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Reputation management essential to every business — Georgina Asare-Fiagbenu

BY: Emmanuel Bruce
Georgina Asare-Fiagbenu - Senior Manager, Corporate Communications of MTN Ghana

Reputation management is essential to every business whether big or small because it helps in shaping the public’s perception of a brand.

But what does it take to manage a corporate brand and its reputation and what happens when something goes wrong?

Helping answer these questions of Springboard, Your Virtual University was the Senior Manager, Corporate Communications of MTN Ghana, Georgina Asare-Fiagbenu.

She noted that reputational management was not only important to an organisation but that anything that existed needed to manage its reputation.

“Every entity has a reputation and your reputation is either positive or negative. Reputation is the summation of people’s impression, experiences and views about you over a period of time.

‘When you meet someone for the first time, the first impression is very important but we also have something called latent impression which is impression that is gathered over time. So you meet the person for the second time, was he nice, was he pleasant then you form another opinion.

“Now over a period of time, you form an impression about that person which builds into the reputation of the person,” she explained.

She said reputation was therefore the summation of the opinions, views, impressions, experiences about a particular person or an entity over a period of time.

“You cannot see a person just for one day and conclude this is the reputation of the person,” she stated.

She said the first few minutes of an engagement was, however, very important.

Managing people’s opinions

Mrs Asare-Fiagbenu also said it was necessary for organisations to manage how people see them.

‘You have to be able to manage how people experience you, opinions about you, and that is why reputation management is a deliberate attempt and a deliberate effort to shape opinions.

“You need to make a deliberate effort and cannot just leave it to chance,” she stated.

Frontliners

The Corporate Affairs Manager also emphasised that frontliners or front desk executives were very crucial to the reputation management of an institution.

“Previously people use to have this impression that people who are doing front desk relation don’t have to be high level people but this is changing in a number of ways.

“Front desk executives could potentially be one of the most important roles so people at the front desk need to be trained and armed with information. Even in recruiting front desk people, they should be senior people,” she stated.

12 points by Mrs Asare-Fiagbenu

1. Stakeholders; an organisation’s stakeholders are people who have an impact in your business. They include customers or users, shareholders, employees, unions, regulators, trade partners (vendors), technology partners, community and government.

2. Stakeholder interest; stakeholder interests can be high or low and, depending on a particular circumstance, one could be far more powerful than another. These interests may sometimes clash and managing them requires regular engagement.

3. Strategy; every business must have an overall strategy. Corporate communications is both an art and science. It must be planned, consistent and aligned with the mission, vision, philosophy and values. People must know you, accept you and go along with you.

4. Misalignment; misalignment between your corporate identity and communication strategy will lead to confusion, inability to achieve your goals and mistrust. What you promise must align with people’s experiences. Trust is what creates loyalty.

5. Reinforcement; anytime you meet or connect with people, repeat who you are and your values. Never assume that people know your key message. There are new people coming on board every day, so keep repeating your core message.

6. Policies; policies are part of the governance process to reinforce who you are, your values, how you operate, and what people can do and not do at any point in time. Examples are Conflict of Interest, Diversity, Gender and Inclusion, Sustainability, Dress Code, Media Relations, Confidentiality and sexual harassment policies.

7. Actions and inaction; reputation management is difficult because the actions and inaction of all staff from the CEO to front desk, to drivers and cleaners can impact the reputation.

8. Compliance; policies are drawn up with staff, approved and signed off. They are then presented to staff, who ask their questions, and then published. Staff orientations must touch on these policies. Staff are required to read and understand these policies to avoid breaches.

9. Measurement and research; surveys media, monitoring and various forms of research are key to getting feedback. Always actively solicit for feedback.

10. Crisis management; anticipate frequently occurring issues, create a log for recording them and your responses to each of them. When an issue escalates into a full-blown crisis, you need three things - speed, clear messaging and a comprehensive plan.

11. Skill-sets; to be good at public relations, you need people skills, communication (writing and speaking), strategic thinking, analytical, creativity and good planning. And you don’t need to be an extrovert.

12. Personal responsibility; be careful what you do, what you say and how you act at all times, especially in today’s digital world. Always assume there is a camera recording you. Your social media posts must always be well considered for both the present and the future.