executive reputation management

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Secure Lifestyle X Reputation Management

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Living in today’s hyper-connected world means that we all live our lives under the public gaze to varying degrees, with our lives often subject to public scrutiny, whether as public figures, business owners, or active social media users. At UMBRA International, we recognise the importance of comprehensive security solutions that encompass not only physical and digital aspects but also reputational protection, including online reputation management. Our approach to security is holistic, ensuring that individuals and businesses can safeguard their reputation in an ever-evolving landscape. Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with Alex Godwin-Brown, an experienced reputation manager, to gain insights into the crucial role of Reputation Managers in preserving and enhancing our public presence.

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For those not in the know, how would you describe a reputation manager?

A reputation manager is a person who works in public relations but rather than focusing on the profile of a company or business, the focus is on enhancing and protecting the profile of a person.
A reputation manager will work with a person to define what is unique about that individual’s profile; their USPs, their key messages, and their objectives. Reputation management can involve working with philanthropists raising awareness, support, and funds for their chosen cause; maintaining a positive and long-term profile of an industry titan; developing an individual’s profile for a personal passion be it collecting art, cars, watches, or jewellery; or helping people to keep a low profile to protect their family. 
Being a reputation manager means making sure an individual’s “brand” is clear and consistent. Reputation managers work across multiple channels and platforms including social media, company and third-party websites and manage communications with international and national press.

What are some of the top challenges you face?

The biggest challenge I face when working with an individual is the balance between relevant visibility and oversaturation. Hype is the enemy of sustainability. Too much attention attracts what I refer to as the “evil eye” – the philosophical belief applied to a public profile – where a successful person can attract envy or anger. “30 under 30” lists and front cover founder profiles can be poisoned chalices. They attract those that seek out ways to undermine that success, attacking the person’s credibility or accusing them of having an easy path. Others claim they are bored of hearing the same story repeated and journalists lose interest in covering a subject if nothing new is presented.  
It has taken me two decades of public relations experience to be able to find the right balance for each of my clients. Everything in life is cyclical, even publicity and perceived success. The challenge is identifying and aligning with a cycle.
Another challenge – albeit another one I relish – is achieving the goals of multiple individuals within the same family or organisation. 

Why is it important for family offices or business founders to work with a reputation manager?

The first contact many will have with a reputation manager is when things go wrong. There may be a crisis to be managed, it’s stressful, and litigators are probably involved. During a crisis, it’s challenging to make sure a family office or founder communicates their key messages. The wider public is focused on the disaster and the negative messages are the focus of the global press.
As with all things, preparation makes unfavourable events both less likely and more recoverable. Had these family offices or founders been working with a reputation manager from the beginning, there would be a strong foundation and a clear “brand” to protect or re-establish. 

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Give us an example of a reputation management situation

A fictitious example for you – Petra, the founder of a health tech company with plans to go public in six to twelve months. Petra has kept a low profile throughout her career but she will attract a lot of media attention once her business is public. Unfortunately, Petra’s high-profile ex-boyfriend is a famous actor, Chris. Petra had not built a narrative about her personal “brand”, the business she had founded, and the story of her career. In the months leading up to the IPO, many industry and consumer publications will write about the business leading with the label “ex-girlfriend of famous actor Chris”, rather than “brilliant founder of health tech business”. 
For Petra frustration turned to a crisis when a tabloid ran a sensational story about her past relationship. Many other titles followed suit, investors questioned Petra’s business credentials, she struggled to attract talented employees, and her health tech business failed to reach its full potential in its IPO. Petra’s profile is now established as “ex-girlfriend of Chris”. 
If Petra had been working with a reputation manager, together they would have built her public profile slowly and sustainably over many years. In this scenario any journalist, investor, or potential employee Googling Petra would find a clear narrative, several sources detailing her business achievements and key terms describing her across multiple platforms. If a tabloid had still run a sensational story in the lead up to the IPO, the reputation manager would mitigate this using Petra’s strong reputational foundation to build upon during and after the crisis. 

How does reputation management connect to a Secure Lifestyle?

Schillings put it well in a report in February 2021: “It’s a common misconception, particularly by those who understandably wish to remain private, that digital reputation management is really about self-promotion and brand building – that it’s about Google rankings, likes and artfully taken selfies. But this is not the case; it’s about critical risk management and taking control of your online profile – which already exists and, if you aren’t controlling it, then others are. In short, it’s something we all need to be doing – and too few of us are.”
There are many similarities and adjacent security benefits to actively controlling the narrative of a personal brand. These include countering defamation and impersonation, and building a person’s robustness and resilience in the face of negativity, anger and envy. 
As with a secure lifestyle, investment in a good reputation makes it easier and less expensive to do business in an increasingly hostile digital and physical environment. A bad or invisible reputation makes it more expensive and time consuming to do business and crucially is a poor defence against bad actors.

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In Brief

  • A reputation manager focuses on enhancing and protecting an individual’s public image rather than engaging in suspect activities that shows like Succession and Scandal would have you believe. They act as a brand guardian for their client, define unique aspects of their profile, manage communications across various platforms, and ensure consistency in their public image.
  • One of the major challenges faced by reputation managers is striking a balance between maintaining relevant visibility and avoiding oversaturation, as excessive attention can attract envy or backlash. Achieving this balance requires extensive experience and understanding of cyclical patterns in publicity.
  • Family offices and business founders benefit from working with reputation managers to proactively establish a strong foundation for their public image. By doing so, they can mitigate potential crises, protect their brand during challenging times, and ensure that their narrative remains focused on their professional achievements. This proactive approach not only safeguards their reputation but also supports business success and resilience in a competitive and disruptive environment.

For more information and to be connected with one of the team to talk about Reputation Security and wider Secure Lifestyle needs, please get in touch.

From all at UMBRA International, we wish you a safe, secure and reputationally healthy future.


Interview by Kim Garrett with Alex Godwin-Brown