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Steps to Build Your Reputation Management Strategy

A gold trophy against a background of gold stars

Today’s business professionals are wise to focus on securing their reputation.

Almost daily we hear of someone being called into question because of a misplaced tweet, an inappropriate comment made or actions that are against company policies. When this happens, the individual in question often finds themselves defending their actions, their values, their beliefs… and their career viability.

Instead, reputation management strategy safeguards against such mistakes and missteps and provides long-term reputation direction.

As you craft a strategy to ensure you’re mindful and intentional about how your name is leveraged, shared and promoted, follow these steps.

Outline a reputation management strategy

A reputation strategy has a starting point and a goal:

What is your reputation today?
 

How do people you associate with, perceive you? You may wish to do some interviewing or assessing of feedback you’ve received to gather insights here. You could ask your colleagues or associates: What are some words you’d use to describe me? For what would you refer me? What makes me memorable? The answers to these questions help you understand your current reputation.

What is the reputation you desire?

Ideally, when you walk into the room, how would you like people to see you? Do you want to be a thoughtful leader who makes others feel empowered? Or do you want to create dynamic teams that achieve more than they thought possible? 

Your desired reputation is the ideal end state of your story – your life – and how you want to be remembered. Think about the end, when your legacy is in full swing, and people reminisce on how you lived and the purpose you served. What do you want them to remember? This is the goal.

Focus on a specific audience

Next, reputation must be focused on a specific audience. Not everyone will "get" you, enjoy your company or find you relevant. Some people won’t like you or find what you offer interesting. Ask yourself, who are the people you want to find you compelling? Who do you want to work with, serve and be connected to? This is your tribe, your people and the ones who must “get” you for your reputation to thrive.

Self-promotion and reputation

With an understanding of where you’re starting from and where you’re going, and a clear target audience that you seek to build a strong reputation with, now it’s time to look at the ways you’ll live your brand and reputation.

Self-promotion might feel awkward (this doesn’t mean shouting your name from the rooftops!), but it is critical. And believe it or not, you are promoting yourself, you just might not be doing so mindfully or with intention.

A reputation management strategy will include several ways of self-promotion and reputation building. All the while you’re helping your target audience find you and see you as an attractive solution (hire you, want to work with you, etc.), it will be important to identify opportunities and risks. Consider these ways you will promote yourself:

Social media

In today’s business environment, whether you’re an executive, aspiring leader, entrepreneur, artist or athlete, you’ll be likely using social media in some form.

Are you mindful about how you’re showing up online? Are you behaving authentically and appropriately to the platform?

For example, do you share personal, intimate secrets about yourself on LinkedIn (a professional, business platform)? Are you only talking business on Facebook (a casual, social network)? These could be problematic approaches.

Social media – like all reputation tools – requires consistency. When someone views your company website, your Twitter feed, your LinkedIn profile and then lands on your Instagram page, do they see the same person? Are you showing different sides of the same person on all platforms? Or are you pretending to be different people on different social media outlets? That presents a challenge to someone looking to learn about you, and they’d likely move on.

Narrative

How do you speak about yourself? Do others describe you the same way? Are you perceived positively when others talk about you when you're not in the room?

If you haven't polished your elevator pitch and how you communicate your value and passions to others, now is the time to do so.

Networking

Who you know can be more important than what you know. Your network is the people who’ll advocate, support, refer and defend you as you grow your reputation.

Do you know the right people? Are there people in your network who pose a risk to your reputation because of their public views and behavior?

Evaluate the people you currently know, who needs to be excused from your network and the ones you should know to advance yourself.

Image and body language

When people see you (in person or online), do you project confidence and clarity? Are you constantly showing up as different people, with different looks? Consistency, again, is key.

Your image and body language (your presence) should reinforce what you want to be known for, and not distract or detract. You should also project appropriateness for the audience.

For example, if I’m going to present to a group of 1,000 financial executives, I will dress up a bit to show respect to their industry and the size of the group. On the other hand, if I’ll be training a group of college seniors on job search skills leveraging their personal branding, I might dress more casually to be relatable.


Reputation management takes work.

In my book, Control the Narrative, I emphasize the importance of starting to build your reputation and then using patience to grow it:

For individuals, reputation risk management also necessitates being about to predict threats, anticipate changes or situations which could cause harm or negative impressions, and have strategies and responses ready to go in the event of a crisis or dramatic shift.

Over time, identifying and managing risks to your personal brand and reputation become more habitual and familiar. With practice, it becomes more instinctual and "normal" to filter and think about your actions, in advance.

As you manage your reputation and evaluate opportunities, you’ll develop a sense of what fits in your goals and what doesn’t. You’ll stop second-guessing yourself about opportunities that, on the surface, seem attractive and lucrative, but which give you a pit in your stomach.

That sense you have of what is good for you and what could pose risk will come into focus and your decision-making process will feel seamless.