Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Reputation Management for Federal Agencies

ARCHIVES
Image via Andreas Koeberl/Shutterstock.com

Abraham Linclon famously said, "Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing." When we're a part of an organization, we experience the real thing--the character of the organization. We often feel frustrated by the disconnect between our experience and the public's view of our organization's reputation.  

That shadow of reputation is a funny thing. It influences the value we associate with the work of others and, with one act, can be irreparably damaged. Remember when a woman charged that she found a finger in her Wendy’s fries? The public was outraged and blamed Wendy’s restaurants immediately. Even though it turned out the woman actually planted the finger there, people were quick to react negatively given all the bad press about fast food chains.

Reputation is so important, that even entire countries are hiring companies to manage their brand. Former Prime Minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt, hired a team of image-makers to rebuild his country’s reputation after a series of corruption accusations in the government. As a part of the new image, Belgium introduced a new logo with edgy colors that sports the internet suffix “be.” Prime Minister Tony Blair even launched a “Cool Britannia” campaign to give the impression that the United Kingdom is a central hub for all things media, design, and fashion.

If countries can build reputations around the attitudes and images they want to convey, so should agencies. But how is a reputation created?

According to international relations scholars, there are two ways that reputation is created: through the lens of past actions or through the current calculus of the situation. Essentially, reputation can be based on what you have done in the past or what is going on in the current environment that impacts what you are doing. I tend to see reputation being created by a combination of the two. Based on these theories, how can agencies manage their reputations after an image fall-out?

  • Admit guilt. The Veterans Affairs Department was recently cited with excessive conference spending according to an internal investigation. The VA came out with a statement stating that the misuse of taxpayers’ dollars was completely unacceptable. Admitting wrongdoing will likely change the conversation from being about the SNAFU to being about resolution. 
  • Be genuine. Although admitting guilt is an important step in making amends, issuing a statement that reports the facts and ignores the human element will likely be ineffectual. People may think your apologizing to save face rather than understanding the consequences of your actions.
  • Address the perception and the reality. A colleague once told me that, in the workplace, “their perception is your reality”. In the media, your agency’s budgeting may have been misconstrued or even manipulated, but remember that you need to address the perception that has been created. Crying wolf won’t make people sympathetic to your cause.
  • Don’t disregard the current climate. If reputations are impacted by the current environment, than a response should convey remorse in light of the bigger picture. Make sure your public affairs team is asking themselves, what is happening outside your agency that is causing this response? The answer to that question will help you devise a strategy for issuing a response.

How does your agency address public fall-out?

Follow Excellence in Government on Twitter | Facebook | Google + | LinkedIn

Notes from the Research Desk highlights the best practices, salient data and emergent perspectives uncovered by the Government Business Council’s (GBC) team. Each week, Research Manager Dana Grinshpan will share the discoveries most important to federal managers. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dana Grinshpan is the Research Manager for the Government Business Council (GBC), the research division of Government Executive, where she specializes in primary research development and survey instrument creation. Prior to joining GBC, she worked for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), assisting in the research and writing of work on South Asian regional cooperation. She has a Master of Arts in international security and political economics from the University of Chicago and graduated magna cum laude from Ohio State University where she holds a B.A. in international studies with a minor in Arabic.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.