By Debbie Myers
If healthcare companies, or any company for that matter, could manage their reputations as if they were Troy Polamalu, we would all live in a better world. For the uninitiated, Polamalu is a strong safety for my favorite football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Polamalu’s presence on the field alone makes the offense have to rethink their game. His reputation is so solid, that even when he’s not having his best game, his impact on the field is noticed. This consistent excellence won Polamalu the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, although he was not statistically the best that year. In addition to being recognized for his greatness on the field, Polamalu is also well-known for his gentle nature, his strong faith and his commitment to family and community. In fact, Polamalu was named by fans as the Nicest NFL Player in a Sports Illustrated poll.
Now, I know that managing a personal brand is a little different than building and protecting the reputation of a large, multi-faceted health organization. However, I do think the key behaviors Polamalu exudes serve as golden rods for reputation management: do what you do well, be true to your mission and wear the white hat. When advising clients on reputation, I tell them there are six steps to building reputation that – when followed consistently over time — will ensure their company can win, even when they are not on their best game:
- Put a stake in the ground and own it. Companies that continually waffle in their strategic direction create a blurred reputation. No one really knows who they are. Strong reputations are created when the vision is always clear, even if the strategies to meet that vision are tweaked over time.
- Look and act like a leader. A unique look like Polamalu’s frizzy hair may not be your style, but you have to admit it’s recognizable. From the company logo to wayfinding signage, the look of your brand should be distinctive and enduring. Most important is how a company behaves. Ethically, of course, but also open, honest and forward thinking.
- Be a hero at home. Employees are your best ambassadors, and companies that treat their employees with care and respect are returned the favor with trusted advocates who want to boast about their employer’s best services, products and people.
- Be a relevant source. The media seeks out companies that are willing to talk and provide good information. And, customers and patients want information that is easy to access, clearly understood, relevant to their needs and available when they want it.
- Establish a voice in the industry. Thought leadership is one of the smartest strategies for building reputation. It has its challenges, though. It requires executive leadership to be willing to be in the forefront of conversation and to take the tough questions along with the soft balls.
- Keep good company. Third party recognition, through awards, accreditations or other accolades, demonstrates that your company is recognized as a leader.
Above all, be nice like Troy Polamalu. You will find that others will want to follow you.