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The purest treasure mortal times afford is spotless reputation. William Shakespeare

A reputation is how an organization is perceived and results from the consolidation of experiences of many people over a period of time. However, even if people have no contact with an organization whatsoever and know very little about it, they can still be aware of its reputation; witness the reputation of the Mafia, the CIA or the KGB.

What makes a reputation?
  An organization needs to know what its reputation depends on - the quality of its products, standard of service, calibre of its staff or its place in a league table. The reputation of a golf club could depend on the standard of the course or as a meeting place for local businessmen and 'bigwigs' and this would affect the priority of  investments - the course or the clubhouse. The reputation often stands or falls on the personal behaviour, skill and experience of individuals e.g. professionals such as school principals, lawyers, or hair stylists. However, reputations frequently depend collectively on staff at the lowest level  of the organization - ticket collectors, security guards or receptionists.

Changes with time: 
There is often a very significant time-lag between reality and reputation. A school with very high academic results may still have a bad reputation because of poor results five years earlier. Conversely, when the reputation has recovered, the school standards may already be in decline. Reputations often change slowly over decades. For example, the supermarket giant, Tesco initially started off with a ‘pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap’ philosophy and progressed later to a more quality image. Reputations tend to reinforce themselves, for example, when donations for scientific research go to places of excellence such as Cambridge University or MIT, which then become even better and attract yet more funds…...  

Reputations and individuals:
An organization can have a different reputation, as seen by each of the participants. To the customer, the products and service may be excellent, to a supplier the organization may be a very poor payer and to an employee it may be seen as oppressive with no respect for the individual. Reputations should be built on the behaviour of the organization as a whole, not depend on the personality of the chief executive or leader - since if this gets tarnished the whole organization is affected.  In the end, reputations are decided by the marketplace, not by marketing or advertising people. >>>