I’m certain that most people will agree that there are many lessons to be learned in how the 2016 presidential election has played out thus far. But there is one thing for sure that leaders of businesses in any industry can learn. It’s the importance of reputation management.
There is no better example then that of the leaked video and audio of the Republican nominee for president saying things that no one would want someone to hear about how he treats women. Some of his supporters have made the excuse that these were private moments and even Trump characterized his statements as “locker room banter.” However, one thing people have failed to recognize is that if you are not in the privacy of your home or office everything is fair game to be heard especially when you are willingly wearing a microphone (live or not) control by an entertainment news program. This is not about politics or entertainment– it's about common sense.
Let's focus on the fundamentals of reputation management. Anyone who is conducting business out in the world is a public figure. Whether it’s you’re attending a conference, workshop, or networking event you are now out in the public which makes you susceptible to public scrutiny. This is why it is extremely important that you understand that how you carry yourself out in public becomes a part of your reputation and everybody is watching whether you think so or not. Most notably, when you decide to appear on a television news program and agree to have a microphone on your body you are now subject to being monitored/recorded at anytime. Now with this understanding, I urge anyone putting on a microphone provided by a third party organization to carefully choose their words. The essence of reputation management is being focused on your actions and words at all times – no matter the situation. Your reputation IS your most valuable asset – not your office, your equipment, vehicles, your home, your logo, your finances - because none of them can survive if you’re reputation is ruined. Just ask Bernie Madoff or Bill Cosby.
Why Business Leaders from All Walks of Life Must be Chief Reputation Officers
As a public relations professional for nearly 20 years, I can tell you there is no excuse for presenting yourself in a negative way around anyone. That’s why it troubles me to hear the excuses being offered by Mr. Trump and his supporters that he was not a politician in 2005 as to why they feel it was “acceptable at the time” that he made those lewd comments that we’ve now heard. I’m calling into question his media training and legal advisers on this one. He operates an enterprise worth billions with employees all over the world – the liability alone of a CEO or Chairman of a company making these comments to ANYONE at ANYTIME would make most Chief Legal Officers turn in their resignations. What self-respecting officer of the court could defend such reckless behavior? My guess not many. It’s probably why you don’t see his corporates lawyers defending him in the media.
So What Can YOU do?
If you want to be in commerce for long time it is important to maintain a personal brand that your intended audience will revere for many years no matter what your endeavors are over time. You might ask “how can you do this?” One way is to always carry yourself in the way that you want people to see you at all times and never let your guard down out in public, even when you believe you are in a private situation (if there are microphones or recording devices you have been warned). If you want to be known as a good corporate citizen always be charitable, if you want to be known as an expert present yourself as a thought leader, if you want to be known as a business person with integrity always keep your word – you get my point.
Above all else, keep your personal beliefs, matters and behaviors private. And by private I mean not in a public place, not on a television set, not on line at the supermarket, not on social media, Twitter, not on the golf course and most importantly, not while you are miked by a national entertainment television program on bus a with a reporter and a TV crew. Don’t talk about your personal behaviors in public with people outside of your organization who are not your close confidants. It just takes one “not so innocent" slip to turn your world upside down.
When you're a CEO or top decision maker of a company of ANY SIZE you must also be your very own Chief Reputation Officer because the future viability, liability, success and livelihood of your employees depends on it.
Note: These are my professional beliefs about reputation management and I approve this message.
About the Author:
Shakira M. Brown is a 13 time award-winning PR and Marketing expert and the Managing Principal and CEO of SMB Strategic Media LLC (http://pradviser.net), a boutique communications firm specializing in providing affordable public relations, branding, content development, social media management and search engine optimization for small and middle market businesses. Her firm also offers three month One-on-One Private Intensive Brand Coaching to small business owners wishing to take their brands to the next level affordably. Shakira, also known as The Small Biz Whisperer and hosts a weekly podcast titled, the Moment Masters Show available on iTunes and Google Play. She is also the co-founder of Growth & Success Con, a one day conference premiering in March 2017 featuring over 20 small business experts to help small business learn the skills they need in one place. For more information visit http://growthsuccesscon.com.