees are not just the people that work for you. For many companies, they’re also customers, shareholders and digital commentator through social media. Care for your employees, and you will find that they will care for you right back.

A medieval English clergyman, Joseph Hall, said it best: “A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was.”

That crack is worth paying attention to – act quickly and with good intention to repair any damage before it grows.

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