The impact of image

A good reputation is priceless

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In a time when reputation loss seems to be all around us and the value of a good reputation is more evident than ever, managing your company’s reputation strategically is vital whether you are a multinational or start up.

But why is a reputation so important?

Let’s take a step back; what exactly is a reputation? It is something that is built on consistency, you are either going to be consistently good or consistently bad at something and that behaviour will impact how you are perceived by others.

So, why is a reputation important? As the founder, owner or leader of your company, your organisation’s reputation has an impact on the people you attract to work for you, this in turn impacts your outputs. The quality and perceived value of those outputs plays a role in determining whether people are willing to part with their hard-earned cash to buy your offering, and that ultimately impacts your bottom-line profit.

Reputations are built on perceptions. These perceptions are not necessarily the truth, they are however someone’s idea of reality and it is that reality which shapes their worldview and what they communicate to others.

What is reputation management and how can your business get it right?

Reputation management is first and foremost about building relationships with a company’s key stakeholders, which includes communicating with employees, engaging with clients, reacting to investor concerns, collaborating with government and partnering with the media and everything in between.

Personal experiences, perceptions and expectations intrinsic in relationship building is what complicates the reputation management process. It is important for organisations to realise that different stakeholders make different assessments and not all stakeholders share the same view of what your company’s reputation is. The values of these groups differ and change over time; what was important yesterday may not necessarily mean as much today and can even be of no significance to some stakeholders.

In an increasingly turbulent economic environment and due to the changing perceptions of key stakeholders, decisions should be based on research. It also necessitates that the organisation is open to the opinions of their internal and external stakeholders.

The only way to secure information about stakeholders’ perceptions and expectations is to request it through research and evaluation, which ranges from informal research in the form of regular conversations, to focus groups and questionnaires.

What are the building blocks to consider for a solid foundation for our reputation?

At Reputation Matters we believe there are five core building blocks that impact an organisation’s reputation.

The first is corporate management. We need to understand how the business is run and managed. Do you have a clear vision of where the business is going? Can everyone in the business fluently articulate this vision? What are the values that drive decision making? Is the handbook on ‘how we do things around here’ easily accessible to ensure consistent delivery of your products and services? Are you leading by example?

The second building block to consider is corporate capital. Do you have the right team on your side to achieve your strategic intent? Are you attracting the right calibre of individuals to help you achieve your business’ vision? Are you providing sufficient training, coaching and mentorship to your team members?

The next building block is corporate performance. What is the perceived value of your business? Do customers understand the value offering, in other words, why would they use their hard earned cash for your product or service instead of your competitors’? How transparent and ethical are you about your financial matters?

The fourth building block impacting your reputation is corporate positioning. Who are you conducting business with? Do your suppliers and partners share your values? Part of this building block is your corporate social investment, are you sustainably giving back to the community?

The fifth block is the "glue" that ties all of these building blocks together, corporate dialogue. You need to consider both internal and external communication. Can your team succinctly describe the vision and values of your business, explain the unique selling proposition and elaborate on the corporate social investment initiatives your business are involved in? The internal dialogue between colleagues is what is being communicated externally. With your external communication you can ask yourself if you really understand all your stakeholder groups. Are you using the most appropriate channels of communication to get your message across? Or did you for example, create a Facebook page because it sounded good at the time, and you haven’t posted anything on there since October 2014?

Balance of all these different elements is important in all spheres of the business, you can’t focus too much on one element, because then you will be neglecting another area of your business. The trick is to understand who your stakeholders are and what information is important to share with them using the most appropriate channel of communication.

The value of research is immense, but the value of regular research is immeasurable. By regularly reassessing your organisation’s reputation, you will be able to evaluate what is and what is not working and whether your stakeholders’ expectations have changed. It will also help you to identify any looming gaps and potential crisis situations. This will give your business the insight that can be used to tailor communication initiatives and stay current and relevant, and continually seek ways to take your business’ reputation to the next level.

Regine Le Roux, Founder, Reputation Matters

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