Most people would agree that having a positive reputation - individually and as a business - is critical for survival in today’s economy. Once lost, a personal or professional reputation can take a lifetime to rebuild.
I’m enjoying reading The Reputation Game by David Waller and Rupert Younger. Their insights are a reminder that we have various reputations, depending on the audience we’re dealing with at the time.
It’s possible to enjoy a great reputation with one group, for example your staff, yet have a less-than-perfect reputation with other audiences, such as the broader community or the business world. It’s important not to assume that just because you’ve got a good reputation in one area, it's replicated across all audiences.
Waller and Younger also point out that there are, in fact, two types of reputation; your capability reputation and your character reputation.
Your capability reputation is what others think of your ability to do what you do; your skill set, experience and expertise. Your character reputation, on the other hand, is what they think of you as a person.
It’s possible to have completely different reputations across these two areas at the same time. For example, at work you could be known as someone who’s brilliant at their job and always delivers results, but on the personal front you might be considered abrupt, disorganised or even distracted or over-emotional. Conversely, you could be renowned as the nicest person in the business, but unreliable when it comes to getting things done.
The same can be said for a business as a whole. An organisation can enjoy a fabulous reputation for products or services and at the same time be known as difficult to deal with. Or, they can be a joy to buy from but the products themselves leave a lot to be desired.
When considering your branding - whether personal or organisational - remember the two types of reputation and the fact that you can be perceived differently across different audiences.
Of course, reputation is what other people think of you. It’s their collective perception that makes up that elusive dimension that precedes you and sticks like glue . But, you can influence your reputation by what you do and say and how others directly experience you.
Waller and Younger indicate that people tend to be more forgiving of flaws in your capability reputation, but your character reputation is truly precious, volatile and easily changed for the worse. That explains why businesses that have gone through highly public crises for bad behaviour can still enjoy a positive reputation for their strongly branded products or services.
Take every opportunity to build capital across the full scope of your reputation, every day. It’s something many people take for granted - but they'll certainly notice when it’s not there.