372: Always be active in your reputation management
Reputations need to be built, managed and protected. That means being active rather than passive when it comes to reputation management. This does not mean playing everything out in public. What are the practical steps you should take?
Some organisations believe that reputation management has to be played out in public. That, in turn means, that they need a charismatic leader capable of speaking in public and enjoying a high profile. But that is to conflate a public and private / internal approach to reputation management. You can actively manage a reputation without doing so in public.
An organisation really needs to be active but not necessarily public. The best and most effective reputation management is conducted internally. This then provides the protection externally, especially if a crisis does hit.
Many organisations do want or need a high public profile. Others do not have the senior leadership team that would lend itself to such an approach. Others still may be slightly frightened by the prospect of raising their public profile. But none of this should mean that they lapse into a passive approach.
What are the differences between an active and passive approach?
A passive approach does not:
- keep pace with changing stakeholder and societal expectations;
- challenge teams internally to reflect these expectations;
- address behaviours and ‘existing practice’;
- learn from the good work of other organisations;
- plug into politics and policymaking;
- maintain networks and contacts;
- understand what stakeholders think of you;
- keep partnership arrangements current;
- build alliances;
- have an established crisis plan or, if it does exist, it is not regularly maintained;
- consider the skills of the team even when members of the team move on, and new people join; and
- prepare senior leadership teams for media and political scrutiny.
None of these actions are conducted in public. They are largely internal or private actions. If an organisation believes that reputation management is about commenting in public, thought leadership, generating media coverage, having an active social media presence etc. then they are not dealing with the fundamentals.
With the fundamentals in place, an organisation can then be more public but only if they want or need to. None should feel pressurised to do so. Certainly, a higher public profile can help many organisations, but a good reputation with the key audiences that matter should always be the focus of activity.
There can also be a gradual change from a passive to an active approach with an appropriate increase in resources over time. It does not have to be ‘big bang’ which could put some off.
There is no excuse for any organisation not to consider their reputation. The cost of not doing so will be huge and may well be played out in public whether the organisation is a household name or not.
Never be passive. Always adopt an active approach.