Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

“Here he comes again!” The crowd divided to let the wild man through. The subject of interest, somewhat but not entirely slowed down by the crowd, was racing through a recent event breaking several different items in his wake. “He’s like a bull in a china shop!”, people shouted.

This term has been around for ages. If someone is like a bull in a china shop, they are very careless in the way that they move or behave, and they may destroy things they treasure. I’ve seen this happen in business as well.

Abraham Lincoln once said that a reputation is like fine china, once broken it’s very hard to repair. So, too, are business and personal reputations. That is why public relations professionals, such as myself, spend so much time in this area.

Public Relations specialists are very familiar with the importance of building and maintaining a positive reputation. Reputation management is a core function of public relations, and has been practiced for many decades. Recently, however, the term is being used to define a process that is used to make sure that a business, or personal online presence is secure. Both are very important.

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. Positive relationships depend on many things, including Reputations.

Reputation management can be separated into three different categories. One type of reputation management is centered around the Building of a reputation for a business that is just getting started. It includes building a good reputation and maintaining it.

Many businesses are in the Maintenance stage. Their positive reputation has been established and must be protected. Thoughtful strategy and implementation are necessary to ensure that a great reputation doesn’t tarnish from lack of care and attention.

The final type is Repair. This becomes necessary for businesses or individuals that have experienced negative publicity or negative public opinion. The goal here is to address any issues that may be causing the problem and to then strategically build a new reputation.

All of these endeavors should be implemented with clear strategy and intention. Winging it isn’t likely to result in a stellar business reputation. Those who have a gold star reputation work at it daily and are ever mindful of the value their reputation provides to the bottom line.

Online reputation management is a different bird, but related. It is a very labor intensive process and will take some time. It involves direct oversight on regular basis of all business presences online as well as references to the business. Online reputation management involves not only making sure that your customers and clients can find you, and know what you are about, but it also includes battling any negative posts that may impact your business reputation. A great deal of activity is taking place in this area as it relates to online reviews – a topic for another column.

So, what are the factors that influence how a public perceives a business’s reputation? At the top of the chart are honesty and credibility. Other factors such as these ease of doing business with you, your value propositions, community involvement, and of course stellar products and services provide the blueprint upon which to build your reputation.

Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes china gets broken. The key to success is never forgetting how important your reputation is. If you make mistakes own up to them. Get the glue out and repair the broken china. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t be the bull in the china shop!

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or Linked In.

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