Any press is good press, right? NO! This old fallacy isn’t just wrong, it’s downright dangerous, especially in today’s online world where the lines of opinion and fact are blurred and everyone has a voice that can spread like wildfire. Make no mistake: your thought leadership brand and reputation are deeply linked. And if you treat your reputation as an afterthought rather than a strategy, you’re putting your brand at risk. Simply put: you need a reputation strategy.

We’ve heard the horror stories wherein critical journalists, disgruntled employees, antagonistic bloggers or unhappy customers irreparably damage a reputation in an instant. But it’s not just about managing risk. Individual thought leaders and organizations with strong positive reputations wield competitive advantages: they attract more powerful influencers into their network, recruit better talent and are perceived as providing more value.

Essentially, your brand is what you say it is; your reputation is what others perceive it is. But just because others have a role in your reputation doesn’t mean you should wait until there is a crisis. Think ahead and get in the driver’s seat with a reputation strategy – an approach to proactively define how you are perceived.

Sound tricky? It’s not. In fact, effective reputation management is about being out there in the circles that matter to you, listening and engaging, and being transparent and authentic. The key is to ensure expectations built by your thought leadership brand image are matched during the experience engaging with you.

With a reputation strategy, defend your brand and also help it thrive.

Consider these three key elements when devising a reputation strategy.

  1. Proactive public relations and communications via multiple touchpoints and channels. Tell your stories fearlessly, continuously underscore your big idea, and publish and share your thought leadership content frequently and broadly. Communicate with your audiences where they are instead of hoping they’ll find you. Be present and consistent in your message and tone across various marketing platforms and efforts, such as your website, blogs, media, newsletters, multimedia exchanges, conferences, advertising, etc.
  1. Strong social and direct engagement. Engaging in two-way dialogue is paramount to demonstrating you can deliver on your brand promise. By joining the conversation, you not only have the opportunity to shape the dialogue, but you show you care and are listening. Take the opportunity to be helpful, solve problems, and communicate your vision and values with clarity, conviction and consistency. Build trust by encouraging customers or influencers to share feedback and tell you their stories in their own words. Meaningful engagement makes your audiences believe they are important characters in your narrative – and therefore, more connected to and invested in having the story unfold positively.
  1. Monitoring and response No one likes to hear criticism, but putting your head in the sand is not an option if you want to protect your brand’s reputation. Listening and watching online conversations affords both insight and data on what matters to your audiences and stakeholders, as well as the chance to address any concerns or threats directly. Create simple processes to make sure you know what people are saying about you; and are able to respond appropriately and genuinely in order to bolster trust and credibility.

There is always the chance that one person doesn’t like you. But a proactive strategy for building reputation can make the difference between that one customer triggering a tidal wave of bad publicity or inoculating the public with a positive image of your brand to combat potential problems before they occur.

With a keen ability to take vision and translate it into tactical action, Nicole has been helping the firm's clients realize their dreams for more than 18 years. As senior advisor, she is relied upon for her direct counsel, out-of-the-box thinking and creative programming. Her greatest joy is seeing others – clients, colleagues and peers alike – get to that aha moment, and she isn't afraid to take risks, ask the tough questions (maybe it comes from her years as a journalist) and experiment to get them there. Outside of the office she likes to keep it simple: relaxing by the beach with a good book and then cooking dinner for friends.