Assess and Focus on Building your Reputation in 2013

You spend your entire day helping create positive perceptions for your clients. You help build and manage brands, communicate value, and monitor social media to see how people are experiencing your client on-line. But how much attention do you pay to your own reputation? Have you looked at how people perceive you, beyond setting up a “Google Alert” every time you are mentioned on the web? And what you are doing to enhance your personal reputation?

You already know PR is a hyper-competitive and fast growing business. You live it daily. In the years ahead, PR is expected to continue its strong worldwide growth, moving past $10 billion in spend. That means even more smart, savvy individuals will join the 60,000+ PR professionals, intensifying competition for future projects, clients and positions. The time to start paying attention to your personal reputation is now.

In any industry, personal reputation increasingly matters. As technology and instantaneous communication permeate the global business world, potential clients have many options from which to choose. More and more often, hiring decisions are turning on subjective judgments about character and values. And research has shown that clients don’t just hire companies. They hire the individuals who work for companies. They hire you.

Volatility also plays a role. Customers or clients want as much certainty as possible, as they don’t have resources to pay for mistakes. To close the deal and get the order, the customer has to have confidence that you personally can deliver. And the only way to develop such confidence is to learn about your prior performance, as conveyed through your reputation.

Recently, a close friend asked me over lunch what I thought of a professional who someone wanted to “poach” from a competitor and offer a more senior position. I knew this professional, but not extremely well. But I was aware of her reputation. Although she never knew it, the decision to hire her was finalized in that moment, solely on the basis of my subjective perception of her character.

Reputation is a tough to define. We know it when we see it. Words like honesty, integrity, thoughtful, successful, and character come to mind. I believe reputation is the culmination of what you have done in your life, demonstrating that you know how to deliver meaningful value and results to those who interact with you.

Great reputations don’t just happen. They result from deliberate actions. Here are five ideas for building on work you may have already done on to build a great reputation for yourself:

1. Google your name regularly

Sounds obvious—but how many people actually do it? We all should. A September 2012 Harris Interactive study for BrandYourself found that 86% of adults use a search engine to look up information about another individual. 42% searched an individual’s name before doing business with them; 45% found something that resulted in the person using the search engine to decide not do business with the individual. If you find unflattering comments or articles, in particular, you will need a strategy to remove the citations or have them get lost in the vast world web.

2. During the coming year, repeatedly ask your inner circle of ‘confidants’ to honesty describe you reputation

Our reputation is not stagnant. It ebbs and flows with our performance, challenges we face, and even our internal and extremely visibility. To track shifts, we need to hear the truth about our reputation from people we respect on a regular basis. Getting external feedback is especially important, since often view ourselves as different than we really are. Our best confidants come from our profession. Choose colleagues who themselves have great reputations. Be sure they hold positions equivalent or more senior to yours. Keep the group small but not too small—five or six people, both men and women. And be sure to have the conversation in a non-threatening location.

3. Determine centers of influence revolving around your social media

Unfortunately, there are no universally accepted tools to measure reputation online. Still, it’s worth monitoring over time those individuals you connect with. The old adage, “you are judged by the company you keep” applies in the digital world. We are way beyond the experimental phase where you would accept or confirm everyone who asks to be your “friend”; we now must be selective and discrete. Build an audience of people who will have a positive effect on your reputation or who you want to emulate. Avoid carelessly building your list of contacts.

4. Commit to three specific actions to build your reputation

We are all busy going the extra mile to drive value for our customers or clients. We work late. We miss important family events. But we need to proactively and deliberately build our reputations. Whether it’s three or ten, choose specific actions you will take that focus on making your reputation better and stronger. Use your PR skills to draw attention to your efforts: produce a “white paper” on a timely industry issue; appear in the media with valuable tips for struggling companies or individuals; write a column helping a non-profit gain support or visibility. Three actions are easily doable in a year.

5. Ask someone to hold you accountable

The PR business is about results. So is building a great reputation. Share with a colleague or friend your reputation plan for 2013. Ask them to hold you accountable to your actions; it could be someone from your ‘inner circle’ who already knows what you are trying to achieve. The person will probably be delighted to help you (and it might help them focus on building their reputation as well). Positive reminders and assessments of activities gives those asking for accountability an extra dose of “can do” encouragement, even after a long day of public relations efforts for others.

6. Don’t ask a member of your immediate family to assess or build your reputation

Family members can’t be objective. They know you too well and often have specific goals for you differ radically from your dreams. Accepting or hearing unsolicited advice could confuse or adversely affect your perception of yourself and your reputation. My late mother who loved me very much never could understand why I wanted to advocate before the U.S. Congress. She put ‘lobbyists’ right behind used car dealers (and slightly above politicians). So with her, I purposely stayed away from conversations about my work and the reputation I was building. Bottom line – keep the family out of determining what your reputation is or can become.

6 thoughts on “Assess and Focus on Building your Reputation in 2013

  1. You can live and die by your reputation. As David points out, objectivity and independence are important, but personalities play a role no matter what you do. Measuring reputation is even more important in this new electronic world where false reputations can be created and destroyed so easily. While we all have our close circle of friends and the reputation network we can count on, the world is getting very small, and the ability to influence perceived reputational events, so incredibly easily.

    David, thanks for starting this discussion. I would really enjoy your thoughts on how reputation and trust go hand and hand.

  2. An excellent article. Of great importance is having someone to hold you to your commitment. Remember, what gets monitored and rewarded gets done. This is true in our personal and professional lives as it is for the people that we manage or work with. Good luck and Good Accountability!!

  3. David, I enjoyed your friendly reminder for our industry to walk the talk we give to others! Many times when I am assessing a project before accepting it; I find instances where those who want to promote their product/service don’t practice what they preach for their customers to see. Ex: Social Media expert wanting to sell their services has outdated website, hardly any twitter followers, incomplete LinkedIn profile, FB friends only, and so on with their own social media.
    One suggestion I might add to your suggested practice of Google you own name and business name; do it using an incognito service also provided by Google. When we search our own name without using an incognito service; most times it will bring up a false sense of search. Meaning that as we input articles online and search multiple areas of interest and research from our home CPU and laptops; the CPU and search engines learn our behavior and remembers our habits. To get a true sense of what others see about us; we need to search under an incognito alias in order to get true results. Thank you again for the article you have provided. Regards, E. Michelle Lee

  4. Excellent article! Nicely laid out and concise!

    The most successful personal brands are built on a foundation of authenticity and that requires a lot of hard work! The brands we see on TV, or in political ads, are often so coached and scrubbed that audiences approach them with skepticism, as if waiting for the “real” person to emerge.

    For most professionals, the personal brand strategy and self-marketing process, begins by looking inside (how do I want others to perceive me? what is my unique contribution/value? what will my life mean to the communities I serve? to which audiences do I need to be relevant?…). Starting from a place of authenticity leads to more creativity, more power and more joy than imaginable!


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