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A new definition of ‘reputation’

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An excerpt from a speech by David Van at the Reputation Management Conference, Sydney Australia, August 2011

There are many definitions of reputation out there and to an extent they all reflect what is a difficult thing to define. The Reputation Institute defines corporate reputation as “aggregate perceptions and interpretations of a company’s past actions and future prospects.”   This is absolutely correct however we don’t find it helps us with actually managing reputation.  I believe there are dimensions required to be added to this definition to help us actively manage reputation.

De Wintern defines reputation as: ‘the expectation stakeholders have of how the organisation will impact them or their interests”   By including expectations you not only include perceptions but you draw in a temporal component.

Why is this useful in managing reputation? Because it introduces a forward looking element you are not just working historically..  that is what has caused your reputation to be X.. you can work to change and set expectations of  how the company will impact stakeholders in the future.

Our definition also brings a degree of relativity to reputation management and this is important as no two entities are the same.  For example, we have different expectations of a high court judge than we do a car salesman, yet in managing their reputation we shouldn’t try to make a salesman seem like a judge. What we do need to set is an expectation of how dealing with either will affect their stakeholders.

Not only does an entities job play a part but also other factors such as quality and price.  For example, we don’t have the same expectations of JetStar as we do of Qantas and by setting stakeholder expectations appropriately we therefore can manage reputation better.