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Reputation Management Strategies for Entrepreneurs

January 18, 2013

Business Advice for Small Business and Women Entrepreneurs

Everywhere you turn recently, you see or hear about Lance Armstrong. As an entrepreneur, I haven’t been fascinated by whether Lance is telling the truth or lying about doping to win cycling races, I’m mesmerized by the reputation management strategies this story is producing.

As entrepreneurs, we must realize we represent not only ourselves but our companies. Lance Armstrong didn’t just represent himself; he represented his team, the cycling industry and the Live Strong Foundation. So when an individual – whether they are a business owner, government official or famous cyclist – is viewed as dishonest in the public eye, reputation management strategies are vital to implement.

Here’s useful reputation management strategies small business owners or entrepreneurs can use when faced with a public crisis. The presentation was given Gwen Weber-McLeod of Gwen, Inc. at one of my Women TIES events.

• A comprehensive reputation management campaign typically involves creating a plan that involves media placement, public affairs communications, and speaker placement. Although a large comprehensive plan may seem overkill to a one person business, learning more about what a comprehensive campaign consists of can help focus on, and utilize key elements of a campaign for your smaller enterprise.

• If the crisis has gone public opposed to it being a private issue between you and two parties, you might need to create appropriate press releases and reach out to journalists. Know how to prepare press releases or find a company who can create them for you. Create a media list and keep it on file. Make sure your release truly tells the story, without the superficial information that lands some press releases in the garbage.

• When a crisis erupts, equally important to external public communication, is internal communication to people in our organization and close external associates. Every person affected by your organization – your staff, your customers, your vendors, your bankers, your community – will be impacted by your business decisions. Consider the methods in which you’ll communicate with key constituents if a crisis occurs. Create a list of important people and their contact information. Keep it on file. Make sure you select the best tools for reaching them (phone, email, letter, social media, etc.).

• Sometimes you will need to deliver your message in person. Words look good on paper but how do they sound to a skeptical audience? Make sure you draft clear, concise and compelling speeches. Consider hiring a PR consultant if you need assistance with speech writing or delivery.

Entrepreneurs should use the Lance Armstrong story to create a reputation management strategy they can implement if any crisis arises.

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