Professor John Doorley

What The Heck Is Reputation Management Anyway?

It is not issues management, risk management or crisis management. Those are components — but reputation management is much more. To illustrate the difference: Most large companies today have a chief risk officer; few have a reputation officer. Most large companies measure reputation at least to some degree; few use that research as the basis for an ongoing process to protect and enhance reputation.

To illustrate further, when a crisis occurs, many chief communications officers believe that the organization should concentrate all its communications resources on crisis management. However, given that reputation is the net of the good and the bad, why let the bad news dominate? “All hands on deck to manage the crisis” is a solid principle, but, at the same time, hire a publicist or an agency to talk about the good news.

“Comprehensive reputation management” is a long-term strategy for measuring, auditing and managing an organization’s reputation as an asset (copyright 2003, John Doorley). It is a process that rests on the simple premise that to manage the parts is to manage the whole. To define the parts is to see the reputation management field clearly.

Reputation = Sum of stakeholder views of the organization

Reputation = (Performance + Behavior + Communication) X Authenticity factor = (P + B + C ) X Af

See the 3rd edition of the just-released, peer-reviewed textbook, Reputation Management (Doorley-Garcia, Taylor & Francis, 2015). “The authenticity factor is … the indicator of how well an organization lives up to its intrinsic identity (what it stands for). When there is authenticity, the organization is whole, undiminished, a factor of one. On the other hand, when integrity or authenticity fails, the Authenticity factor is a fraction. The organization is divided, and its reputation will decline, because it will be a fraction of the sum of P + B + C.”

reputation front cover

Put starkly, this blogger believes that, first, corporate reputation cannot be managed without identifying the major stakeholder groups and what drives their views of the corporation; and that, second, communication alone is seldom the answer, as the above formula shows. “Reputation creates shareholder value but can also destroy it,” says Simon Cole of Reputation Dividend.


The GM Ignition Switch Crisis.

In the last post I promised to offer an answer to this question: “In this bedrock American company, how did it happen?” It is clear that there were failures with each component of reputation: P, B, C and Af. But it also seems clear that the biggest failure – “One man’s opinion,” as friend and PR star Fraser Seitel often says – was that some employees did not understand the company’s intrinsic identity. Whereas research shows that a company has multiple identities – product quality, profitability, a good working environment, and so on – it should have one intrinsic identity, a standard that every employee must know can never be compromised. Safe, well-engineered products had been a part of the GM intrinsic identity, something not always achieved but always declared as a fundamental identity. Those employees responsible for or complicit in the scandal did not understand that or thought other identities took preference.

For a discussion of multiple identities, see George Cheney, Rhetoric in an Organizational Society (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991) This quote applies to reputation as much as to bridges … and cars.

“Anything built to last must be well engineered.”
-Gay Talese, in his book The Bridge, about the construction of New York’s Verrazano Bridge.


  • Communication alone is seldom the answer.
  • Reputation cannot be managed without identifying major stakeholders and managing the organization’s relationships with them.
  • Establish a formal mechanism and Reputation Management Plan to periodically measure, monitor and manage reputation.
  • Employees must know what the organization’s intrinsic identity is – what the organization stands for above all else. Otherwise, there will come a time when other identities will take priority.


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