My previous post looked at the dramatically different context for reputation management in an era of total transparency, and the challenges this presents to leaders wishing to communicate and build trust with stakeholders.

Against this background, successful reputation management requires adherence to the following six principles:

1. Build and nurture trust – its value is at an all-time high

With any given commodity, scarcity increases value and this applies just as much to trust as it does to gold.  Given that trust is in short supply, today’s leaders must nurture, cherish and preserve it.  This means taking a long term view when making any decisions which may undermine trust.  Because unlike other commodities, when trust is depleted it’s not possible simply to buy some more.

2. Expect your every move and word to be public knowledge

Act and communicate in a way that you would be proud to see splashed across the front page of every newspaper in the country.  Any other behaviour carries a significant risk of reputational damage in a truly transparent world.

3. Plan for the challenges that social media brings

A crisis management plan designed to protect reputation three years ago will be insufficient for effective crisis communication today.  Re-assess it, your resources and crisis management training to preserve reputation in a social media age.

4. Embrace the opportunities that social media provides

Many of the new challenges of leadership are created by the emergence of social media, but so are new opportunities.  Build relationships, listen to your stakeholders and communicate in the authentic, human way that people expect in this new context.

5. Earn reputation; don’t create an image

I am firmly of the belief that spin is dead and I do not mourn its passing.  Act and communicate authentically to build trust and an enduring reputation.

6. Be true to your values when crisis strikes or suffer the consequences

A crisis is the acid test of leadership.  When the chips are down, do you act in accordance with your culture, values and reputation?  Or does pragmatism, short term financial considerations and expedience take precedence?  The choice you make will have enormous ramifications for your reputation – and organisational success – in future.

Successful leadership and communication is much tougher today than ever before.  But for those leaders who understand the new context and embrace the principles above, there is a clear opportunity to out-perform peers who cling to the old ways which simply don’t work anymore.

Jonathan Hemus

As discussed above, social media brings both opportunities and challenges. To learn more about the latter join our upcoming webinar "How to prepare for a social media crisis" (6 November 1-2pm GMT). The webinar will explore the new threats of social media and the potential impact this can have on crisis management planning, crisis communication training and crisis handling.

To join, register here: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/591579794