by Phyllis Reagin
In one fell swoop, Lori Loughlin (and many others) damaged a carefully crafted professional image. Only she knows what motivated her to take such extraordinary risk. Lori created a successful acting business built on the professional image of being wholesome and trustworthy. Like Lori, entrepreneurs build their professional images with a direct impact on their businesses.
For any entrepreneur, your professional image is tied directly to the livelihood of your business. Your professional image may be cemented by your social presence that is built on the backs of social media, websites, blogs, and vlogs. ‘You’ are interwoven into the products and services you are selling. There is much power in the hands of entrepreneurs to create who they are to the outer world. This also sets up entrepreneurs to be precariously close to tarnishing their image with one wrong statement, viewpoint, or action.
A damaged professional reputation can be very difficult to rebound from. An example of this is a business owner who has built a socially conscious business that states “We are here to make a difference” but who is captured in the media displaying behaviors that show indifference, such as partying on a yacht. Whether or not it is true or fair, the damage is done. The fallout can be others no longer believe in her and don’t want to follow her. Thought leader Tom Peters stated, “All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
Actions that are completely out of alignment with who the public believed her to be, is the reason Lori Loughlin has been dropped from all her acting contracts and is social piranha. What could have prevented such an unnecessary tarnishing of her reputation? The very same actions that any entrepreneur can take to ensure that their professional image is not marred.
Know What You Stand for and Don’t Sway
Many entrepreneurs think their work stands for what they stand for, but they fail to recognize that people follow people, not the work. Entrepreneurs need to spend time uncovering what their top five values are, whether these values are in alignment with how they project themselves, and how to manage their businesses from their values.
A good example is a business owner whose number one value is “commitment.” She needs to assess if she demonstrates this value to her team and customers. Her communication and actions need to align to this value. There can’t be any misalignment or confusion. When customers and followers visibly experience your values, they feel like they know you and can believe in you and what you are selling. Entrepreneurs who don’t know their values can’t stay focused on who they are and can cause others to be confused or angered by what they say and how they behave.
Walk the Talk
You probably have been around an entrepreneur that espouses that people behave a certain way and then doesn’t do this herself. This can look like an entrepreneur who tells others on social media that her marriage is the bedrock of her successes but then is caught having an affair. Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, Peter Guber, states, “Truth is a point of view, but authenticity can’t be faked.”
Entrepreneurs must take every opportunity to demonstrate that what they say to others also matters to them as well. People can easily recognize incongruencies and will not follow these entrepreneurs. Walking the talk is not just a saying. It is truly a reminder to be the evidence of what you say to others, in tangible and authentic ways.
Mind Your Words
Every word an entrepreneur says to his team and others matter. Your team and consumers are constantly trying to connect dots to the “Why” of your business and the surest route is by the words you use. Make sure all your messaging ties back to your overall stated vision and purpose. What you say should be like a continuous commercial for “who” you are and what you believe in.
To prevent tarnishing your professional reputation means knowing who you are as an entrepreneur and what you truly stand for. This is your vision and conviction and it must be modeled by what you do and say. Lori Loughlin missed the mark with this. Her action did not align to her professional persona. As an entrepreneur, it is imperative to your reputation that you strongly tie your values, actions, and words to who you say you are an entrepreneur. When managed well, others will follow you willingly and believe in you and your business.
Phyllis Reagin is a Confidence Coach and Founder of At the Coach’s Table. A former leader for a Fortune 500 entertainment/media company, she teaches female leaders how to uproot their insecurities, to assertively deal with others and situations, and to find their empowered voice. Widowed while 8-months pregnant, Phyllis uses these important life lessons to help her clients face challenges with resilience and confidence.