Reputation Management or Relationship Management?

A Thought for the Day: Catching up on some neglected reading, we quote from Professor Gary Davies et al. in "Corporate Reputation and Competitiveness" (Routledge, 2002): Davies and co. build an academic 'reputation' paradigm based on 10 key tenets: 1. Multiple stakeholders need to be considered. 2. The main elements of reputation are linked. 3. Reputation is created through multiple interaction. 4. Reputations are valuable and have value. 5. Reputation can be managed. 6. Reputation and financial performance are linked. 7. Relative reputation (ranking) drives financial performance. 8. Reputation can be measured. 9. Reputation can be lost more easily than it can be created. 10. Reputation can best be studied using an interdisciplinary approach. It's difficult to disagree with any of these.  And we don't.  But an outside (i.e non brand-practitioner) observer would be entitled to ask...SO WHAT? Surely, reputation is a simple consequence of delivering on promises that stakeholders value. And yes, we'd also agree there. The truth is that managing reputations is mostly a question of managing stakeholders' real experiences, and often, paradoxically, that involves NOT focusing on reputation.  Reputation is a felicitous by-product of great experiences. Reputation is history.  Relationships are present. Reputation is an outcome.  Relationships are income. Reputation is brittle.  Relationships are malleable. Reputation is static. Relationships are dynamic. Any reputation management exercise must begin with the realisation that reputations do not exist in some grossly aggregated brand index or in some media league table, but within the heads of individual stakeholders who buy, sell, invest, support or even compete against your business.  Manage these relationships well, and honestly...and a strong (and sustainable) reputation will follow.  Give or take some great PR!


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