I think about reputation a lot. Not only as a concept or an idea but as an actuality that governs the choices we make about individuals, brands, businesses and politics. It’s important to remember that reputation is all about perception, as it is created from the opinions and experiences of others. Without a doubt, the value of reputation is all important to businesses and to individuals, and is one of the dominating factors determining connections and allegiances that we have, But it seems as if reputation is also a complex and contentious concept when the opinions of those creating it are divided.
The rise and ubiquity of social media has engineered a reality where opinion is incredibly easy to express and disseminate and practically everyone has access to vehicles to publish what they think and feel about virtually every subject imaginable. Before the advent of the internet, opinions were far more immediate and analogue. We talked, consulted, occasionally argued in person, or we read or listened to the varied opinions of others in the letters to the editor in the newspaper or talkback radio. Now, we are continually bombarded with every conceivable take on any subject, and it has, in my opinion, created huge and hurtful division.
So, when it comes to reputation, or more importantly, the perception of anyone, or anything, the absolute has dissipated to a thick, murky sludge of confusion. For the sake of argument, and without delving into politics too much, I think we currently have, in various parts of the world, individuals who foster division, while lying waste to the previously held idea that a solid and good reputation, moulded by words and deeds, is essential to hold and maintain any office representing the public.
Of course, politics has always had a strange disconnect between perception and reality, where perception is of far greater value because it generates votes and allegiances. However, the underpinning reality was important too and if there were ever anything said or done that constituted a scandal, then the perception would be blown away and political careers would end prematurely.
In some countries, that is completely undone. Words and actions expressed in repugnant, misleading and fraudulent ways are washed away by cries of ‘fake news’ or twisted and bent as if they were never said or done at all. How then can we hold onto the notion of a solid reputation as a cornerstone of political existence, if it can be deemed irrelevant and that our senses that govern perception – for example, our eyes and our ears, are somehow unreliable?
How can it be that words uttered and heard, can then be somehow spun as a fantasy that we didn’t hear correctly in the first place? Without the connection of perception, analysis and a formulated opinion, we are almost left with nothing other than confusion, and a resigned acceptance, and I do not believe that is anywhere near good enough.
We cannot let reputation be of no consequence because it is the essential driver that governs our choices, both in whom we spend time with, and who we do business with. Reputation and trust go hand in hand and we need them to navigate out way through life.