Preventing Crisis

Why I Drank the Reputation Management Kool-Aid

Ashlyn Brewer



My degree is in journalism.  My emphasis was strategic communication. My favorite courses were in public relations. My title is marketing associate.

There’s a lot of words to describe the kind of work a firm like Standing Partnership does. But my favorite – and what we are proud to center our work around – is reputation management.

I first learned the term when I interviewed at Standing Partnership. Honestly, I didn’t have a clue what it meant. I figured it had something to do with dealing with controversial clients and moved on, mostly referring to my work as “strategic communications.”

Last year, when I got the opportunity to guide our website re-launch, I realized I was going to have to wrap my head around this reputation management thing. I needed more information – or at least enough to be able to make a case to bury the term on our website and lead with something more familiar. Or, so I thought…

Following a long, energizing conversation with our firm’s leadership, I started reading all the material they had accumulated. After diving into that material, the lightbulb went on. I drank the Kool-Aid. I became a full-fledged reputation management convert and helped shepherd a website completely centered around the concept. Today I’m proud that our website doesn’t, as I had originally planned (plotted?), hedge its bets and dilute reputation management with terms like strategic communications.

Why did I fall in love with the reputation concept?

  • Because reputation is multi-disciplinary. Reputation incorporates operational issues – like whether or not your product works – social ones – like whether your product is made under fair labor practices – and financial ones – like whether you make money for your shareholders or not.
  • Reputation is long-term.  Buzz is fun, but it doesn’t last. It’s always fun to watch Apple launch a new product, even in a post-Steve Jobs/black turtleneck world. But they have to do it every few months to maintain the buzz. And, as a professional, I was much more interested in how they responded to concerns over their labor practices and Foxconn in China.  (Oh, and by the way, reputation is why Apple’s buzz-filled product launches are a bigger deal than, say, Nokia’s.)
  • And, lastly, reputation management is real. In today’s business climate, people are very hesitant to grant their trust to any big organization, whether it’s a corporation, NGO, health system or educational institution. Smart organizations are recognizing that trend, and looking at how they can build their reputation – and thus trust – with the people that matter most to them.

I’ve really enjoyed learning more about this topic, and am proud that Standing Partnership recently launched a whitepaper about it. If you have time, it’s definitely worth reading. I wasn’t sure about the topic once, either. So, go ahead, download it. The Kool-Aid is waiting.

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