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Reputation Devastation

Barbara’s recent writing about Martha Stewart and credibility came to mind while reading the 47th edition of Deon Binneman’s Powerlines newsletter this noon. Based in South Africa, Binneman — who also just started a blog — offers the newsletter as a bulletin of strategic reputation and communication insights. One item in the current edition resonates with Barbara’s comments on credibility:

Barbara’s recent writing about Martha Stewart and credibility came to mind while reading the 47th edition of Deon Binneman’s Powerlines newsletter this noon. Based in South Africa, Binneman — who also just started a blog — offers the newsletter as a bulletin of strategic reputation and communication insights.

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One item in the current edition resonates with Barbara’s comments on credibility:

Recently someone asked me if I was willing to share methods of approach to encourage operations to accept full ownership of company reputation?

How do you get management to buy into the fact that Reputation is both an asset and major risk to the organisation? A Starting point is sensitization. You have to get management to attend at least some training/workshop sessions so that they can understand its relative importance. Yet in many organisations it is normally senior management that cannot find the time to attend these workshops. Is it because they know it all? Countless corporate governance debacles illustrate that many reputation problems has its origins in strategy decisions gone wrong.

Waterfalls flow top to bottom. Ownership of reputation has to start with top management. They need to make it a priority and set the example through their attention to it and application of corporate responsible practices. Reputation Culture change requires “executive walk the talk” or culture shaping by role modelling. If the executive team does not live out the values, norms, beliefs, customs, traditions and ethics etc that constitute placing a premium on reputation, then any change in culture is a none starter.

An accent on what is important in terms of company Reputational values, beliefs etc needs to be constantly reinforced through symbolic representation and active reinforcement.(a Walk, talk and live the brand approach). The communication must ensure the message is simple and consistent. The self-interest of all concerned comes into play and reward systems must support the changes envisaged. The same goes for punishment of behaviour not in line with that required. Why did Warren Buffett the world’s second richest man and most astute investor and (considered THE “Corporate Governance” leadership example) say these words to Salomon Brothers after the trading scandal:” If you lose dollars for the firm by making bad decisions, I will be very understanding. If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless.”

Reputation is a concept that needs to be sold to management, operations and staff. Every person tunes into one radio station namely WIIFM – What is in it for me. You need to show them the personal, departmental and organisational benefits of reputation.

That’s good advice for any change initiative or activity. What else can be done to show leaders that their behavior and actions don’t just affect the reputation — the credibility — of themselves, but of their companies, colleagues, and partners?

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