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In a recent article, widely distributed by PR News, Matthew Ragas shared five insights on building and maintaining an organization’s reputation. As I read, I began to see an even stronger personal correlation – uncovering a relevance that transcended institutions to summarize my aims as a public relations professional.

While some see our industry as propaganda, including a former professor who saw PR as “the dark arts,” I see myself as a storyteller and “connector.”

Drawing from a concept made popular by Malcom Gladwell, connectors are network hubs linking individuals and resources across an array of personal and professional circles. And as such, your reputation amongst clients, peers and the public is a social currency.

But how as an individual and a professional do you both build and maintain a favorable reputation across your spheres of influence? Ragas cited three dimensions to an organization’s reputation – prominence, esteem and attributes. That same notion translates directly to us as PR professionals. Our reputation is determined by:

  1. The strength of our network – or in other words, the number and influence of both people and resources from a broad industry spectrum that we can connect to provide value for our clients.
  2. The tone of conversation – or the perception, favorability and affect that clients, journalists and the public associate with us.
  3. The content we provide – or the characteristics businesses and media use to define our work.

Ragas goes on to share five insights that drive an organization’s reputation – emphasizing quality over quantity, a knowledge of your audience and the impact of correlating deed and action. Ultimately, though, it is the ability to foster and sustain relationships that ensures a strong reputation.

Through a constructive, personal relationship, successful PR professionals cultivate the understanding, influence and trust of client, media and consumer – increasing their cumulative impact. Translated into action:

  1. Harness your client’s story – work to translate their passions and objectives into a meaningful story that resonates with both journalists and the public.
  2. Get to know reporters – learn their interests both professionally and personally. Don’t just target pitches to them that are relevant, but work to build a mutual support network by offering your time and talent as a resource. Show interest in them as people, not simply as a tool.
  3. Exercise discretion – you are an advisor to clients and a filter for the media. Determine what is relevant, link it to an exigency and package it in a concise, compelling format. As Ragas says, “quality over quantity.”
  4. Go above and beyond – go the extra mile to serve both clients and journalists, the extra effort will set you apart. That edge, and a mutual trust, gives you leverage to better form client stories and successfully place content while managing tone, sentiment and public perception.

Relationships, like PR, are an imperfect science. But through diligence and hard work, you can build a reputation that helps you both create and maintain a strong network of connections willing to support your goals and champion compelling ideas.

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