In times of business crisis, many executives turn to reputation managers or public relations consultants to stem a tide of negative publicity, staunch the flow of bad press or put a spin on events that will make their companies look better. But managing your reputation is far more than that. Many companies understand the benefits of continual reputation monitoring as an integral part of their successful management and capitalize on good news on a regular basis.
Why are so many companies today fighting fires instead of basking in the sunlight of good press? Perhaps it is because from the inception of our country the concept of capitalism has been somewhat muddled. Capitalism envisions private ownership and means of production with the resulting benefits or profits to those same private owners. It is the counter theory to government control. Capitalism is also a theory of freedom – free markets and freedom from undue government interference.
Our founding fathers did not, in all likelihood, support these great ideas for the purpose of allowing private enterprise to take advantage of the public. Of course, our history is replete with charlatans and snake oil salesmen. After all, “there’s a sucker born every minute”. But one would be hard pressed to believe that an overriding principle of capitalism is to milk the public for private gain. Instead, capitalism is a catalyst for stimulating individuals to take risks and seek their own rewards by providing for a free market and private profit. Hopefully, those who engage in capitalistic endeavors are creative, savvy, have a competitive advantage, a better product, or better marketing and distribution channels.
An adage that actually predates the Hippocratic Oath is “First, do no harm” or primum non nocere. Its meaning is obvious, especially in the medical profession. But it certainly has applicability to the business world as well. In the quest for profits, a business should “first do no harm”. Unfortunately, for some the quest for profits is overriding and justifies questionable actions. The potential for profit is great and the risk either small or not easily measurable.
While the vast majority of business managers do not have a wish to do harm, how can a business capitalize on that achievement with the public? Actually much can be made of doing no harm: honors from customers, industry awards to managers, press releases announcing “50 Years of Service to the Airline Industry”, and so on. Naturally, new improvements in existing products are another whole source of good press.
So, doing no harm can in fact enhance a reputation. But doing “good” can enhance it even further. New innovations and developments, acquisitions, a new plant, support for local and national charities, management participation on government advisory panels, the list is endless.
Reputation management is an ongoing process. It is not something that is rolled out in emergencies to provide cover. In order to capitalize on a reputation – first, do no harm. The rest will follow.