Price Waterhouse Coopers years ago referred in one their booklets that reputation has two main components namely:
- Perception- How the company is perceived by all stakeholders and;
- Reality – the truth about a company’s policies, practices, procedures, systems and performance.
Perception is thus closely related to the image that a company projects.
Another way of defining the elements of reputation is that it consists of:
- Images – what stakeholders think of a company,
- Identity – what the company say it is, and
- Personality – what the company is all about.
The alignment of these factors is vital if we want to build, sustain and protect an organisation’s reputation.
Each one of us plays a part in this by representing the company we work for.
The question is whether we project a positive or a negative image? The way we dress, talk, act, and feel expresses this reality of the company to the outside community.
Specifically what we say to others and how we act adds to the images of the organisation. It is therefore important to evaluate what your employees and stakeholders such as the Media are saying about your organisation. If we want to protect and build our company’s reputation, image being just one element, we have to influence this process.
I believe that the way to do that is to reflect on the actions we should use to make our employees become loyal in an era of continual downsizing, restructuring and other changes, and the feelings we should express about our company and what it is accomplishing in the community.
In this process we have to enlist the support of all employees. This process is not the domain of only the Communications department.
Here are a couple of ideas and suggestions that may help:
– Conduct research into what stakeholders such as employees are saying about your company.
– Conduct research into the actions you want from employees (Example – All employees will effectively neutralise any negative comments about our company and work to project a positive image), the methods that can be used to measure progress towards projecting a positive company image, and the incentives that might be used to help employees project a positive company image.
– Develop a list of suggested actions* on how to project a positive image that can be handed to each employee as part of an outreach & training program.
– Meet with employees to share this list of suggestions.
– Launch a formal program together with incentives. This has to be a process of selling the benefits to employees, not just telling them what to say, otherwise it will just be received as management propaganda.
* Suggested List:
– Relate positive stories or observations about our company, internally and externally. By telling only the good things we can prevent the spread of negative messages.
– Relate details selectively. Not every interaction with a customer or another person needs to become a “Truth and reconciliation” affair. You don’t have to confess just because some one asked for the details.
– Make a positive remark to neutralise a negative statement about the company. Support your company.
– Do what is important to you and let others know what you value.
Remember that your actions stand for what you are and what stakeholders believe the company is all about. This is closely related to stated company values.
(Or are you just working for the money?)
– Learn about and tell the little known positive things the company is involved in. Make it a point to discover these and to spread the good word about your organisation.
By influencing what employees are saying about an organisation, we can directly affect our reputation in the market and workplace.