Reputation and the three-legged stool

I come across plenty of businesses and organisations that spend large amounts on marketing and communication, and generally they would tell you that they have a good reputation.

Positive and proactive communication is essential, but it's only one of three key elements that make up your organisation's reputation. Think of your reputation as being perched high on a three-legged stool; you need to keep the stool balanced and make sure each of the three legs is solid, otherwise your precious reputation might go toppling to the floor.

So, what are these three legs?

Leg 1: What your organisation says about itself.There's no doubt about it, that's important. But remember, what you "say" goes way beyond words. Your organisation has its own body language that's expressed in every interaction and involves all of your staff.

Leg 2: People's direct experience of your organisation. Here's where the rubber meets the road. You might think you're projecting a certain image, but is that actually what your customers/clients/constituents and other crucial stakeholders are thinking and feeling about you, based on their own reality? Do you actuallyknow what their expectations are, and whether you're meeting them? And if you're not meeting those expectations, what are you doing about it? 

Leg 3: What people say to others about your organisation. This one's the real kicker. We're now operating in the Reputation Economy, where people are more likely to form an opinion of your business or organisation based on what they've heard about you, rather than on the goods or services you actually deliver. As we know, news now travels in a heartbeat and bad news travels fastest of all. So, you need to be part of that external conversation. Do you monitor your environment through surveys, scanning of traditional and social media and other means? This is no longer a luxurious add-on; it's a necessity if you're serious about building your reputation capital.

Keeping that three-legged stool in balance involves the whole organisation, not just the communication team or the senior management group. Those people clearly have an important part to play, but everyone has a role in keeping your organisational reputation healthy. And in today's environment, you simply can't afford to do otherwise.