Without a model to work with, the consistent discipline required of reputation management fails to meet the rigor that all the other competing priorities on a CEO’s agenda
Bill Coletti, Kith
I just happened to be meeting with a company’s CEO when an earnest social media staffer busted in, iPhone in hand, and said, “This is blowing up on Twitter. We have to say something now!”
That is not the time to convince a CEO of the importance of reputation management. In my experience, most CEOs come to the realization about the complexities of actually managing reputation in the wake of critical moments – their own, a competitor’s, or an adjacent industry’s – or because they are among the very small sliver of CEOs that intuitively get it.
Those few CEOs – the ones who understand reputation regardless of crisis experience – want to look beyond the crisis. They want to expand and grow their reputations like they want to grow revenue, expand customer satisfaction, and shrink time to market.
The majority of companies today do not have a solid framework for rationalizing and managing reputation consistently over time – and it is even more acute when the damage is done. They often feel reputation management is essentially stakeholder marketing, good PR, or a CSR byproduct.
Without a model to work with, the consistent discipline required of reputation management fails to meet the rigor that all the other competing priorities on a CEO’s agenda. From operations, legal, HR, marketing, finance, or IT, all CEOs have a basic framework, data, and history to guide decision-making. They take input from functional experts, but rely on a mental model and alignment of that model with the company’s mission to make strategic decisions across disciplines.
Most CEOs don’t need to be convinced that corporate reputation is important, just like they don’t need convincing the IT system needs to be secure from hacks. Of course, in the case of IT, they have a model that balances – ease of use, risk management, data insight, and cost. Our challenge as communicators is to create a similar frame for reputation.
Enter the 4A’s.
Previously, leaders had a variety of assessment tools, tactics, and theoretical consultant PowerPoints available, but nothing that fit into a larger, smarter asset allocation and decision-making model for reputation management.
The 4As – awareness, assessment, authority, and action – will help you develop your company’s situational understanding, research agenda, operational risks, and action plan to recover and grow your reputation and create a model to align the C-suite with the rationale and pathway to reputational excellence.
The process of identifying, evaluating, and monitoring the issues, threats, and opportunities in near real time that impact your reputation. By using tools such as those provided by Cision, companies can become aware of not just the marketplace issues, but also the societal trends that drive views of your company. Additionally, understating and being true to the values, culture, and purpose of your organization is a critical step of awareness.
The ongoing empirical measurement of stakeholder needs, beliefs, and opinions about your organizations. Looking both internally and externally, assessment is critical to understanding the levers you can pull to grow and defend your reputation.
The permission to operationally and culturally make the needed changes learned in the awareness and assessment stages in order to grow you reputation. This also comprises an alignment with the C-Suite with an honest belief that the walk and the talk are in sync for the long term.
The disciplined and informed steps the company takes to pull the various levers that grow reputation. A wide range of creative and strategic ideas live here – they create limited enterprise value if not the last step of the 4As journey.
The challenge of CEO buy-in on reputation is not about importance, as the vast majority of CEOs get it. The challenge is taking that understanding and presenting with a model that allows the CEO to make decisions. That way, the CEO can allocate assets based on a framework that stands up to all the rigor of all the other competing corporate disciplines competing for CEO mindshare and budget.
So when the staffer runs in saying things are blowing up on Twitter, that is an input into awareness and requires action – not just a tweet.