Why do reputation problems occur?

Organisations come up short with respect to reputation management for a number of principal reasons. Here are some:

1 . Managers have been trained in every conceivable discipline except reputation management. Many managers with reputation responsibility have not been trained for that assignment. Perhaps that describes you. You do not have the same level of experience in managing that function that you do managing others. Perhaps you are not entirely confident in leading the people and programs that are pivotal to perceptions of your organizations. Because you are not as comfortable with reputation management as you are with other aspects of your business, it may not be at the top of your priorities. In the turbulent years, you need to gain control over your reputation destiny, or it will control you.

2. Because the importance and scope of reputation is new to many managers, there is often little or no program in place to sensitize employees to the importance of your company’s good name. Employees do not understand that need. If they did, many of the contacts all of us have with employees would be far different.

3. Reputation expectations have never been set. Nobody has empowered employees to ask this question: "If we do this, will it hurt our reputation?" Managers address questions of cost, of timing, human resources, and pricing regularly, but they pay scant attention to questions of reputation and, by default, the potential for reputation damage is always present.

4. Far too often, management’s expectation is that good public relations after the fact can fix what ails them. But this type of thinking is wrong and leads to reputation problems, not solutions. The truth is this: Even the best public relations programs cannot overcome flawed policies, bad results or inappropriate actions.

All managers would do well to pay attention to what Warren Buffet said to Salomon Brothers employees when he stepped in as interim chairman in 1991: "If you lose money for the firm by bad decisions, I will be very understanding. If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless."