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First, communicate.

Here we are at entry one — and to commemorate that it seems fitting to discuss one immoveable truth in reputation management. What is so key to building and maintaining reputation? That would be, communication.

Communicating is often not a fully realized skill for many professionals. We are not taught to communicate in law school. We are taught to advocate.

Failure to communicate can be big.
In fact, it is the failure to communicate that can do more damage than just about anything else to your firm’s reputation. And that is true whether your business is a professional services entity, like a law firm, or an entrepreneurial enterprise.

A recent experience shared by a marketing colleague, is illustrative. A professional forming a new firm approached my friend for specific marketing advice which he gladly provided as a favor. When my friend later reached out to the professional about how things turned out, he heard nothing back. He later learned from others that not only had the advice been taken, but it had provided a significant savings for the firm.

This professional’s failure to communicate turns out to be a basic reputation management failure. A simple “thank you” would have met my friend’s expectations. Now my friend might be less inclined to refer business to this new entity. Will they fail to communicate with clients too?

The ripple effects of a simple interaction can be much bigger than we might think. In this case my friend has a very large and influential network which is now closed to this new firm.

Don’t touch my network.
When we touch a contact in business, we also touch that contact’s network (and so on and so on). So we are touching something much bigger than we might realize. And something that is potentially much more valuable or harmful as well.

Remember this: when managing your firm’s reputation every contact you have — whether it is with your specific market segment or not, whether it is obvious to you or not, whether it seems “important” or not — is a ripple in your reputation management pond that can either be invaluable or harmful.

So go out and communicate.

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For information on communications issues and new media, visit Ken Auleta. He wrote the book on Google.