Good Reputations are Built on Good Behavior

Earlier in my career, I met with a business owner who asked me to promote his achievements. His goal was to build awareness and credibility as an expert in his field, among his prospective customers, peers and the media.

After telling me about his many good deeds that deserved recognition, I asked him whether he had done any bad things that could harm his reputation and would make it impossible to reach his goal. Naturally, he responded that he had a stellar career and there were no skeletons in his closet.

This challenge sounded intriguing, so I went to work and developed a smart public relations strategy to build his reputation. While I was preparing to execute this strategy, I opened the newspaper and discovered one skeleton that my client failed to share with me.

To counter the bad news, my client asked me to immediately ramp up his public relations plan and start communicating all of his accomplishments. However, he failed to explain why he was not truthful earlier about his past mistake that made the news.

I explained that good public relations starts with good behavior, including telling the truth to me, the media and each of his key audiences. I also told my client that the sooner he told the truth and apologized for his mistake, the sooner he could begin to repair his tarnished reputation.

Unfortunately, my client did not take my advice. He simply wanted a “spin doctor” to cover up the bad news, which was impossible. I told my client that bad behavior could not easily be erased by a cleverly executed communications campaign.

I could have taken my client’s money and executed his campaign, but I chose to resign his account that day instead. In time, I am sure that I would have learned about more skeletons in this man’s closet.

I’ve counseled many clients over the years on ways to build and maintain quality reputations. Each consultation typically begins with an explanation that good reputations are not spun. Rather, they are built over time through honesty, integrity and consistent, good behavior.

(Thanks to Grooover for the photo.)

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