PaLA: Reputation Management

A proactive, anticipatory and strategic approach with PPO&S – involved before PA Forward was established. Tracy Powelski

PA Forward and PR Marketing committee discussed and offer this to help when dealing with crisis.  “It takes many good deedsto build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” (or something like that from Ben Franklin).

  • Recognize the value of reputation
  • Learn how to enhance and protect a good reputation
  • Be among the prepared minority
  • Assess opportunities and vulnerabilities
  • Identify concrete next steps

What comes to mind when you think about an organization’s reputation?
Trust, how viewed by community, any mishaps, people, how the culture is projected, atmosphere/tone, mission/authenticity, transparency, live up to promise of their brand?

How others perceive you – based upon what they know about your organization’s behavior or past performance.”

Why should you care?
Quantifiable asset – brand loyalty, credibility, funding consequences, recruitment, media coverage, responsibility and ethics.  What role does the library play in your community – recognition and reputation.

Who owns your reputation?
You, your employees, customers, suppliers and partners, board – what experience do people have when they come to your library.

What is the relationship between Reputation and Trust?
Reputation – what people know about you based on past behavior and TRUST is expectation of future behavior based on past behavior.

Reputation Management:

  • Maximizing Good will:
    • Tell Your Story – know what story you want to tell, develop key messages, know the difference between paid and earned communications channels (more impact from earned communications – 3rd party endorsement), take an integrated approach, strategic communications calendar (most impact of SRP, back to school, New years resolutions, day before a snowstorm), consider media training. Community, early literacy, still viable.
      • If you don’t tell your story someone else will tell it for you.
    • Be social in the digital sense – What channels are most appropriate, internal protocols, set clear guidelines, monitor social media, and be prepared for rapid response and before the fire storm hits.
    • Leverage leadership and expertise – Be the subject matter expert, invite thought leaders/legislators for a local tour or event, “tip of the spear when it comes to innovation and information,” build relationships before you need them, don’t underestimate third party awards and recognition, and promote endorsements and testimonials. Don’t take it for granted that people know all you do and ‘how wonderful you are.’ Invite and tell them your role in the community. Trip advisor, Yelp, Google – conversations going on about you. Power of the collective voice shouldn’t be underestimated.
    • Get engaged in relevant issues – What issues are important to us? Security, funding, opioids, homelessness, unattended children, censorship.  Stay informed, lean on public policy leadership, know key influencers, and testify on behalf of your cause.
    • Be visible – think strategically about how to maximize impact, measure and evaluate impact, publish an annual social responsibility report that wraps up and articulates your accomplishments.  We have to let our constituents know how well we are serving them.
    • Engage and communicate with employees/volunteers – foster a culture of trust and transparency, communicate regularly, be sure employees hear news form you, recognize and appreciate your employees, and create a feedback loop for two-way communication.
  • Prepare for challenges:
    • Everyone face funding, labor issues, security reaches, big tech changes, crimes on property, changes in competitive landscape, and peripheral issues “splatter factor” – What do you do to make sure you are a good steward of collection and tax-payer dollars. (Mickey’s weeding program at KLA/MLA comes to mind.) How do you see around the corner and see risk. Contingency planning and scenarios.
    • What are we worried about? children, addicts, homeless, theft and then moves to disruption. Model of the past may not serve us in the future. Worry about the loss of trust and sense of security at the library.
    • People will measure you on how you respond.  Speed, transparency, carefulness – hard to juggle. May forgive one mis-step, but beware of trends.
  • Continually assess:
    • How do you know where you stand?
    • Governance protocols – are we following our bylaws? chain of command
    • Strategic communication plan – key messages prepared and ready when needed
    • Crisis communication plans – right people know their roles and responsibilities?
    • Top-level – tone matters, what’s the culture?
    • Tradition and digital media analytics
    • Scenarios and contingency mapping
    • Social media protocols
    • Employee/internal communications – let people know where we stand and what their role is in the future
    • Community engagement practices
    • Post-issue assessments/debriefs – Example of theft at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Take a look and ask “what lessons did we learn and what did we do right?”  Opportunity for growth.  Learn from our mistakes

A Reputation Audit

  • How we’re perceived
  • How our organization is covered by the media
  • Gaps?
  • How to improve our position
  • Need to update crisis communication plan,
  • Risk Management,
  • succession planning – BIG  Need to talk about it. Can “rock an organization as much as anything.”
  • Spokesperson training/leadership communications
  • Strategic comm plan
  • Learn that you don’t know what you don’t know – need more research
  • Need internal communication platform – MOST OFTEN NEEDED Too externally focused
  • Social media protocols
  • changes in org roles and responsibilities, ex social services in the library, do we have the right people in the right roles

Audit may prevent:

  • litigation
  • loss of funding
  • no confidence vote

Recap: You can fine tune your org’s reputation and improve your potential by:

  • Tell story
  • Your reputation is’t about everything that matters


  • Internal communication audit – explore what the staff wants and how they want it and frequently enough.  A focus group to talk about is a demonstration of your dedication to help solve the problem. Five generations in the workplace – how to communicate among these very different groups – bridge that gap
  • Determine who the spokesperson is – a single voice. Remind staff who that person is. Need to stay on message. How do we get training? Build a scenario and put them on video and escalate, starting with key messages. Confidence building exercise. Have a process in place to help remove some of the anxiety. Public Information Officer training for crisis response and how to talk to the media – talk to your emergency professional. County training offered example – How to get information out on multiple streams – video, FB, etc. But how to handle library flashpoint issues, ex pornography – need this KIND OF TRAINING.  Think about it ahead of time, so you don’t make it worse.
  • OK to say “Let me get back to you” and a key tool – “Let me write your question down and what’s your deadline?”  If ambushed, you can bribe and deflect, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to get back to you on that.” Talk to the police. Don’t confirm or deny. Under no obligation to answer on the fly – don’t be baited. “I can’t comment at this time, but I’ll get back to you.”
  • Train on confidentiality and how to react to the police the same as we react to the media. Similar tactics. Everyone should know the protocols. SWPLA – support staff as ambassador’s training in November. Need to be careful about what you say and how you say it. The interview is NEVER over or only over when you hang up the phone. Don’t let your guard down. OK to ask for a correction – you misquoted me.
  • Have some canned talking points available on hot-button topics. SCRIPTS. Leak through a trusted source or person in media you have a positive relationship.
  • Convey ALL OF THIS TO YOUR BOARD – They will be called and they will need to answer.
  • How do you address an issue after-the-fact. Aftermath and rebuild trust? Let people know that it’s not your policy to communicate during an active investigation. The protocols. Cooperating closely with law enforcement and their directive.





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