07 Jan 2015

Why Iago was wrong

Lucia Di Stazio, Director of MRA Marketing says reputation really does matter - and nowhere does it matter more than in business. 

Cassio: I have lost my reputation. I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!

Iago: Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving; you have lost no reputation at all, unless you repute yourself such a loser.

This exchange between Cassio and Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello presents two very different views of what reputation is really worth. At this point in the play, Cassio’s reputation is in tatters. The once trusted lieutenant has been found drunk and, as a result, has been stripped of his rank. He’s clearly not taken the news of his sudden demotion well but is he right to be so upset? Perhaps he should listen to Iago. According to Iago, your reputation, your brand, what other people think of you… none of it really matters. It has no real value. Iago could have been a banker!

Fans of Shakespeare will already know that you should NEVER believe a word Iago says. And of course this is no exception. Reputation is the stuff of life and death. What people think of you really does matter – and nowhere does it matter more than in business.

All businesses run into problems occasionally. But when problems start affecting your company’s reputation, you are heading towards big trouble unless you take immediate and effective action. In many ways your reputation IS the future of your business. It reflects the confidence of your customers – it’s based on the reliability of your products, the quality of service, the level of support you deliver. It is your brand. It reassures customers that know what they are getting – and that’s why they keep coming back.

Reputations take years to build yet can be destroyed in a matter of weeks. A thoughtless tweet, an IT problem that sends the wrong invoices to the wrong customers, a shortage of raw materials which causes delays in production, trouble implementing a new delivery system which sends the wrong product to the wrong places, the departure of key staff members that sees years of valuable experience walk out the door – possibly to work with your competitors. Such events undermine a business’s ability to deliver its core brand values. They mean a business can’t live up to its reputation. They are the type of problem that needs to be fixed – and fixed fast.

It’s a sobering statistic but 80% of businesses that suffer a major disruption carry on seemingly unaffected for a few months but fail within 18 months as their customers go elsewhere. According to Peter Power, Managing Director of Visor Consultants, a contingency planning and disaster recovery specialist, the most likely things to strike a business down can be neatly summed up as “bombs, bird-flu and banana skins”.

Forget the bombs and bird-flu. It’s the banana skins you want to watch out for. These will undermine your business’ reputation (and thereby undermine your business!) and they are much more likely to happen. They can reduce a business to chaos. Failure to find immediate solutions will cause immeasurable damage. Protracted problems create a reputation for failure. And a reputation for failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Cassio was right to be worried but at the end of the play, he survives with only a flesh wound. Iago, however, is escorted off the stage to be tortured and executed. Undervaluing the importance of reputation can have nasty consequences.

For helping building – and maintaining – a reputation that works for you, contact me, Lucia Di Stazio at MRA Marketing on 01453 521621 or lucia@mra-marketing.com.

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