IBJOpinion

HETRICK: You say you want a reputation? Don’t do it this way

Bruce Hetrick
January 25, 2014
Keywords
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Bruce Hetrick

In my undergraduate public relations class at IUPUI, I’m introducing the concept of reputation management.

Indianapolis-based Walker Information defines this notion as, “The reflection of an organization over time as seen through the eyes of its stakeholders and expressed through their thoughts, words and actions.”

This isn’t a new idea. In the first century B.C, Roman writer Publilius Syrius said, “A good reputation is more valuable than money.”

What’s new is that we can now measure the dollar value of a good reputation. Walker found that people who think well of an organization are more likely to:

• Purchase its products or services,

• Purchase more of its products or services,

• Recommend its products or services,

• Invest in the organization,

• Recommend an investment in the organization,

• Doubt negative information about the organization.

There are human resources benefits, too. Employees in firms with strong reputations are more likely to:

• Continue working for the company,

• Help the company be successful,

• Feel highly motivated to do work well.

Over the years, as I’ve taught reputation management to various audiences, I’ve emphasized that every interaction—from policy decisions to parking transactions, from voice-mail loops to Facebook posts—can either strengthen relationships by adding value or weaken relationships by reducing value.

If you don’t believe me, ask the folks who run Obamacare.

Which brings us to the reputation of entities near and dear to our hearts: the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis, whose reputations rise and fall like other organizations, with every interaction adding or reducing value.

The difference: More than ever, that value is what we need to compete for jobs, higher incomes and skilled workers.

Walker says, “A company’s reputation comes from its activities—large or small, planned or unplanned, controlled or not—that touch different stakeholder groups. …Public actions and private dealings alike shape your reputation whether you want them to or not.”

Let’s say, for example, our city wants to host a Super Bowl in 2018. A big stakeholder concern is winter weather. The polar vortex and 30-plus inches of snow is a reputational blow we can’t control.

But knowing the National Football League is watching (not to mention local citizens), we could bolster our reputation by clearing the stuff off the streets and sidewalks quickly and efficiently, rather than botching the job, suffering a traditional- and social-media onslaught, and having to play public-relations defense.

Let’s say we want to attract new companies and grow the ones we have. Having talked with business leaders and site-selection consultants, we know they’re concerned about employee health and safety, and the associated cost of health insurance.

In a state that’s among the most obese in the nation, a state where 25 percent of the population still smokes and one with a capital city with a murder rate that’s higher than New York and other major cities, would you bolster your reputation by axing tobacco-prevention funding, underfunding nutrition programs, struggling to put more cops on the streets, and proposing legislation that would add more guns in more workplaces, including schools and universities?

And let’s say prospective employers want to compare apples to apples with other states when it comes to worker qualifications. Would you bolster your reputation by refusing to participate in national education standards and insisting on your own—which, of course, can’t be compared to others’?

And let’s say you want to build your state’s reputation in health and life sciences, advanced manufacturing, state-of-the-arts logistics and higher education.

To pull that off, you need to stem the brain drain and discourage your educated young folks from running off to New York, California, London or Hong Kong.

What’s more, your major employers need to attract bright, so-called “knowledge workers” and “creative-class” professionals from throughout the nation and world.

Having seen research showing that these types of folks value such notions as inclusiveness, cultural diversity, marriage equality, animal welfare, mass transit, the environment and transparency in all things, would you bolster your reputation by ramming through civil-rights-denying language in your state’s rights-granting Constitution, allowing some of the nation’s filthiest air, criminalizing whistle-blowing at factory farms, or blocking even a vote on self-imposed, mass-transit funding?

And would you try to enhance government’s already-tarnished reputation by doing much of the above via legislative gamesmanship, sneaky procedural moves and middle-of-the-night, closed-door shenanigans?

Our elected officials keep telling us they’re all about jobs and education. That’s what they’d like their and Indiana’s reputation to be. But so many interactions keep telling us that’s a ruse.

The risks are obvious. As Shakespeare said in Othello: “Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.”•

__________

Hetrick is a writer, public relations consultant and visiting professor of public relations for the IU School of Journalism at IUPUI. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • You preach it etc
    Anyone relocating to Indy would be certifiably insane. This city does not serve it's citizens, unless they are rich. Lack of Snow removal, Schools, murder rate, infrastructure, and of course let me not forget the inability to synchronize traffic signals which every city has been doing for the past 50 years.(the head of DOT told me "Mr. ___ you don't understand, it is not possible to synchronize traffic signals"). In all fairness, I should add that millions of tax dollars do go to support the downtown mall, and into the pockets of Simon, but he falls into the wealthy category.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Of what value is selling alcoholic beverages to State Fair patrons when there are many families with children attending. Is this the message we want to give children attending and participating in the Fair, another venue with alooholic consumption onsite. Is this to promote beer and wine production in the state which are great for the breweries and wineries, but where does this end up 10-15 years from now, lots more drinkers for the alcoholic contents. If these drinks are so important, why not remove the alcohol content and the flavor and drink itself similar to soft drinks would be the novelty, not the alcoholic content and its affects on the drinker. There is no social or material benefit from drinking alcoholic beverages, mostly people want to get slightly or highly drunk.

  2. I did;nt know anyone in Indiana could count- WHY did they NOT SAY just HOW this would be enforced? Because it WON;T! NOW- with that said- BIG BROTHER is ALIVE in this Article-why take any comment if it won't appease YOU PEOPLE- that's NOT American- with EVERYTHING you indicated is NOT said-I can see WHY it say's o Comments- YOU are COMMIES- BIG BROTHER and most likely- voted for Obama!

  3. In Europe there are schools for hairdressing but you don't get a license afterwards but you are required to assist in turkey and Italy its 7 years in japan it's 10 years England 2 so these people who assist know how to do hair their not just anybody and if your an owner and you hire someone with no experience then ur an idiot I've known stylist from different countries with no license but they are professional clean and safe they have no license but they have experience a license doesn't mean anything look at all the bad hairdressers in the world that have fried peoples hair okay but they have a license doesn't make them a professional at their job I think they should get rid of it because stateboard robs stylist and owners and they fine you for the dumbest f***ing things oh ur license isn't displayed 100$ oh ur wearing open toe shoes fine, oh there's ONE HAIR IN UR BRUSH that's a fine it's like really? So I think they need to go or ease up on their regulations because their too strict

  4. Exciting times in Carmel.

  5. Twenty years ago when we moved to Indy I was a stay at home mom and knew not very many people.WIBC was my family and friends for the most part. It was informative, civil, and humerous with Dave the KING. Terri, Jeff, Stever, Big Joe, Matt, Pat and Crumie. I loved them all, and they seemed to love each other. I didn't mind Greg Garrison, but I was not a Rush fan. NOW I can't stand Chicks and all their giggly opinions. Tony Katz is to abrasive that early in the morning(or really any time). I will tune in on Saturday morning for the usual fun and priceless information from Pat and Crumie, mornings it will be 90.1

ADVERTISEMENT