Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the
real thing. —Abraham Lincoln


What Lincoln was expounding was the value of the character behind the reputation. William Shakespeare took the sentiment even further, insinuating that reputation was not only unimportant, but in many circumstances was incorrect, saying “Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving.”

However, as many--particularly those in business--can attest, the real world operates on the assumptions closer to Lincoln’s thinking. The proliferation of knowledge, options, and products available to the public, a true—and sometimes only—gauge for a
purchasing decision is reputation.

And as Benjamin Franklin said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”

Just ask companies like Exxon after the Valdez ran aground, or more recently, the BP spill in the Gulf and VW and its woes regarding emissions testing of their vehicles. Exxon’s share price plunged 20% after the Exxon Valdez incident. The fate of others still remains to be seen but, according to Leon Bracey’s article, “The Importance of Business Reputation,” in InFocus Magazine, all of the companies “have had to cultivate their responses to crises in order to maintain the reputation and standing of their companies to the world.”

And with the proliferation of social media, Franklin’s comments are not just limited to large, public, media-covered incidents and have led many companies and individuals to turn to Reputation Management, or more accurately, Online Reputation Management (ORM), which is the practice of attempting to shape public perception of a person or organization by influencing online information about that entity. As further outlined by the definition of reputation management, “You can choose what information to intentionally share online but you cannot control the conversation about you or your brand.”

According to research by the Nielson consulting group, “53% of adults follow particular brands online and 60% of users of social networking sites write reviews of products and services. Given the number of people willing to discuss real customer experiences--and especially negative ones--the only truly effective way to create a positive online reputation is through appropriate behavior.”

This month’s Qualitysoftware article by Eric Weisbrod shares this view, stating, “If the product [consumers] buy is not up to par, they will be even quicker to make that known, whether they leave a one-star review on Amazon, or if they report a possible foodborne illness to the Food and Drug Administration. As a result, the manufacturer’s reputation, and therefore, its future, is on the line. It is now more important than ever for manufacturers to address quality issues before their products go out the door. So check out, “Connecting the Enterprise.”

As always, enjoy and thanks for reading!