WHEN economists say that a human being has insatiable needs; and when one considers Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; and the propensity of most Zambians to acquire material things, one understands why personal, organisation and our nation’s reputation is increasingly at stake as a result of many immoral, illegal and other vices common in our society.
One can argue that there is too much deceit, nepotism, tribalism, fraud, pilfering and corruption in our society. How do all such affect one’s or organisation’s or national reputation?
Annually, and for some decades now, the auditor general (AG)’s reports reveal shocking figures of misappropriation and misapplication of public funds almost in all government ministries. Procurement related transactions seem to be at centre-stage of such malpractices. Some law enforcement related officers seem to have developed high appetite for malpractices in official duties.
Accusations and counter-accusations in some organisations and in politics; and some scandals of various types in some private and public sector organisations that we learn about are some signs that we are not managing our reputation properly at personal, organisation and at national levels. But not managing one’s or an organisation’s reputation effectively can be costly to oneself or to an organisation concerned.
All such issues in our society casts doubts on how each of us manages our personal and official reputations.
To how to manage a reputation in context, good human relations and good Public Relations (PR) are critical to managing individual and an organisation’s reputation respectively.
While it can be said that human relations is a relationship between two persons, British Institute of Public Relations defined PR as a deliberate and planned effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.
But later, it was discovered that, actually, when one promotes mutual understanding between oneself and others; and between one’s organisation and its stakeholders, eventually, one accumulates integrity or good reputation for himself or herself or for his or her organisation.
Considering the value of good reputation for oneself or for an organisation, in 1987, British Institute of Public Relations revised its PR definition to read: PR is a deliberate and planned effort to establish and sustain mutual understanding and goodwill between an organisation and its publics.
For anyone and any organisation, the critical point in this 1987 British Institute of Public Relations’ revision of PR definition is the product of ‘goodwill’ from good reputation which also a creation from promoting mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.
This is why John Garnett, a prolific lecturer and pioneering leader of Industrial Society, described a good reputation or a good image as providing an organisation with a reservoir of goodwill which should be deep enough to draw on some water (support) during the time of drought or a crisis; allowing an organisation to continue operating without undue harm until the crisis is resolved.
Therefore, how good is your reputation as an individual? As an organisation, how good is your image? Do you have goodwill from your friends and relatives or from stakeholders that you can depend on as support in time of a crisis?
Good reputation, integrity and its offspring: goodwill aren’t awarded to a person or an organisation from a one off event, action or statement or all such at a time. Integrity and goodwill are a product of a long-term daunting tasks, sacrifice and in most cases suffering for others; supported by careful thought and communication with others at all times.
This is why when people say: ‘Niwanthu waja’(that person is good); it means that person concerned has done a lot of tasking duties for others at a high cost while suffering to serve the interests of others. This is what you, I and many other leaders in civic, religious and other organisational leadership are supposed to do to contribute to making Mother Zambia a better place to live in. A country cannot be a better place to live if its citizens don’t value good reputation at every personal and official level.
In short, good reputation is a product of being honest, objective, factual and fair with others and with each organisation you deal with at all times. Additionally, one should know what other people in that community or an organisation’s stakeholders like or don’t like. Knowing and responding favourably to others’, community members’ or to society’s needs or addressing some or all their challenges adds value to one’s or an organisation’s reputation. Be sensitive to other people’s needs at all times. Sacrifice to serve others. This is what good leadership at every levels entails. Good leadership leads to good reputation. And Jesus Christ, through his crucifixion; and the subsequent death on the Cross of Calvary, gave us a good example of how to sacrifice to serve others through his good leadership.
Because, good reputation is critical for individuals, families and organisations, Morley argues that the value of good corporate reputation and the penalties of poor one are never more evident than in times of a crisis. This is especially true because while building a good reputation is a long tasking process, losing it can only take few minutes. Then, a crisis emerges.
And there is no better time to promote your good reputation than in issues and crisis management’s situation. While PR is said to be pro-active, failure to manage your reputation during issues or crisis management can be at one’s or at organisation’s own peril. This is why, at all times, monitor trends; and assess which ones can transform into issues which, if not well managed, can drift into a crisis. Be pro-active in preventing issues from turning into crisis.
This is because, as Michael Morley (2002), ‘How to manage your global reputation: A guide to the dynamics of international Public Relations’ puts it: ‘when a (good) corporate reputation is secure, a flow of positive and tangible benefits accrues to an organisation.’ Morley adds that good corporate reputation is a shield in a time of crisis. Do you have a shield in case of a crisis?
Therefore, as an individual, family, a business, or a leader in any organisations, invest in good reputation. Guard your good reputation jealously at all times. How do people know you now? How do you want people to remember you in your family, business, civil service, or as a political representative?
To achieve integrity and goodwill, Morley reminds individuals and chief executive officers (CEOs) in every organisation never to lose sight of the relationship between words and deeds. Morley argues that words alone; without positive action are meaningless. He argues that good PR works only when words mirror behaviour. Therefore, do you walk your talk at all times? Or are you a chameleon who chances colour according to your interests in the environment?
It is from such a background that Burson-Marsteller Worldwide president and chief executive officer, Christopher A P Komisarjevsky in ‘The art of Public Relations(2001)’ said PR is, therefore, not only a matter of communication, but also a matter of behaviour. As a result, Komisarjevsky states that PR professionals are responsible for using communication to encourage an organisation to perform in a manner consistent with its mission and values which, one can add, support stakeholders’ needs, interests and expectations.
Consequently, building trust in the eyes of other people is critical in good reputation management. As Golin/Harris International chief executive officer, Rich Jernstedt in ‘The art of Public Relations(2001)’ states the five elements for successful branding are: (1) one, a product or an organisation should be relevant to others, customers or to society; (2) one, a product or an organisation should be unique; and therefore, easily differentiated from others to the benefits of stakeholders, (3) there should be consistency in delivering desirable qualities, statements, actions and benefits to those stakeholders; (4) build effective connection with the stakeholders through establishing and maintaining an emotional bond. In short, care about what stakeholders care about; and (5) commitment to remaining a leader in doing all the other four elements in successful branding through innovative ideas.
But at the centre of good reputation management are personal or organisation’s vision, principles, values and goal. Off springs of your morals, values, principles and conduct remain as a date stamp in every person you encounter with at all times. What image to you paint to each person you come across personally and officially?
Do you have morals which govern your principles, values and practices? Are your principles, values and practices in consonant with or repugnant to your family’s, organisation’s or nation’s vision, values and goal?
To sum up, Todd Duncan (2002), ‘High trust selling’ argues that sales are made when trust exist. While some societies can penalize those who are honest; and with good reputation, in the long run, investing in good reputation pays dividends. Therefore, if you want to be successful in whatever you want to achieve in your profession, business, political life or in life in general, invest in and manage your reputation with care at all times to attract integrity, goodwill and support from many people and many organisations at times.
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