Sunday, January 25, 2015

Five Tactics for Reputation Management

Since I've been on a roll talking about some of the less known things about me, I found it hard to depart from this (kind of) lifestyle take on marketing.

Reputation Management is a small segment, a subspecialty really, that I've gotten to know better over the years as a consultant. Just like preventing fires, it's easier to clean up the brush before the fire starts than to put it out once it's ablaze. I never thought I'd be one who would be interested in helping people dig their way out of trouble. However, I've found out that I'm pretty good at it - and - it's actually quite fun! It's a challenge, and, it's a worthwhile pursuit to help those who have made some truly honest mistakes.

Here are Five Tactics for Reputation Management.

1. Dig down deep.
Prevention is a big word. Sadly, most people don't know how to truly approach it. Simply managing risk factors and identifying clusters of interest will not actually prevent fires. However, identifying old tinder which could easily conflagrate with the tiniest and most insignificant spark? Now you're being proactive about prevention.

When I say "Dig down deep," I mean you need to dig down deep into your own past and reputation. This is typically a humbling and rather uncomfortable exercise. As your platform expands, whatever is in your past, you need to begin acknowledging it (especially while your platform is small) or at the very least, have a series of responses prepared should the pieces fall into play against you. Remember, it is YOUR past. You might as well own it.

2. Always have an exit.
Other than not screwing up in the first place, it is a good habit to lay down exit plans and embed them into your daily interactions. While it may sound like a politician's speech work, it is important that you leave yourself some wiggle room to walk your mistakes backwards as you elaborate on what your intent was while addressing how poorly you expressed it. This gives you a way of graciously bowing out of an unfavorable positions while acknowledging the fact you were called out.

3. Double check your double check.
Check what you're about to do/say yourself, then have someone else check you, and do that yet once more. Having sounding boards is a very important thing in reputation management. This tactic saves you from making easy and simple mistakes; it's a low hanging fruit to pick to prevent something terribly rotten to be inadvertently presented. Oh! It's actually quite helpful if the sounding board and the sounding board's sounding board tend to hold opposing views. This will help screen out a broader spectrum of potential hazards. 

4. Own it, and quick!
Feigning innocence or even worse, ignorance can be terrible. If called out, at the very least own the fact you were called out. You don't have to own the implied or alleged guilt or responsibility, but, you can't just sit there pretending no one saw the other guy point the finger at you.

Express strong intentions of delving into the matter and give a time frame for expected response. By the way, deleting posts on social media, only make you look worse -- completely guilty in fact. The truth is that we're in a social framework where nothing should be hidden, good or bad. If you have anything to hide, then you are guilty. So, if your reputation is in question, go ahead and own the fact someone is questioning you. Be empathetic and understanding to their feelings, promise an action plan and response time, and be sure you carry it out!

5. Apologize with your actions.
So the ugliest aspect of reputation management is when you, the "royal" you, are busted. If caught, when caught... don't just issue some canned statement like, "We regret that so-and-so and our organization blah blah blah."

It is beyond critical to be truly intentional, genuine, and severely humble in making up for your wrong doing in manners which are meaningful to the party you've wronged. Be sure your actions can be clearly seen. Social responsibility is seen as a most favorable activity for even the most small-hearted-grinches out there. Making your apology public, highly visible, and perceptively sincere is a very smart, long term investment... not to mention, the right thing to do!

Some Closing Thoughts
Reputations can be sullied for many reasons. Sometimes they are attacked. Othertimes, they are self destructed. Mistakes are frequently made -- sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes out of passion, sometimes out of misinformation, sometimes out of pride, and sometimes by accident. An important theme throughout Reputation Management is public perception; no matter what happened behind closed doors, the fact that the cat is out of the bag means you must now treat it like royalty. Once it's appeased, you can put the issue behind you while preparing a response for the inevitable flare up.

Good luck out there! Remember, preparation will always trump repair!

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