Here's How to Reboot Your Reputation This New Year
A Note From The Editor
Think your company has what it takes to make our Top Company Cultures list? Apply now.Apply now »
When we consider the assets entrepreneurs and professionals leverage to assert their authority, bring their vision to life, build intentional relationships, attract strategic opportunities, and create trust with customers, few assets are as critical as reputation. Reputation, or personal brand, is defined as overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general. Reputation creates the belief of an “expectation of the experience” of working with, investing in, buying from, or hiring you; one that will be consistent with what your target audience believes to be true about you and your value.
In the New Year, as we evaluate our diets, exercise routines, romantic goals and deleterious habits, many professionals also consider whether their careers are on track. If not, they might want to consider whether they have stalled or suffered professional damage because of a poor reputation.
How are reputations formed?
Reputations are formed in the minds of those people you interact with -- online and in person. Your reputation is expressed as a belief about who you are, what you value, and what you can offer in relationships with others. For example, an executive who publicly claims to be passionate about helping underserved communities and who donates time, money, and other resources to rebuilding houses in poor neighborhoods builds trust because he “walks the talk” of the values he proclaims.
By contrast, an individual who professes to be passionate about championing environmental causes, yet does nothing to support this or is known to be wasteful in his use of resources (i.e. drives a gas-guzzling vehicle) while he invests in properties that pollute the air, has a reputation problem. In this case, communities he might be targeting will find his behavior inconsistent with the values he promotes, thus eroding trust and credibility.
What is a reputation reboot?
A credible reputation has three components: 1. Articulation of core values; 2. Action and behavior consistent with those values; and 3. Alignment with a specific target audience. When faced with damage to credibility, a reputation reboot is warranted.
A reboot realigns values with action or redirects positioning to a new target audience. A reputation reboot involves repositioning online, in key networking circles, with clients and prospects, with investors and shareholders, and with staff and others. A reboot might involve a new narrative (how value is articulated and expressed), new action (showing commitment to initiatives and causes that line up with the value proposition), or new relationships (with key influencers who can share and leverage credibility and build trust).
Who needs a reboot?
There are many reasons people consider revising, revamping, or reworking their reputation. For instance, if facing these situations, a reboot might be warranted:
- As an entrepreneur, your past investments cause doubt about your acumen and potential.
- As a job seeker, you aren’t getting interviews or call backs.
- As a business owner, your customers are questioning your business values.
- As an employee, your colleagues don't know why you’re on the team.
- Your career has stalled, and you are being passed over for promotions.
- Your competitors are gaining market share.
- You seek more meaning and impact from your career.
Reputation management and realignment are important to everyone involved in business, at every level. Today’s employers, investors, customers, and vendors are savvy to the “experience” that accompanies a product or service, and they demand authenticity, clear competitive advantage, and direct value from those they hire, invest in, and do business with.
What does a reboot entail?
To move forward in redefining the value of your reputation, these steps are helpful:
- Inventory the reputation assets (values you want to be recognized and known for) that are important to you.
- Assess the changing needs/desires/goals of your target audience.
- Evaluate behaviors or actions that may have damaged trust with key audiences.
- List the options for change that you can control and what elements are truly outside of your control.
- Decide what changes or realignment of values you can tolerate.
- Set a plan in place for repositioning your offer and value proposition with key audiences online and in-person.
The process of rebooting your reputation to repair trust and credibility or to redirect your offer is not an easy one. It takes time, patience, consistency, and a great deal of thought to assess, honestly and correctly, the existing landscape and to design a plan to move forward into new positioning. Understanding the circumstances that led to your situation are helpful in being able to redirect attention and rebuild relationships.
What's the goal?
In personal branding and reputation management, the target is not perfection but rather consistency. Focusing on perfection can lead individuals to sanitize and dehumanize their persona to the point of being unapproachable and unrelatable.
Instead, a focus on consistency empowers individuals to recognize that everyone makes mistakes, and that how we navigate those mistakes is what matters. Someone who has a solid reputation built on core values that align with their actions and who can enlist support, endorsement, and sponsorship from key stakeholders stands less of a risk of reputation damage when one misstep occurs. In this case, most likely their stakeholders and target audiences would investigate the situation, evaluate the options available, and give the individual a pass for a one-off mistake. Without such deep credibility and relationship in the market place, one small misstep could be career suicide.
In the New Year, take control over your reputation by articulating your value, behaving in a way consistent with your beliefs and goals, and forming intentional relationships -- online and in person. Such a solid foundation will provide you with the ability to influence and inspire others, and ultimately to create meaningful impact.