Reputation Matters

By Kelly Ferraro Kelly Ferraro has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on January 12, 2023

In the brilliant medieval Netflix series, The Last Kingdom, Lord Uhtred of Bebbanburg repeatedly cites “reputation” as the driving factor for most people in their daily pursuits and survival. Not much has changed since the ninth century in that regard.

We do our own PR every day

Most of us probably don’t spend a lot of time actually thinking about our individual reputations, although we are all crafting one each day. Interactions, especially those online – whether professional or personal – curate a sense of who we want to be. They reflect how we want to come across to a larger audience. Yet, how many of us – executives included – have an active, strategic social plan in place? How many of us think twice before posting on our social app of choice?

Invest in reputation

When we take on new clients, we often refer to executive communications as executive visibility and reputation management. This is because, to effectively communicate a message, the approach must be deliberate and well thought out.  It is also important to have core messaging in order to derive everyday messages.

There are times when we have to make hard decisions about which route to take. The “no comment” route is sometimes best, while a short explanation may do wonders in other circumstances. Each situation should be handled individually.

Modern-day fairytale – or no?

A case in point regarding the importance of a communications strategy is the British royal family, which famously embraces the “Never Complain, Never Explain” approach. That may work well for the royal family, given that they have a leg up with the press. However, it doesn’t always work well for everyone.

On the other hand, explaining is sometimes needed. Complaining is often not. In the case of Prince Harry, he may have over-explained, and he definitely over-complained.

What endears people is giving them a reason to empathize with you and understand your point of view. When you pull the curtains back and offer first-hand stories, you show you are real. Executives can benefit from this type of storytelling, too, as human-to-human connections are a great way to show a softer side.

But empathy becomes disgust quickly

The pursuit of empathy can sometimes go too far, as we learned from Harry during his never-ending media tour and non-stop Page-Six-style coverage of his new book Spare.

When empathy turns to pity and pity turns to disgust, you have overplayed your hand. I must say Prince Haz is now on the decline. Yet, business executives can still learn from what he is doing.

A future after the release

If Harry sold out his family’s treasure trove of secrets – some likely dating back to the Tudors – who is to say that he won’t sell out a business relationship when it no longer works for him?

It is likely that those that engage with Harry will become wary. His star power should carry him forward; they’ve been working on their images for 1,000 years, after all. And the family survived the likes of King Edward VIII, a/k/a David Windsor, and his American wife, Wallis Simpson.

In Harry’s case, he may just be the walking embodiment of “negative attention is better than no attention.” For most people, this actually doesn’t work; it just sounds good.

Flip the script

When a communications strategy goes from explaining to complaining, as we’ve seen with Prince Harry, audiences tend to drop like flies. You can easily exhaust people with a barrage of complaints, especially when you moan about your $14 million home in Montecito, CA, on the heels of a recession.

Now, this is all a case in point. Harry’s book, which, for full disclosure, I purchased via my Kindle app, is something I plan to read. I still think of that little boy who lost his mum at a tender age, but I also enjoy hearing a good secret.

We are all human.

Make your message count

So, when we think about our own reputation, we should ensure our messages are deliberate, targeted, and valuable.

With that, here are some closing tips that may help along the way:

  • Complaining or explaining without added value is like yelling into a vacuum. If you have a choice not to complain, pick that.
  • It is best to have goals and a strategy for communication, even for ourselves in our daily lives.
  • While it may not be the ninth century, using the wrong words on the wrong channels can definitely cause a stir and have us fighting for image survival. Getting to that point requires a big fix.
  • See yourself and your own reputation as a brand. Treat it with care. 
  • If you think something is too much, imagine what others think. Take a step back. Sometimes silence speaks louder than words.
By Kelly Ferraro Kelly Ferraro has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Kelly Ferraro is an events columnist at Grit Daily. She is the CEO and president of River North Communications, touting two decades of experience as a corporate communications and TradFi professional. She is also the chapter director for VNTR, and is a three-time mentor with Outlier Ventures. Having worked at Bank of America and Guggenheim Securities, she is well-equipped to design and implement media campaigns aligning with business objectives. Kelly began her career at a hedge fund, developing a love for numbers as they told a company’s true story. She is also passionate about the evolution of blockchain and believes transparency is the key to widespread adoption.

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