Believe it or not, the recent European UEFA Championship provided the perfect lesson in reputation management. Forget the actual football for a moment; I’m talking about the backbone of the footballing world, its loyal supporters and how they represented their respective nations.
Few could argue that Irish supporters, North and South, didn’t leave a positive mark on the entire sporting campaign, fully deserving of the unofficial award that was presented to them by the Mayor of Paris for exemplary respect and conduct. It’s safe to say that the Irish supporters, and their admirable representation of Ireland, have enhanced the reputation of our island and its people.
Contrast that with the actions of a small segment of Russia’s support base which occupied their time at the Championships embroiled in ‘street wars’ with other support factions. While these people represented a small percentage of Russia’s travelling fans, they still managed to occupy a disproportionate volume of media coverage, and all for the wrong reasons.
There’s an important lesson here that can be applied in the business setting. Reputation is not the preserve of management or communication functions alone; it is owned by all employees as a collective, and whether they know it, or appreciate it, they can be a company’s greatest ambassador, or its greatest liability.
From something as small as a misjudged email, right up to premeditated fraud or worse, employees have the power to negatively influence the reputation, business performance, and ultimately the market value of a business.
Conversely though, employees also have the ability to enhance a reputation and it’s up to employers to implement the right values, capability training, standards and procedures to ensure that their colleagues fall on the right side of the reputation scale as ambassadors.
Unlike the European Championships scenario, companies can’t leave it up to chance if they want to ensure the best calibre of flagbearers.
There are four key steps to creating reputation ambassadors:
- Define and communicate your company’s reputation ambition;
- Create cultural alignment whereby strong corporate values and beliefs are engrained which are consistent with experience on the ground;
- Equip your employees with the required tools to effectively manage your company’s reputation including a compelling company narrative, a deep understanding of your stakeholder environment, and strategic capability training in areas such as conduct and communications;
- Finally, ingrain a cross-company reputation risk radar to prompt employees to consider the consequences of their actions on your company.
Consider for a moment the opportunity to mobilise an army of foot soldiers or company ambassadors, who themselves have access to broad circles of influencers including family, friends, business partners and others. Think, Domino effect…