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53-55.qxp:may 09A good reputation, goes the adage, is hard to acquire but easy to lose.
It is indispensable to both individuals and companies, and devices such as
name changes and PR are often employed in attempts to acquire one. But,
at bottom, says Morgen Witzel, the only convincing way to win and keep
a good reputation is to demonstrate that it is merited
The reputation of the House of they are not, then a bad reputation will than a dozen MPs (at the time of writing) are preparing to depart voluntarily; more has suffered a blow to its reputation.
Kimberly, The Soul of the Corpora- tion: How to Manage the Identity of Your Company (2008). Useful on the been fiddling his expenses, and the plight to push a single recipe for success.
of the British financial services sector is nowhere near as bad as some make out.
the Courtier (1528, repr. 1959). The book, The Soul of the Corporation, the “something that is very hard to acquire, change might distract people for a while, but very easy to lose”. There is an ele- ment of truth in this. Building up a rep- called Altria is still selling cigarettes ensue. “To change its public perception whatever – takes a long time. A reputa- and reduce its accountability,” they say, entail – perhaps cigarettes that make you “Altria would have to go through genuine more intelligent, or free Viagra with each organisation over time. If they are satis- tobacco industry altogether or, at least, thought, but let’s not dwell it. Lots of fied that the organisation delivers on its inventing a radically different, less con- troversial, way of making and selling cig- www.financialworld.co.uk July/August 2009 53
following an accident at one of its reactors, the name of the Windscale nuclear power plant was changed to Sel-lafield in the hope of restoring confi-dence. Again, this move was at best a belief in a man’s worth, which then, in untold harm. A strike, the crash of an air- craft or a train, even a gaffe by a senior how it is viewed by the outside world.
utation into dust. In their book, Firing Back, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Andrew pany’s vision, but will be ever watchful the subject of rumours and speculation.
them to say, ‘Aha! See, there you go. I The purest treasure mortal times affordIs spotless reputation; that away, rebut. Sometimes it is impossible to doso. In the early-twentieth century,Charles Ross, the Canadian engineer, re-equipped with another make of rifle.
told these were safe. There are parallels tion-building – and loss. We can think of sponsors. Both spoke of feeling let down, of giving up and no longer supporting the such as Royal Ahold or Swissair or, in the reports began to circulate that Ross rifles Othello. “I have lost the immortal part of extensive tests and found that the rifles also invested their hopes and dreams.
myself, and what remains is bestial.” To lose a great reputation is far worse than never to have had one in the first place.
The latter results in anonymity. But when to the point where soldiers refused to use lifestyle consultant Martha Stewart is still 54 July/August 2009 www.financialworld.co.uk
successful relationship building. Another just this point. “We recognise that badly products ‘crap’” might as well be written faster than a sense that people have been on Gerald Ratner’s tombstone – it is what set of principles that they present to the liament are learning to their cost. A third So much for how to lose reputations.
everyone else) to believe,” they say.
issue is speed of response in times of cri- noted, it takes time and patience. One of the keys to reputation-building is visibil- ity. It is hard to get a reputation if no one the circus impresario, knew this well.
age as a result. Other airlines that do not portunity. By constantly putting his name and contrast Toyota and General Motors.
grammes such as Britain’s Got Talent.
British subsidiaries, with its own name.
sical stars. In fact, they have developed fairly obviously lives by its principles. It is reputation of Bradford & Bingley, on the tainability, quality, innovation and fair able people on the face of the planet.
builder so far. The reputation also has to only if you change it to one that actually still seems to be increasingly missing the mark in its stakeholder relationships with refer to the concept of “authenticity”.
suppliers, employees, unions – and cus- tomers,” say Sisodia and his colleagues.
one’s professional title from “MP” to people, not people putting on an act, and “Otherwise, why would its credit rating be at junk bond levels and its very future Morgen Witzel is honorary senior fellow at the School of Business and Economics, www.financialworld.co.uk July/August 2009 55
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