Some have questioned my use of the term "reputation management," so I thought it might make sense to offer a definition of this offshoot of pubic relations. First, reputation management is a distinct discipline and is not synonymous with crisis communications. In fact, reputation management is often used to prevent or recover from crisis.
As the name suggests, reputation management involves understanding an individual''s or organization''s reputation and taking action to have a positive impact on their reputation.

Reputation is what other people think of us. What value does a reputation have? Numerous studies have shown that people are more likely to purchase goods and services from organizations with positive reputations. Likewise, the stocks of companies with positive reputations tend to command higher valuations.

We can''t force a reputation on anyone. We can''t improve reputation simply by claiming to have a good reputation. Reputation is based solely on external perceptions and conventions. Although reputation is viewed as something "soft" and "intangible" by many companies, it has real, tangible value that can be measured. Harris Interactive offers the following graphic to depict the "Six Dimensions of Corporate Reputation," which include:

  • Emotional appeal - Do you hold a special place in their heart?
  • Products & services - Are you known for quality and high performance?
  • Financial performance - Have you recently achieved success?
  • Social responsibility - Are you following through on your commitment to doing what''s right?
  • Workplace environment - Are you remembering that your employees are your most important and influential public?
  • Vision & leadership - Are you charting a course not only for your company but for society?  
Reputation management examines how an organization performs to these metrics and works to align organizational behavior with public demands and expectations. In some cases, the two already are aligned but there is a lack of understanding or awareness of it, which is where proactive public relations comes in. In other cases, there is a clear need for a change in organizational behavior. The practice of reputation management can call attention to that need and begin the process of change.
For more on the issue of reputation, see "Corporate Reputation Study Shows Impact of Current Events," which details the findings of the most recent Reputation Quotient study from Harris Interactive in association with the Reputation Institute.