If you’re in business, your reputation, especially your online reputation, can determine if buyers avoid you or seek to do business with you, whether you can hire the right people, or have something metalcasters value highly: an effective relationship in your local community.
Since reputation matters, this year’s Hoyt Lecture, presented in April at the 122nd Metalcasting Congress in Fort Worth, Texas, by Dan Oman, was timely and well received. Oman, P.E., senior associate with Haley & Aldrich Inc., is an industry veteran who has had professional success in managing the reputation of metalcasting.
A few highly intertwined terms are used by marketing and sales that are separable only for the sake of understanding the concepts. In practice they are pursued together. “Reputation management” is one of those terms, and “brand” is another.
Elliot Schreiber, who has served as clinical professor and executive director, Center for Corporate Reputation Management at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, says “brand” is what you communicate “out” to the audience: company attributes, logos, and business associations, etc.
Brand is a connection with your customers. You control what you communicate, even if you don’t control how the message is received.
As Schreiber points out, reputation includes brand, but reputation is larger than brand, as it includes a company’s stakeholders. Employees, neighbors in the community, parents of high school students who might encourage their offspring to consider a career in metalcasting, and depending on your role in metalcasting, suppliers, metalcasters, buyers, specifiers, and designers.
Elected officials are also a critical stakeholder for metalcasters. At the AFS Fly-In, May 15-16 in Washington, D.C., metalcasters were able to schedule meetings with key Congressional and Senate offices, which speaks well of metalcasting reputation management in the nation’s capitol. With the enormous number of retiring representatives this year, the 2019 Fly-In will be an opportunity to introduce a new group of elected officials to metalcasting.
Brand is about your company competing in the market place, but “reputation is like a vote as to whether or not your brand resonates with key stakeholders,” Schreiber says. And how an industry resonates with the broader audience—its reputation—can make a difference to each individual business that comprises the universe of manufacturers we call metalcasters.
In the 2018 Hoyt Lecture, Oman offered the necessary steps for managing the reputation of the industry: recognition, engagement, education/innovation, and advocacy.
Of these, recognition is the sine qua non of all the rest. To solve a problem, that issue must be accurately identified and defined. Misidentified and ill-defined issues result in wasted resources and often lost business.
As Oman says, recognition comprehends that a “perception held by others could have a damaging effect on our industry … there is no substitute for early recognition. Without enough lead time, options become extremely limited or potentially infeasible.”
Combating these perceptions requires diligence to routinely keep track outside perceptions, and “skill to understand and anticipate potential negative consequences” of a poorly managed reputation.
Further, Oman says recognition of reputation problems require a broader perspective, and the “ramifications may not affect you or your operation but could be damaging to someone else’s operation.”
For another look at recognition, consider this take from Juliette Garesche, AFS senior environmental health & safety technical director. According to Garesche, part of corporate reputation management is making a good first impression. Regulators visiting your facility can quickly tell if you’re taking things seriously.
“When you watch a movie, you pick up clues early on, to determine who the good guys are and who the bad guys are,” she said. “OSHA and the EPA do the same thing when they come to your facility. It doesn’t matter whether they’re from EPA or OSHA, whether they’re federal agents or state inspectors, they are typically trying to get a quick sense of whether your company has its act together or not. Invariably, shortly after the opening interview, OSHA will ask for your 300 Log to see if you’re recording incidents, illnesses, and injuries as required. If you don’t have the form, or it’s blank, or filled out incorrectly, or your 300 A log (the annual summary) isn’t posted where employees can see it, between Feb. 1 and April 30 of each year, OSHA knows there’s a significant problem.”
A reputation for compliance is good for business, Garesche said. It’s a large part of a metalcaster’s brand.