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The power of reputation management

04 June 2021

Jordan Greenaway, Managing Director, Transmission Private

Using reputation to your advantage

I’m the first to admit that reputation management has a perception problem. Many people, wrongly, see it as the professional art of ‘smoke and mirrors’. At best, a way to spin negative stories as positives. At worst, a way to make awkward news disappear.

This could not be further from the truth. On one hand, the much-vaunted ability of ‘spin doctors’ to bury negative stories is grossly overrated. Journalists are fiercely, and rightly, independent. And the idea that they can be shaken off with a sleight-of-hand PR trick ignores their track-record of besting the public relations industry time and again; don't be led astray by this myth.

Reputation-building as a positive activity

But, more importantly, this mistaken conception falsely paints reputation management as the defensive game of reducing risk through rear-guard action. Instead, reputation management should be seen as a positive, proactive, and, dare I say, fun activity.

On one hand, discussions about reputation should encourage families to think about their purpose, mission, and values – and how to communicate that in a subtle, effective, and understated way online and elsewhere, whether that’s to their employees, their local community, or the wider public at large.

On the other, it should trigger engaging debates amongst family members about how they want to be perceived – as well as inspire creative and sophisticated solutions to achieve that end. This is all the more important because individuals and families with positive, well-articulated, well-communicated reputations outperform those without that same standing on a number of different metrics.

For example, 43% of top employees say they want to work for companies owned by individuals with a visible track-record of strong ethics and integrity; reputation is the hidden, and much-overlooked, weapon in the war for talent [1]. Plus, 40% of banks say the ethics of a businessowner plays an important role in whether they’ll extend credit to the business [2].

That doesn’t mean that reputational risks are not important, especially in today’s digital world where there is more content online than ever before that exposes individuals and families to risk. Only that taking control of reputational risks should be seen as part of a broader, deeper, and positive discussion about enhancing a family’s reputation. It is the necessary, preventative, and smaller side of reputation management; a counterpart to the positive, creative, and productive side.

Taking control of your reputation

So, if a family wants to take their reputation more seriously, both on the positive and negative side, what can they do? 

  • Share mission and values online. Whether it’s on the website of their family business, family office, or holding company, individuals should take concerted steps to give strategic visibility to their mission and values. If families do not put this information online, they cannot complain if they are misperceived down the line.
  • Introduce comprehensive media monitoring. Individuals should monitor mentions of themselves, family members, and associated companies on all communications channels, whether that’s the traditional media, social media, online, or elsewhere. Spotting a mention early can stop small, preventable problems becoming a fully-fledged media crisis.
  • Manage your social media accounts. Families should track down all old, dormant social media accounts. These social accounts should be manually cleansed and closed. Any remaining active social media accounts should be set to private.
  • Issue an employee charter. Many family businesses care deeply about their teams; in fact, their track-record as employers has probably been instrumental to their success. And yet many families do not give visibility to this online. This is a missed opportunity.
  • Publish an impact statement. Families might consider giving selective, carefully visibility to their economic impact, through adding an impact statement to their website or giving visibility to this information in their Annual Report.
  • Understand your digital profile. An individual’s digital footprint and search results are a proxy for their reputation; it is important to know what it says about an individual online as well as take proactive steps to ensure this information is accurate, up to date, and representative. A family’s online profile should capture who they are as a family, as well as their values.

Too often, reputation management is approached through the lens of only mitigating risks. While this is important, it is the power of reputation to give individuals and families a competitive edge that should be the focus of most work.

 Jordan Greenaway is Managing Director at Transmission Private, a full-service communications agency, known for advising many of the world’s most successful individuals on their reputations. 



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