You're selling ... all the time

Reputation means different things to different people.

Growing up, I would hear my parents talking about someone’s reputation – like Dick Miller, who owned the Rexall drug store downtown. He had a great reputation, by the way - generally regarded as the go-to for everything from prescription service to chocolate malts.

Later – in high school – I heard whispered conversations about a fellow teenager with a “checkered” reputation. Wonder how he got that?

In college, it was all about the reputation of your school – party school, nerd factory or springboard to a lucrative banking career?

Quickly catapulted into the world of full-time employment, I was supporting myself and continually having to make purchasing decisions. Whether I realized it or not, the reputation of the product factored into those decisions.

My first job out of journalism school was at a TV station, and my earliest encounters with reputation in a business sense were strategy sessions attended by members of the news staff, sales staff and management. To attract more viewers to our newscasts we needed to know who we were and who our competitors were: the CBS affiliate had its finger on the pulse of the community and was the most pleasing to watch, while the NBC affiliate tried to look and act important but often came off as sophomoric. As the ABC station, we were the “issues” station; we hoped viewers would get something of value from our reporting ("news you can use"). So, we capitalized on our strengths and added a dash of personality because we knew our viewership would give us permission to be human. Our news director said we should be perceived as "friendly professionals." In a few years, the station went from #3 to #1 in the ratings.
The lesson is  know yourself in order to succeed. Ignore your reputation at your own peril.

There’s a time and a season for reputation management: all the time and in every season. My dad, a stockbroker, once told me “You’re always selling yourself.” Too bad he died when I was only 12; I could have used more of that sage wisdom over the years.

He was right. Everything that breathes has a reputation. You have one, I have one. Our dog, Bella, has one – based on her loving disposition and temperament. It’s our most precious asset and if it should be compromised in any way, we can find ourselves in trouble. Or out on the street.

Reputation is as old as time and new as the latest celebrity blowup. Timeless, yes. Trivial, no.

Companies are wise to protect and defend their reputations. There are a multitude of ways to do it and it’s not easy. That’s why I love the pursuit, and I’ll be writing about it in this space.

Keep it honest, open and live with integrity. And I’ll talk to you soon.