Reputation is arguably the most important asset that any organisation has. The benefit of both proactive and reactive strategies to protect and enhance reputation should never be underestimated.
One size will not fit all. Small growing firms may want to achieve greater awareness and drive more attention. Larger companies who have achieved a reputation are more likely to want to defend it.
Those who advise on reputation must instinctively understand the needs and aims of an organisation and have the ability to challenge the man or woman at the top and tell them, to their face, when they are wrong. The closer the advisers are to the heart of the business, the better. But ultimately the ability to deliver a great reputation rests with them working closely – and effectively – with the person at the top.
Chief Executives can no longer afford the option of being invisible. They need to become great communicators. If they are not, they need to find someone who can show them how.
Clever business leaders develop an intuition for what’s coming down the track and work with their reputation advisers to create an early warning system of the dangers ahead or when they run into a crisis. The rest blunder on, confident that they can deal with whatever comes at them but, often, the reputation of a company and its CEO are one and the same. If one is damaged, by association so is the other.
Good advisers should be able to help coach and rehearse leaders to communicate effectively through troubled times in particular. In this increasingly intrusive and hostile world, the responsibility for maintaining a reputation means a leader needs to prepare well to perform, not just some times but every time.
Interestingly, advisers are playing an increasingly important role in managing reputations and educating board room executives to achieve their public aims, often acting as their radar and their conscience while making sure they understand the consequences of their decisions.
Those who take advice can see how they can dramatically raise their profile, ultimately improve their business performance, inspire their staffs and reduce the chances of their reputations being marred by unforeseen events.
Be in no doubt that the media lies in wait, happy to sacrifice reputation for a story. The trick is in knowing who is responsible for that reputation and guarding it with your life.
John McGurk was managing editor of the Telegraph Media Group in London. Previously, he was editor of The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News between 1995 and 2006. Today he is a media consultant, adviser to Indigo and a freelance broadcaster.