David Rehr is author of The Congressional Communications Report and has been listed as one of the nation’s top lobbyists. He is an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) at The George Washington University. David can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SO YOU’RE A lobbyist. You spend your days putting your clients in a positive light. You help build their brands, communicate their value, and monitor their social media. But how much attention do you pay to your own reputation? What are you doing to enhance it? Have you looked at how people perceive you beyond setting up a “Google Alert”?
In any industry, personal reputation matters. As technology and instantaneous communication permeate the globe, potential clients have more and more options from which to choose. Hiring decisions are frequently turning on subjective judgments about character and values. Research is also showing that clients don’t just hire companies – they hire the individuals who work for companies.
Though reputation is tough to define, we know it when we see it. Words like “honesty” and “integrity,” “character” and “success” come to mind. And however tricky it is to articulate, the concept derives ultimately from the ability to deliver meaningful results.
With that in mind, here are five tips for lobbyists who wish to build their reputation:
1. Google your name regularly
Sounds obvious, but how many people actually do it? We all should. A September 2012 Harris Interactive study for BrandYourself found that 86% of adults use a search engine to look up information about another individual, and 42% search an individual’s name before doing business with him. Of this latter portion, 45% (!) found something that resulted in a decision not do business with the individual.
2. During the coming year, repeatedly ask your inner circle of confidants to honesty describe you reputation
Reputation is not stagnant – it ebbs and flows. To track shifts, we need to hear the truth about our reputation from the people we deal with on a regular basis. Getting external feedback is especially important, since we often view ourselves as different than we really are. Our best confidants come from our profession. Choose colleagues who themselves have great reputations. Be sure they hold positions equivalent or more senior to yours. Keep the group small but not too small: five or six people, both men and women, should do.
3. Determine centers of influence revolving around your social media
Unfortunately, there are no universally accepted tools to measure reputation online. Still, the old adage, “you are judged by the company you keep” applies in the digital world. Don’t accept everyone who asks to be your friend. You be selective and discreet. Build an audience of people who will have a positive effect on your reputation or who you want to emulate. Avoid carelessly building your list of contacts.
4. Commit to three specific actions to build your reputation
Whether it’s three or ten, choose specific actions that can make your reputation better and stronger: produce a “white paper” on a timely industry issue; appear in the media with valuable tips for struggling companies or individuals; write a column helping a non-profit gain support or visibility.
5. Ask someone to hold you accountable
Lobbying is about results. So is building a great reputation. Share with a colleague or friend your reputation plan for 2013. Ask them to hold you accountable to your actions. The person will probably be delighted to help you, and it might help them focus on building their reputation as well. Positive reminders and assessments of activities gives those asking for accountability an extra dose of “can do” encouragement, even after a long day of public relations efforts for others.
6. Don’t ask a member of your immediate family to assess or build your reputation
Family members can’t be objective. They know you too well and often have specific goals for you that differ radically from your dreams. Accepting or hearing unsolicited advice could confuse or adversely affect your perception of yourself and your reputation. My late mother who loved me very much could never understand why I wanted to advocate before the U.S. Congress. She put lobbyists right behind used car dealers (and slightly above politicians). So with her, I purposely stayed away from conversations about my work and the reputation I was building. Bottom line: keep the family out of determining what your reputation is or can become.