PR Insider: The Lost Art of Reputation Management

Lebron James had one, lost it, and got it back. Kobe Bryant is still kicking his down a street.

If you prefer a more commercial appeal, look no further than the Corebrand Corporate Branding Index, where Coca-Cola has been the king of the mountain for the last five years. Politicians are the exact opposite because they couldn’t find theirs if it had a free vote attached to a GPS device.

Shawn Paul Wood
Shawn Paul Wood

We all have one and few of us know what to do with it when it counts. What is this mysterious artifact that should have us all looking like Gollum slithering from room-to-room saying “My Precious”? A good reputation.

And PR practitioners, the art of managing and building a good one seems to have gone the way of some of the art the NEA calls “necessary.” The only necessary thing for those, and some of our bygone practices, is a trip to the trashcan.

Why? Why, with all the books, webinars, infographics, and blogs about PR best practices have we forgotten a cardinal practice: reputation management?

Case in point: The #UberFail that is Uber.

This was a company that took on the taxis of America with its surreptitious hailing-a-stranger-in-a-white-van-to-pick-you-up-on-street-corners app, and won. While they evade Chris Hansen and an NBC camera crew, Uber became a billion-dollar business in months! Now, that grace and green is bouncing away like champagne bubbles on a Kardashian’s behind.

With one evening and one agape mouth of Business SVP Emil Michael bragging about hiring researchers to dig up dirt on his media haters, Uber’s reputation is swirling down the drain. From wise cracks about sexual assault to a CEO who refused to fire Michael, Uber can’t seem to manage its reputation.

What’s the difference? Reputation management is what PR people should be doing before crisis communications strategies are necessary.

Who knows what will happen to Uber. Frankly, who cares at this point. However, what this should tell practitioners of the PR craft is that every brand, every client has one and it is our job to protect it. Tie it to a tree. Bury it under a rock. Place it in a safe deposit box.

Whatever it takes, we need to get to back to the basics of reputation management because in a day of social media, virality in seconds, and smartphones at the ready, teaching principles of protecting an image should be sacred. The holy of holies of practices. Seriously.

If not, we will all be saying, “Forgive us, Father, for we know not we are doing.” (And then you get fired...and no one wants that for your own reputation, right?)

Shawn Paul Wood is a 20-year veteran of traditional and digital public relations, as well as a former radio news director and on-air talent. He is a managing account digital strategist for Ketchum PR. Follow Shawn: @shawnpaulwood