Posts Tagged ‘reputation’

Marilyn’s lessons in managing your reputation

Friday, April 27th, 2012

“All people see is Marilyn Monroe.  As soon as they see I’m not her, they run.”  Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

It is arguable that she created one of the greatest brands of all time, it still makes around $4m pa, and was recently acquired for something like $30m.  This quote of Michelle Williams is interesting because it suggests that Marilyn was aware of the power of her brand, almost before the term was coined.

Not many of us get to make this kind of money whilst we are working for it, let alone when we have been dead 40 years!  This shows the value of reputation.  In my work as a Change Mentor, I am heavily dependent on people saying good things about me as mine is a highly personal, confidential and intangible service.

If you are in this kind of work, you are the brand.  So how do you affect what people say about you?

Well, of course there are a number of things you need to do:-

  1. The results you deliver are obviously important, but it isn’t just what you do, but how you do it.  It is the difference between driving a BMW and an ordinary car.  They both get you there but one delights you en route
  2. Your ability to tailor your service to your client’s individual needs; a premium product needs to be tailored to the user
  3. Your ability to know what they need, sometimes better than they do themselves, and to always work in their best interest
  4. Your personal values come through in this kind of relationship and they have to fit with your client, but they should also be something they can respect.  If they hear you say unflattering or indiscrete things about other clients, then why should they assume you won’t do so about them?!
  5. It can be useful to take a little control over what is said.  Sometimes a client will say something wonderful about you or your work, in your presence, if they do, not only thank them but ask for permission to quote them, or put it on your website.  Ask them to repeat it to others. Repeat these quotes to others
  6. We hear a lot about authenticity these days, but it is very important to be yourself and to do business with people who enjoy and need who you are and what you do best.  You will always be a better you than anyone else and a second best anyone else.

So unlike Marilyn, make the real you the one that you market and brand and that way you will never suffer the pressures she did of maintaining  an image.

Why Welsh Rarebit is called that and its very strange uses! …and what it teaches us about reputation

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

According to Mark Forsyth, author of the Etymologicon:-

“Welsh rarebit used to be called Welsh rabbit, on the basis that when a Welshman promised you something nice to eat like rabbit, you were probably only going to get cheese on toast.  The English also used to believe that the Welsh were crazy about cheese.  Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811) records that:

The Welch are said to be so remarkably fond of cheese, that in cases of difficulty their midwives apply a piece of toasted cheese to the janua vita [the gates of life] to attract and entice the young Taffy, who smelling it makes vigorous efforts to come forth

So myths become locked into language and accepted by all.  This makes and interesting link back to yesterday’s blog, where people try to control what is said about them (or their clients) in order to build reputation.  In other words, if you get enough tongues repeating the same phrase it becomes unchallenged and thus, to all intents and purposes, true.   This is a very good reason for keeping important messages clear and simple; it makes it possible for people to repeat them without distortion.  The harder a message is to remember, the more likely it will morph into something quite different. 

We tend to think that the more we say, and the longer words we use the more clever we sound.  However there is huge power in simple words and concepts which can not be misunderstood.   Think about it…. one of the most powerful sentences in the English language, one that has changed more lives than any other (probably!) consists of only three words and  eight letters.  I Love You.

So if you want your message to linger (like the taste of a good bit of Welsh Rarebit?!) then keep it short, keep it simple and make it punchy…

“Cheese – milk’s leap toward immortality.”   Clifton Paul Fadiman

“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”   Willie Nelson

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”   Charles de Gaulle

Reputation… what’s that?

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Reputation is a thing of two parts, the things that we do, and the things people say about them.  If I was going to be more accurate, I would add that the key thing is not just the things that we do, but how others perceive them!  These days managing this is a multi-billion dollar industry.  The idea is that by controlling the media they can modify what others perceive and therefore say about us.  I guess, like they say, money talks, and they think it tells us how to think.  However, I’d like to suggest a more fundamental focus, and ask you to focus on the first element… what you do.

If you do the right things, and even better, if you do them for the right reasons, then that makes not only a statement, but builds a truly solid foundation for your reputation.  Hopefully these actions spring from the core of who you are, hence the current attention to the importance of authenticity.  There is an exercise that can be quite telling, and that is getting you to write your own obituary.  If you don’t like it, or don’t feel it is enough, now is the time to change and do something different, or something more!

I would suggest that you don’t so much ‘manage’ your reputation as build it, in the same sense that a mason builds a wall, based on solid foundations, with things that have substance.  One thing you can do is to see if what you are doing is valued by those whose good opinion you seek.  In other words, if you are focusing your efforts and resources on things they don’t care about then they are unlikely to hold you in high regard.  Make a difference to their lives or businesses and you’ll be a hero! 

The second element of influencing what people say is more subtle.  I would suggest a key is explaining your plans and actions in language they can understand and in terms of things they care about.  For example, an MD talking to his workers should be talking about growth in terms of bonuses and job security not share price.  One might lead to the other but don’t expect your audience to make that leap.  Also they will, probably rightly, assume the things you talk about are what you care about.  Tell them the truth, clearly, and you will earn respect, if not popularity, and that is a step in the right direction!

“Sincerity – if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”  George Burns

Sticks & Stones..or Panning for gold amongst the effluent

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Someone asked this question “Do you care what other people think?” in a forum I belong to today and that got me thinking. We are all familiar with childhood phrase “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Most of us have also been exposed to the idea that we create our own realities1 by the way we interpret the world. However, as I have mentioned elsewhere, there are some fundamental drives2 at work in our lives, and a very powerful one is the need to have our contribution and worth (significance) recognised by others. We are particularly vulnerable to those who we either care for or respect, or are in the power of.

It is a very advanced human being that can take in their stride others’ harsh, and perhaps false, judgments and not feel anything. Another aspect of this is when people say things about us they are telling us something about themselves and their experience of us. We can see ourselves and our actions through these ‘mirrors’ and whilst there will certainly be distortions there, they will give us more information that we had before. Mankind is a social creature and we need to understand how our actions are perceived and felt by others, especially if we need to influence them, and most of us do both need and seek to influence others.

There is a delicate balance to be found between burying our heads in the ground and ignoring nasty or painful data coming back to us and realising that amongst the muck might be the odd nugget of gold we need to pan for.

Of course this has all been written from the perspective of us as the central character in the drama with the “Slings and arrows of outrageous destiny” flying towards us. It would be just as true to say that we are just as often guilty of making those judgements and sharing them with others. Mostly, we all reside in glass houses and stone throwing is a dangerous hobby!

“Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving.” William Shakespeare

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Abraham Lincoln


  1. Reality model, start here, then here
  2. Fundamental drives:
    1. Certainty (The desire to know and feel certain about important aspects of our life)
    2. Uncertainty (The desire for variety and adventure that makes our life interesting)
    3. Significance (The desire to be highly regarded and recognised by others)
    4. Love/Connection (The desire to give and receive love and experience fulfilling relationships)
    5. Growth (The desire to grow and evolve physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually)
    6. Contribution (The desire to share from the heart and contribute beyond ourselves)