27 November 2006

Me..? With my reputation..? Tally ho…

“Reputation” is a funny old word, isn’t it? Look it up in the dictionary, and it’ll say something along the lines of: “the estimation in which a person or thing is held by the community or the public generally”…which makes you think that, yes, as public relations professionals, we should be right there in the middle of the reputation game.

So why then, when I visit Harvard PR’s website and read this on its homepage…

“Reputations. Designed, built, managed.”

…does it really get my goat?

I’ll tell you. I don’t think that anyone should be able to claim that they can “design” a reputation. You might be able to design what you’d like your reputation to be, but whether it becomes that or not depends on how you act and, crucially, what people think about your behaviour (and products, and services).

In many ways, your reputation is out of your hands…particularly in today’s world of social media. So, for instance, Sony’s reputation as a creator of high-quality consumer electronics is taking a bit of a battering at the moment…however much “design and build” it might have done around its reputation isn’t worth a great deal now, is it? And you might even take issue with its ability to “manage” that reputation, however quickly it replaces laptop batteries or digital cameras.

No, reputation goes much deeper than public relations. Reputation is about product design, manufacturing, service, ethics…reputation is impacted by every aspect of your business and, right now, PR people don’t influence every aspect of business (and may the Lord help us if ever they do…).

What Harvard is talking about is image. Image is what you want to say about yourself, what you want people to think and believe…whether it’s true or not. In fact, when you get into the “People” section of the Harvard site, it uses the phrase “’perception altering’ outcomes”…which I think is getting closer to the mark. And before anyone says, “ahh, yes, but perception is reality…” that’s bullshit, I’m afraid. Experience is reality.

The problem is, “Images. Designed, built, managed” doesn’t sound nearly as good, does it? It doesn’t sound real enough…it even sounds a little bit underhand…in fact it sounds like what many people believe public relations to be.

Interesting…many think that the public relations industry has a poor reputation. Shall we design a new one? I mean, if we can't, who in the world can?


Anonymous said...

trouble is, 'image' is wot Max Clifford does isn't it..?

'reputation is far more up-market, don'tcha know....'

Anonymous said...

Designed reputation is image and prone to troublesome reckoning given the appropriate amount of time. Case in point: Mel Gibson. Seems like Mr Nice Guy isn't so nice after all, especially after a couple of beers.

It's a person's character which should build their reputation and not the manufactured image, brand or product constructed to promote an ethereal idea about personal representation.

But that's just me.

Anonymous said...

I quite like this war on PR lingo. I'd be hard pushed to say that Tim Bell is a fool though. Afterall he's been behind some pretty important campaigns such as the one that put Thatcher in power. While you may not like her you have to respect the people that got the voters of the UK to elect her. Now of course, there's a big difference between Tim Bell and Harvard. Harvard is like one of those products they sell in the gift shop. Sure it has the same name attached but...