Look up, don’t look down. Think ‘reputation in the round’

Look up, don’t look down. Think ‘reputation in the round’

Claire Walker

Claire Walker

Many years ago, a colleague once asked me why I walked through the office staring at the floor. At the time, the truth was, I was struggling to resolve a particularly challenging problem and I was inward-looking. Ever since then I have made a conscious effort to look up and look around for inspiration.

A decade after that conversation, during an address at Cambridge University in 2012, Stephen Hawking said, “look up at the stars not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed in. It matters that you don’t just give up”.

Such wise words from a genius physicist. I wish I’d known that in 2002 but it was still a useful learning in 2012.

So how can you apply this open-minded, curious approach of ‘looking up at the stars and not down at your feet’ to business so you succeed in your role and for your organisation?  If your role is in any way connected to your organisation’s reputation, think...

  • Do you really know the reputation of your organisation? Has anyone worked it out with a bit of science and research? It can be done
  • Some people like to guess, but is that the real reputation of your business? Or just someone’s belief? Guessing is dangerous
  • If your organisation’s reputation is not as great as some would believe, would you dare flag this to your CEO and suggest changes that could improve it?

As communicators, if you want to build your brand or improve your reputation, it’s vital that you look up and around you.  You must research what people think about you, you must ask. Reputations are largely built by the experiences and interactions we hear from others — customers, partners, media, investors, employees, candidates… even through trusted ‘robots’ fuelled by the sentiment of others, like Google search, Alexa and Siri! Having a strong reputation leads to business success —25 per cent of a company’s market value comes directly from its reputation! But in order to build a strong reputation, you must determine where and why your reputation needs improving, to spot that gap.

Understanding is key

To make an impact, understanding your current reputation and the problems facing it by country, industry, in the face of competition, amongst your workforce, amongst your current clients, and more, is essential to build an authentic reputation. Reputation goes beyond building awareness and understanding with prospective customers. You need to change perceptions with your external audiences including customers, partners, media and investors. When building a comms brief, consider the audiences that you want to target and ensure that you add this as a requirement to your requests.

What’s your wagon hitched to?

Your reputation is not just about the brand, it’s about your people as well. How heavily tied is your executive’s reputation to the business? Think about it, what’s Tesla without Musk or Facebook without Zuckerberg? Similarly, your executive’s reputation can have a massive impact on your reputation — remember when Tesla’s share price dropped because Musk went on the Joe Rogan podcast and smoked marijuana?

Consider your executive’s profile when drafting your comms brief and add a strategy for building their reputation alongside the organisation’s.

Think ‘more than media’

Plucking out media relations and assigning a PR agency to ‘generate coverage’ is just like eating some cake filling, with no cake. Now social, SEO, content marketing, employer branding and other reputation-building tactics are becoming more impactful, and it’s clear that only having a media relations strategy simply will not cut it. Media and influencer relations are still very important PR tactics but when we’re looking at reputation in the round, there is so much more that you need to cover in your comms brief. Thinking ‘media relations only’ is very limited and it lacks the ambition to fulfil the real potential and broaden the picture.

Measure your share

Don’t just look at your competition when it comes to measuring your reputation, look at your share of the conversations. Are you part of the conversations that are driving your business forward, who else is taking part in these and how this all fits into the bigger picture? Conversations take place everywhere, so you need to be sure you’re in the right place. Clearly outlining how you want to measure and what you want to measure against will help your comms team or agency focus on the ways in which they can successfully achieve your key outcomes.

Essentially, to get the reputation you deserve you need to look at every touchpoint with your various audiences. Because of these multiple touchpoints, there is a greater emphasis on consistency in your communications. If outsourcing any of this, it would pay to hire an agency that understands reputation in the round, not an agency with just a media relations specialism.

If you want to understand more about writing a comms brief, email us at hello@fireflycomms.com and we’ll send you our template, or take a look at our guide to setting comms objectives here.

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