Brand, reputation and the seventh hole: What a professional golfer taught me about corporate character

Golfer breaking club over knee on golf course

Watching televised golf is not my favourite thing, but hey, we are in the middle of a pandemic, I am out of Netflix binge-projects and my partner seemed fascinated. So, I sat down with a cold beverage to watch the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

On the seventh hole, Bryson DeChambeau, one of golf’s newest stars, was caught on film reacting badly to a poor bunker shot (look at me with the lingo). Unhappy that his behaviour was broadcast to the world, DeChambeau confronted the camera operator for recording action that could ‘hurt his image’ and ‘damage his brand’.

Never mind that a professional golfer, participating in a televised golf tournament, was upset that he was televised playing golf; now he was speaking my language. A golf aficionado I am not, but I am fascinated by brand, reputation and how often people confuse the two.

We talk a lot about this at Believeco: how brand and reputation intersect and what happens when an organization (or an individual) can’t bridge the chasm between the brand they desire and the reputation they earn.

Brand and reputation: What’s the difference?

I agree that the gap between brand and reputation is narrowing, especially as consumers, clients and stakeholders increase their expectations for authentic relationships and transparency. But let’s look at the differences before we explore the path forward.

We see it like this: a brand is a promise you make – about the experience you aim to deliver. Reputation is how you are perceived to live up to that promise.

Your brand is a part of your reputation ecosystem. And like any ecosystem, it changes over time – because it lives in the minds and hearts of others.

In an interview with the Ethical Voices podcast, Believeco Partners’ Board Director, Daniel Tisch summed it up nicely:

“It’s important to understand that when I think of reputation, I’m not talking about image. I’m talking about the experience that people have with the organization and whether you’ve lived up to your brand promise or not. That to me is a much deeper thing. Smart executives will understand that reputation is among the greatest, if not the greatest, intangible assets of most organizations.”

Brand vs Reputation – a snapshot

When it comes to reputation, who you are and what you stand for has become more important than what you sell. The smartest organizations are investing in the relationships that drive their reputations today; those that do so will be the leading brands of tomorrow.

This can be scary territory. After all, reputation management is challenging is because, much like trust, a strong reputation can take years to build and seconds to lose.

Earning reputation: It starts with character

Reputation cannot be controlled: it exists in the minds of others. But we believe it can be influenced, especially when you focus on something bigger than brand, bigger than reputation – your corporate character.

The Arthur W. Page Society points out that corporate character is everything an organization does, from its mission, purpose, values and culture, to business and strategy, brand and policies and positions. It’s what you do and it is who you are. You can see that played out today in how organizations are judged, not for their messaging, but for how they operate, their interactions with employees, customers and the broader public, on everything to their COVID-19 response, to diversity, equity and inclusion.

The CCO as Pacesetter: What it means, why it matters and how to get there

Your brand is simply the outward expression of your character. It’s karmic, really: what you put out there, is eventually what you get back. It drives your reputation, good or bad.

Getting caught on camera doesn’t impact your brand; but how you behave does. That’s true in business, in life and even on the seventh hole.

About the author

Kim Blanchette

Kim leads our Western Canadian team of engagement, public relations and public health communicators, providing clients with over 25 years of experience. An accredited communications professional and a member of the CPRS College of Fellows, Kim is passionate about ethical public relations and working with organizations to engage, communicate, and lead with confidence.