I didn’t realize I had officially achieved grown-up status until recently when I returned to my alma mater, the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, to consult on a new strategic communications curriculum, meet with students and parents, and receive an award. The award had the word “distinguished” in it, and that was my first clue. They were clearly expecting an adult, and I would need to fill the role. Here are some of the highlights of the speech I gave to the students, faculty and parents — even though I still think of myself as being too young to address such an important group. You can let me know how well I did in your comments, and if you find it valuable enough to share with the young adults in your life, please let me know that, too.
In my day job, I’m responsible for managing the reputation of a $130 billion brand. And it only takes one bad decision by a single person to create irreparable damage — think of the person at Wells Fargo who decided to incentivize cross-selling in such a way that it got their whole organization into a lot of trouble. Or the person at United who decided to call security guards on a plane to remove a passenger, or even those security guards themselves, who I will generously refer to as being “overzealous.” Or Volkswagen … unfortunately, I could go on and on. But I won’t, because I want to get to the point about personal reputation. . .and it is this:
You may be familiar with the old adage, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” And I want you to know that I disagree with that premise. I personally believe, “It’s not who you know. It’s who knows you.” And that’s what I want to share with you today, and I want to do it through the lens of reputation — your reputation.
As the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet puts it so aptly: It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.
Reputation Institute defines the seven dimensions of reputation as Citizenship, Workplace, Governance, Products and Services, Innovation, Performance and Leadership. If you apply them to your own personal brand, it might look something like this:
Finally, here’s a thought about gratitude from a true SHEro, Anne Frank, who noted that after we are gone, we often receive more flowers than when we are alive because regret is stronger than gratitude. My wish for you is that regardless of whether you are young like these newly minted graduates or have officially achieved grown-up status like me (ULL class of 1989 — Geaux Cajuns!), may regrets be nonexistent and gratitude always abundant.
Catherine Hernandez-Blades joined Aflac in 2014 as senior vice president of Corporate Communications where she oversees all of the company’s integrated corporate communications functions. Prior to coming to Aflac, she was chief communications and marketing officer at Flextronics, a multinational technological manufacturer. She also served as vice president of communications and public affairs at Raytheon Company’s Space and Airborne Systems business unit and held various international communications-related leadership positions at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
With more than two decades of leadership experience, Hernandez-Blades is an established thought leader on corporate reputation, corporate social responsibility and communications measurement. She is the 2017 World Communications Forum Davos “Relations of the Future” awardee; a 2017 PR-Week Hall of Femme inductee; and a recipient of the 2017 Gold Bulldog CSR/Sustainability Executive of the Year award. She was also named one of the Top 10 Corporate Executives of the Year by LATINA Style magazine; earned the Gold Bulldog Star of PR in the Corporate Communications category, as voted on by the press in 2015 and 2016; and received PR News’ awards for Top Women in PR and Diversity in PR in 2015 and 2016, as well as PR Team Leader of the Year in 2015. Hernandez-Blades received the 2016 Silver Stevie award for the Maverick of the Year category and the 2015 Bronze Stevie award for Woman of the Year in Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations from the American Business Association. She has also been recognized by the National Diversity Council with their Most Powerful and Influential Women Award.
Originally published at medium.com