For companies, employees or private individuals, suddenly having one’s reputations attacked, rightly or wrongly, can be daunting. But there are a few things to keep in mind that can put such attacks in proper perspective, ease one’s initial discomfort considerably and prompt the right actions.
First, mass media like TV and newspapers do, by definition, reach a lot of people and even the most senior executives can live in fear of their power. But recognize that news is not usually repeated for long (and neither should the mistakes or bad service that got them/you into hot water in the first place). To repeat: mass media is ephemeral, temporary and ultimately forgettable.
That being said, it’s not the eighties anymore and you can’t just explain yourself (or have your PR agency do that for you) and then go silent till things blow over. Today we have a well-developed Internet that allows anyone to create a permanent and readily accessible record of reputation-damaging information that requires action. And, since few companies and few people, outside murderers and financial criminals like Bernie Madoff, deserve to have their lives permanently ruined by comments on the Internet, Velvet Talk Management and other Online Reputation Management consultants exist to help repair reputations or least to restore balance in how the public views people. The good news is that, as both PR professionals and technical experts, we can do a lot for you.
Thirdly, those worried about their reputations, either because something has happened already or because it might soon, should derive inspiration from high profile people whose reputations have recovered from widely reported scandals. The key ingredient in all cases is that these people made improvements to how they live their lives; they didn’t just ignore their critics and hope it would go away.
This NFL star was convicted in 2007 and jailed for two years for his involvement in a gambling ring for brutal dog fights. However, he has worked hard, both in his work as a professional athlete and in his excellent community service, to overcome his past.
This former beauty queen – in fact the first black Miss America – became embroiled in controversy when erotic photographs of her showed up that were later published in a popular men’s magazine. She didn’t give up on her performing arts education, though, and subsequently wowed people with her musical and acting hits.
Sprint Nextel Corporation
In December of 2010, as reported last month on The Motley Fool’s website (www.Fool.com), well-known hedge fund manager, David Einhorn commented about Sprint and his recent investments in the company to CNBC, saying that their reputation has improved among customers (and apparently also among investors).
Many people will remember Hyundai’s ill-fated and, in retrospect, premature entry into the North American auto market with their substandard Pony car. Good old-fashioned Korean-style assiduousness, however, along with smart moves to source the hottest designers beyond just Korea, has remade their image. Now even the exalted Japanese and German automakers must be looking over their shoulders at Hyundai now.