106: Reputation is everyone’s business
We are never detached from our reputation. It is a part of us, all day, every day. The media and social media are increasingly willing to explore all aspects of the personal as well as professional. So, what should we do to prepare ourselves?
Many individuals would never have previously considered themselves high-profile enough to have to worry about being in the spotlight. They will not have courted attention. Others may have had a certain level of ‘fame’ because of their business or charity work but did not consider that that should ever have an impact on their personal affairs.
The story has changed. It is impossible to compartmentalise any aspects of one’s life and sometimes the media spotlight can arrive not because of the person involved but because of the activity or actions taken.
The recent Pandora Papers provided a clear demonstration that matters some would have considered private and confidential are of huge media interest. The leaks delivered a media spotlight that many were unprepared for.
The spotlight can also come because of actions taken in business activities, related to charity work or fundraising activities. Once media interest has been heightened, the pressure increases. The personal and professional merge. Especially in a crisis, the need to deal with the media can take over your life entirely.
But it is not just the media or social media who may show interest. Politicians and government will invariably get involved as well if the issue is big enough. The outcry that ‘something must be done’ can outweigh all other considerations.
This can all seem deeply unfair, and very often is, but is perfectly understandable if we take a moment to consider the motivations involved. The media will look for links and connections to keep the story going. ‘Baddies’ need to be painted as ever worse. If government doesn’t then take appropriate action, they are portrayed as weak and ineffective so undeserving of re-election.
The ramifications for individuals, families, charities, and businesses alike are to think ahead and prepare.
So, what should you do to prepare yourselves?
- Know who to call – always get a team of advisers in place in advance of ever needing them. Trying to pull together people at the last minute when you are under pressure just adds to the stress. It is also better that you trust the team and that takes time to develop.
- Be honest with yourself – it is always easier to ask ourselves difficult questions before anyone else does. By doing that, you can then act. This should be in all aspects of our lives. Don’t think in terms of distinct work or personal life. Poor behaviour or actions on your part gives implicit permission to the media, or others, to dig around.
- Recognise that secrets never stay hidden – whether it is a leak, whistle-blower, or anonymous source, always consider that information can become public. That enables you to think about what you would do if it became public.
- Keep an eye on the future – it is perfectly possible that actions taken years ago are no longer considered acceptable. Past actions are fair game as well. By monitoring the media, politics and activist groups, you can think ahead about where future pressure will come from. That enables you to prepare but also if you need to show that changes have been made since then.
- Always have reputation in mind – never lose sight of what the impact of reputation damage could be for you. That helps when it comes to taking decisions and making sure that all the potential risks are considered.
Many individuals and organisations can become very defensive when their reputations are under attack. Whilst that is perfectly understandable, it can lead to confrontation and can make matters worse. In matters of reputation, the approach always must be constructive.
Preparation is always key.