A Simple Reputation Management Plan

Tillamook Creamery audited its risk, identified rBST as a concern of its customers and eliminated it from its dairy products, earning it a major marketing advantage.

Tillamook Creamery audited its risk, identified rBST as a concern of its customers and eliminated it from its dairy products, earning it a major marketing advantage.

Managing your reputation can be as simple as identifying the greatest vulnerability within your control to fix – and fixing it.

Reputation management schemes vary in their complexity and cost. But an effective reputation management review boils down to pinpointing the worst problem you could face that you could make go away if you tried. After that, all it takes is the fortitude to make it go away.

Tillamook County Creamery Association undertook a reputation management exercise and fingered rBST, a bovine growth hormone, as the greatest threat to its dairy brands. The Monsanto-manufactured supplement added to Tillamook's productivity, but increasingly the parents who bought its dairy products grew wary of the long-term health effects of rBST.

Tillamook dairy farmers had the choice whether to scrap rBST, which they did. Despite the economic impact, Tillamook earned loyalty as a company that looked out for the well-being of its customers over profit. A step to protect a reputation became a powerful marketing tool. 

For many businesses, the threat that could undo it isn't down the road, but right at hand – a restaurant with lax food security, a medical clinic with loose controls on who can access opioids, a movie production company with a gaping hole in its IT network.

Waiting for a crisis is a dangerous reputation management policy. Enduring a crisis is a painful one.

Exerting a relatively small amount of energy at minimal expense to take stock of your risks – financial, environmental, safety, operational and competitive – can save money and your enterprise. 

Admittedly, some problems are hard to eliminate. But a surprising number can be mitigated, if not erased. However, they won't disappear by wishing them away.

A good New Year's resolution for your business, nonprofit or public agency is to audit your risks. Don't hold back on risks you could realistically face.

With a list of vulnerabilities in hand, assess them based on their relative consequences and their cost to remediate. Most of all, evaluate them based on whether you have the ability to eliminate or shrink the risk. That's where to focus first. 

Taking a load off your shoulders may slow you down in the short term, but you will be able to race faster down the road. And your reputation will be more secure for the effort.