Reputation Building: Six Ways to Tell It Straight

Reputation Building: Six Ways to Tell It Straight

By Barb Willis

To me, building a stellar reputation is by no means a “one and done” proposition. In my career, I have seen that the companies who get this right are those that focus on nurturing their internal reputation as an extension of managing their external reputation. The ones that prevail understand that a strong reputation requires a combination of credible leadership, social responsibility and a corporate culture where employees feel valued.

  • Leaders’ most important behaviors are transparency and accountability. It’s not enough to be transparent when it comes to delivering company news, especially in times of crisis. It is equally important to accept responsibility and quickly offer solutions to remedy issues.
  • Social responsibility, paid time off for volunteering, diversity hiring, and philanthropic programs are not just the right things to do. They also inspire respect among both employees and external stakeholders.
  • The role of culture should not be underestimated. The best way to earn customer trust and loyalty is to first win over employees, who can be a company’s biggest champions or most harmful detractors. If employees are treated respectfully and trust that their company’s leaders give them the straight scoop, they will more likely take pride in where they work and communicate positively about the company to the outside world.

From Samsung to LEGO, there are many examples from some of the world’s most reputable companies on how transparency and accountability aid this process, and communications professionals play a critical role in counseling business leaders. Here are six ways to enhance your company’s reputation:

  1. Be authentic – Never lie. Share what you’re allowed to share, but always provide the straight story. This builds lasting trust among your stakeholders and helps ensure that they will rely on the company as their primary source of information versus other sources, such as online chat rooms.
  2. Don’t sugarcoat the news – Be straightforward, but also empathetic to those impacted, whatever the circumstance. It is human nature to respond to sincerity.
  3. Address employees first – In today’s climate of social transparency, information – regardless of its accuracy – can go viral in minutes. Imagine hearing from a media source that your company is on the brink of bankruptcy. By adopting a policy of sharing both good and bad news with employees first, you will see confidence levels increase, even during times of crisis.
  4. Use your digital/social media channels to be proactive – Rather than only reacting to negative posts, proactively initiate the conversation. This helps you manage the message and address concerns. In the process, you can also reduce the spread of rumors and erroneous information.
  5. Face a crisis head-on – If company executives are consistently made available to the media, even the most sensitive or potentially damaging situations can be turned around. “No comment” or skirting an issue will not inspire trust.
  6. Position your leaders as experts – Don’t wait for when you have company news to reach out to key media contacts. Invite reporters and bloggers to turn to company SMEs for industry perspectives or trends that are on the horizon. At VTLO we have had great success with this relationship-building technique. Media contacts are more apt to include quotes from your company’s leaders when covering the industry or run a feature on a new initiative. Additionally, if a crisis occurs, those contacts tend to be more willing to listen to company leaders, trust that the information is truthful, and write a fair and balanced report.

Build your reputation on transparency and accountability. To me, you cannot have one without the other. Similarly, you can’t focus on building your external reputation without also developing your internal one. Just as there are two sides to every story, there are two sides to managing your company’s reputation. Are YOU equally focused on both?

For more information on how Vitiello Communications Group (VTLO) can help you enhance both your internal and external reputation through communication, email us at or call 732-238-6622.

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