A friend of mine called the other day to share the news that he had just been promoted. His new title included the word ’reputation.’ Half seriously, I asked him how long he thought he might have a job because, at any moment, his rather well-known company might suffer a reversal and be without a reputation to manage. He didn’t laugh.
A friend of mine called the other day to share the news that he had
just been promoted. His new title included the word ’reputation.’ Half
seriously, I asked him how long he thought he might have a job because,
at any moment, his rather well-known company might suffer a reversal and
be without a reputation to manage. He didn’t laugh.
During that conversation, I suggested that he consider changing his
title to VP for Admiration, because that seemed to be a job title far
more appropriate to his CEO’s expectations.
As an observer who is usually around for the downside before the upside,
what I’ve noticed is that by the time reputation shows up on the
management radar, it’s already lost. But there are some emerging
First, the concept of reputation is now being aggressively defined by
management consultants. Second, the effort to achieve meaningful
reputational measurement standards is useful as an exercise but may be
doomed by executive behaviors, employee response assessment approaches
and competition among consultants. Also, there is a corporate bias
toward admiration. It has peer acceptance. Recognizable management
metrics have been established.
Finally, fierce competition is developing to commodify reputation by
management consulting firms and PR agencies.
So, what’s to be done? It’s been my experience that management
consultants work more successfully on the upside. They have difficulty
when things crash suddenly or when confronted with non-operating issues
(those scenarios not taught in MBA programs).
PR, on the other hand, shines when things go in the ditch. Admiration
measures may well become the upside measure of corporate success.
Reputation interpretations and metrics will be used to reframe the
downside of a formerly admired or reputationally recovering company. It
will be some time, if ever, before we find out which is the more
They could even co-exist. If it’s truly important, the CEO will
Do managers really care? Fortune magazine says that its annual ’Most
Admired’ list causes the most enthusiastic responses. Could the concept
of reputation generate a similar level of enthusiasm?
In the meantime, I’d slow the push to insert the word ’reputation’ into
your job title. It’s a bit like crisis management; a little goes a long
way. Often those who overemphasize crisis management earn the label of
Chicken Little from their bosses. Besides, if your job is defined by the
reputation of your employer, surely there is a needless career-defining
moment in your future, sooner rather than later.