Call it brand equity, issue expertise, or reputation. It is the sum of earned and perceived credibility an organization holds around a set of issues.
Your reputation is shaped and grown by the choices you make over time. As with your bank balance, you are constantly making deposits to and withdrawals from your reputational chart of accounts. That does not mean everything your organization does needs to be highly visible or public facing. Sometimes reputation is earned quietly, behind the scenes by delivering consistently on your brand with little or no fanfare.
The ultimate goal is to make communication decisions that are clearly aligned to your mission and consistent over time. That’s how reputation is built.
For many the issue of “reputation management” comes into play when you contemplate communication tactics like writing op-eds (“How will this make us look to the informed public paying attention to our issues?”) or selecting a partner with whom to co-fund a new initiative (“Do we agree on the problem we’re trying to solve and the best pathway for accomplishing it?”).
In the same way most individuals are deliberate about what they Tweet or post on their individual Facebook page, so too should organizations be deliberate about how they shape and manage their institutional reputations. Clarity and consistency are key, and knowing when to say no plays a big role, too.