“A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was.” Joseph Hall
I refer to this article which was featured on Friday 17th October at the local Business Daily newspaper:http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Corporate-News/Varsity-students-take-to-slum-life/-/539550/2489078/-/item/1/-/fj1h5o/-/index.html and my advice to Kenya Railways Pension Scheme is: Put aside some money for your reputation protection – it will cost you!
You know, we are in a rapidly growing digital era in Kenya where everyone with a smart phone can read anything posted online and choose to believe it or not. When it comes to corporate information, I always argue that you had better have no news than bad news marking your failures / challenges. The unfortunate thing with this article is that the story was meant to highlight the plight of university students who cannot afford good housing in Nairobi due to the fact that most of the campuses are overbooked with students and have not upgraded their housing facilities. Somewhere along the lines, Kenya Railways Pension Scheme houses were named as one of the few places that these students are renting and pictures of deplorable rooms and bathrooms were posted as well.
Well, the information is already out there and what is concerning me is the fact that I haven’t come across any comment from Kenya Railways Pension Scheme (KRPS) about this. I think this article is somewhat of a disgrace to KRPS and worse still a reputation destroyer for those of us who have grown up knowing of Kenya Railways brand.Why am I raising this up? Recently, billionaire and investment guru Warren Buffet said essentially the same thing I am trying to channel across… “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Keren Peters-n Watkinson in her article on Redeeming Reputation states that thanks to social media and the World Wide Web, it is much harder to bury, outrun or outlive a bad reputation. Online news articles, blogs, public record, video recordings, digital photographs, personal misdeeds and corporate wrongdoings are thoroughly documented — and available for anyone to see online 24/7 — forever. http://mondaymornings.madisoncres.com/redeeming-reputation-1/
Well, if I was the management of KRPS, this is what I would do to at least start the process of redeeming its reputation.
- Avoid responding badly to such kind of information. Reactive information in front of media does not work anymore. There are so many digital connections to the outside world that have cropped up as compared to the old days where we relied heavily on TV and radio as mainstream media.
Learn from similar companies how they have protected their reputation in such situations. What this simply means is benchmark yourselves with a successful company in reputation building and seek to raise your reputation using guidance from their success stories.
- Plan a policy or change your existing policy plan regarding who is to live in those houses you own. The areas to look at and communicate to existing home owners is procedures relating to misuse of these homes either as employees or benefactors of these homes from Kenya Railways Pension Scheme. Of course, there might crop up legal issues while handling this subject hence legal advice is paramount. The policy plan can also touch on asset development, upgrade or renovation. I believe, Kenya Revenue Authority did some renovation to their houses along Langata Road a few years back. I would not know if it was a success story but there was evidence of work done on renovations as well as information shared with relevant stakeholders including the media. Another case in point is that of Cadbury who in 19th Century purchased acres of land to house his employees who were living in deplorable conditions for the sake of retaining employees in healthy conditions. He created Bournville Garden Village which is still in existence today and well maintained.
- Engage your communication department to initiate stakeholder meetings and briefs to update all stakeholders step by step on the requirements of renovation. This is where KRPS shall create a buzz and let all the concerned stakeholders on the intentions of doing good and remedying the already gone bad that is attached to the company brand. Send out press releases, call for media briefings, hold staff meetings etc.
Remember, Corporate reputation makes or breaks the investor’s decision on whether or not to purchase a company’s stock. If no one is willing to take ownership of a company, on account of its reputation, then its stock will plummet, its cash flow will cease and it will be forced to file for bankruptcy as no one will want to do business with that corporation. This is, of course, the worst possible scenario for a corporation with a damaged reputation.
Have you created a reputation plan for your organisation? Start one now and present it to your Management.