Today, I speak with Dr. Gaines-Ross, who is the Chief Reputation Strategist (cool title!) for Weber Shandwick, a blogger and author. We talk about the reputation management for personal branding, as well as some tips for safeguarding your brand (monitoring your online reputation).
Leslie, I, like you, am involved with reputation management at the corporate and individual levels. I see a lot of similarities. What are your thoughts on how they are similar and different?
Corporate and individual reputation management is similar in many ways.
“Reputation is in the minds of stakeholders – how others see you.”
- Individual reputation depends on how friends, family, colleagues, and others view you.
- Company reputation depends on how stakeholders such as employees, investors, customers, vendors and others view the company.
The two reputation types are also about “character” – how the individual or company behaves and delivers on promises. One important difference between the two is that whereas the individual has control over reputation by how he or she acts and what he or she says, companies have considerably less control over the actions and words of their many employees and other stakeholders such as customers, investors and business partners. The individual acts of Enron’s Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay impacted the reputation of the company and its employees in unprecedented ways.
What are 3-4 of your top tips for safeguarding your reputation online (you list 12 in your book)?
- Regularly check out what is being said about your professional or company’s reputation online. Google yourself in search engines, blogs, social media networks and forums. Do not leave your reputation up to the roll of the dice.
- Look for early warning signs by monitoring carefully what is being said online about your company, industry, leadership and products and services. By consistently listening to issues that arise, a pattern of distress signals may surface that will inform you about where to pay greater attention before it is too late.
- Build a company web site that is transparent and open to dialogue. Provide a forum for ideas to improve your company’s product and services and for complaints. Welcome the criticism. Have a team ready to respond with useful information and solutions to problems. For individuals, be sure to read your company’s blogging and social media guidelines – amazingly, only about 20% of employed Americans are even aware that policies exist. If you are unsure of something you have written online, leave it out.
- Find your advocates. These are the people who will support and champion your reputation online if a crisis or incident does arise. Keep in touch with your advocates and let them know what you are doing and why.
Can you give an example of a “reputation crisis,” where an individual got bad press and it was discovered after a Google search? Did this impact the company they were working for?
There are several examples of Google search results of high-ranking executives whose resumes included references to graduations and degrees that never happened. These online exposures can create instant media frenzy that harms people’s personal and professional reputations and taint the company’s reputation as well. These incidents often cost the executive their job.
What are the top 3 tools you use and suggest others use for monitoring your personal brand online?
I regularly type my name into Google and Explorer to see what surfaces. I also get Google Alerts for my name and the name of my firm. And third, I regularly review Google Analytics and Hitwise to determine what works best on my blog and other company blogs. Measurement is important feedback mechanism for benchmarking performance.
I believe one of the top reasons to start a blog and to join social networks is to create a enough content in search engines, so if you get bad press, it won’t be seen. What are your thoughts on this?
I think that most people start blogs because they have something to say and want to share it with others. Blogs require diligence, perseverance and time. As a blogger myself, it is no small undertaking. For this reason, I do not think that the prime motive is to provide positive content to help reduce negative content. As for social network sites, I again think that people’s primary motives are to build communities and stay in touch with their networks. Most people are less interested in trying to decrease negative mentions on social networking platforms. Ultimately, the best defense against “bad press” is consistent, transparent and ethical behavior.
What is the value of one’s reputation these days? Do you believe in this statement, “a reputation is all you have”?
A good name is our most important asset. For a company, reputation is its most competitive asset. Research shows that at least 70% of a company’s market value is due to its reputation. A favorite reputation quote comes from Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, who said:
“If you lose dollars for the firm by bad decisions, I will be understanding. If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless.”
Another favorite quote is from William Shakespeare’s Othello:
“Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.”
Dr. Gaines-Ross is the author of CEO Capital: A Guide to Building CEO Reputation and Company Success (John Wiley & Sons, 2003) and Corporate Reputation: 12 Steps to Safeguarding and Recovering Reputation (www.corporatereputation12steps.com, John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She is one of the world’s most widely recognized experts on CEO reputation — how CEO reputations are built, enhanced and protected.
She is the Chief Reputation Strategist for Weber Shandwick. In her role, Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross leads Weber Shandwick’s global reputation consulting services and proprietary thought leadership development.