What’s The Reputation Economy?

The ease and impact of connecting with people, globally, would not be possible without social media channels. And it’s those channels that have not only changed the landscape of how we connect, share, interact and relate to one another, it’s also driven up the value of something that many had once considered an intangible asset. Something that if I asked you to put a price on it, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a dollar figure for its value, but if you lost it, you’d probably pay anything to get it back – your reputation.

Reputations are earned over years of consistent actions and behaviors, but in today’s world of instantaneous information gathering and citizen journalists tweeting and posting, reputations can be galvanized or shattered in moments. Social Media has ushered in a new type of economy. This economy is rooted in your track record of actions, decisions and behavior and how that has been shared, judged or perceived. While those assessments might be subjective or considered unfair, the reality is that doesn’t matter because we now live in the court of public opinion and operate in a Reputation Economy.

Warren Buffett, said it best,

Guess what? You are the firm. You should be ruthless with how you manage your reputation because of the power it has to transform your life and business. And, whether that is for a positive transformation or a negative one is completely up to you!

What comes to mind when you hear the names Enron, Goldman Sachs, Bill Cosby, Tiger Woods, Anthony Weiner and Lance Armstrong? Those are corporations or individuals whose reputations were damaged by their own behavior and decisions, and whether right or wrong, were found guilty in the court of public opinion. Besides the personal embarrassment, there were significant financial losses and negative impact to their future corporate/personal earning potential as well as careers.

All of these people lost reputational equity, career opportunities, money and tarnished their legacies. But the reality is that for each of them, there was a moment of choice. There was a moment when a slight pause, a few seconds of reflection to think ‘what if?’ that could have changed the outcome of what they experienced.

Regardless of the positive or negative status of a reputation, the bottom line is that reputations are just as valuable to an individual and organization as the products and services it markets. Reputations are a vital link between brands and customers in a period where options and information are a mere ‘search phrase’ away. Reputations are the foundation and relational points for boutique shops fighting for their share in aggressive markets. Reputations are a key competitive differentiator.


According to Google Trends, the search phrase ‘reputation management’ accounted for roughly 3 percent of Google searches from 2004-2011. However, in 2012 that same search phrase spiked to represent 10 percent of Google searches and continues to be a relevant topic.

You see, succeeding in the Reputation Economy is a challenge that not only corporate brands face. It’s also a challenge, and opportunity, that individual brands – you and me – face, too.
Just as corporations need to evolve in how they meet their business goals, so must we as we work towards our own success. Only you can define what success looks like. Is it a promotion from your current position? Is it starting your own agency? Is it the ability to attract top talent to your company and keep it? Or, perhaps it’s finding a new job? Or, better yet, that new opportunity finding you based upon your reputation for what you do.

It’s time for a shift in terms of how we proactively build, manage and harness the power of our personal reputations. It’s time for a Reputation Shift.