February 1, 2011

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Article

Crisis of Character: Building Corporate Reputation in the Age of Skepticism

By Peter Firestein

Tim Rush, managing partner at SNG PR

February 1, 2011

Reputation is in the pantheon of a company’s most precious assets. It doesn’t matter whether your company produces cupcakes or SaaS solutions, your reputation matters. In fact, it is so vital that if it is nourished well, it can be the very key to long-term survival. If the past few years have taught us anything—think oil spills, think global recalls, think individual greed leading to a devastating economic downturn—it is that a hypercompetitive corporate environment can induce smart people to do ill-advised things that can either slowly erode or quickly destroy reputation. Crisis of Character: Building Corporate Reputation in the Age of Skepticism serves as an important handbook for crisis management and protection of the corporate reputation. The core purpose of the book is to provide the steps leaders can take to build strong organizational reputation…and by doing so, build up their own. The book uses cautionary tales to explicitly lay out ways leaders can fail to build positive reputation. Firestein acknowledges human fallibility and notes that in failure, the possibility of redemption and rebirth remains. Firestein uses a plethora of real-world examples, from Coca-Cola to the government of Brazil, to illustrate how organizations can manage their reputation in the face of tremendous stress. He portrays what best practices they have leveraged to help them step back from the precipice. What really stood out to me was his emphasis on story-telling and how important it is to deliver coherent, compelling and interesting messages. With today’s technology, visibility into a company happens often whether leaders want it or not. There is nowhere to hide. Firestein’s supposition is that organizations can build (or regain) positive reputations, but it cannot be through a haphazard approach. The building and protection of reputation has to be a central theme at an organization, from the CEO’s attitude to communications strategies to the trenches of customer service.
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