The Rage Within: Ready for Proactive Reputation Management?
Company collapses, lying CEO’s, accountant scandals, bad public relations, information leaks, dissemination of misinformation and so on. The public is outraged, and organizations are on the defensive. Modern organizations are in continual confrontations with the various publics. Organizational crises always come as a surprise. Usually, they are only dealt with once they have become inflamed. This is not good enough. Problems should be dealt with before they become crises. For this, we have proactive reputation management.
In the throes of proactive reputation management are the issues that affect an organization without yet being a crisis, but the ones that also have the potential to become a crisis. A particularly virulent issue is outrage directed against an organization. By their nature, organizations are subject to public inspection and dissection. The public is continually interpreting whether an organization is doing the right thing and whether it is doing things right. Public outrage increases when the actions of an organization do not meet with their expectations.
In its most basic form, proactive reputation management entails finding out what is happening and deciding what is important and what is not. It means knowing the public mood and taking care of public relations. Proactive reputation management can be used to build bridges between an organization and the public in order to create continuous, long-term and ethically strong interaction. The supporting structure for this kind of interactive bridge consists of operational actions and active communications systems.
Proactive reputation management is ongoing, 24/7 scanning of operational environment and it should be based on continual dialogue and uninterrupted interaction with the various publics. Still many organizations think that emergency instructions that are printed and filed in a folder are enough to ensure security. It is indeed good to have these at your disposal, but it is dangerous to become too complacent. Inflexible instruction manuals are nothing but an archive of empty words when it comes to crisis situations demanding speedy reactions.
Put out the spark
Successful proactive reputation management is built on three cornerstones: awareness, awareness and awareness. An organization that dozes off is doomed. Awareness means systematically collecting information about changes in the economy, technology, society and culture, as well as changes in public reactions and opinions. There are no ready made charts for sounding out these changes. What is essential, instead, is translating this information into knowledge, and refining this knowledge into wisdom. Increasing information is easy; distilling it is much harder.
Organizations must have a good nose for sniffing out new trends and determining which way the world is moving in. The future is always uncertain, but you still have to prepare for it. The most valuable asset is the ability to listen. While the public may appear on the surface to be calm, there is a rage within. Even the smallest changes affecting the environment can become tomorrow’s problem number one. Without outrage there are no crises. The most important task of proactive reputation management is to put out the spark before it erupts into flames.