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What The Good Doctor Teaches us about Reputation

By Sarah Draper

Recently, we've seen the premiere of “The Good Doctor” on ABC, and might I say, it was fantastic. Without trying to give to large of a spoiler, I will share that the first episode does focus on a hospital board’s reluctance to hire a new surgeon. Not because of his very young age, but because he is diagnosed with Autism. All the while, he is miraculously saving lives, no matter the consequence. I expect that the rest of the show will focus on his struggle as others also find it hard to accept him and believe in his exceptional medical skills despite his social disability. Unfortunately, when it comes to running a company you have to care about your reputation, hence the hospital board’s reluctance.

Spoiler here: you might want to skip down a bit. The hiring director for this hospital’s main argument for hiring this young surgeon is that he is exceptionally skilled. So what if he has Autism? It doesn’t affect his ability to be a surgeon, and it wasn’t long ago that they broke social norms to hire African American or female doctors, that it’s the same situation here. The Board is more worried about losing patients and financial supporters for making this risky hire in the chance he makes a huge mistake. Here, they are arguing about how this hire with affect their reputation as a good hospital.

OK, you can start reading again!

This argument about reputation is crucial. The opposing sides are both correct. Making risky moves can be very, well, risky! But sometimes it can really pay off to be that one group striving be leaders in this ever changing society by defying what “normal” hires look like. However, sometimes it can be difficult to predict what the outcome may be, as every individual and stakeholder is different, and the people you please won’t always be the people who can financially support you. It’s a fine line between prosperous and broke/out-of-business. In this case, out-of-business means no longer being able to medially treat those in need, regardless of the doctors you had hired before. Let’s take a deeper look at reputation.

Why does it matter to us? World-renown PR agency Ogilvy argues that “reputation is perhaps the most important goal of any public relations program, and certainly one of the most vulnerable aspects of any organization. Thus the need to envision it, actively pursue it, and protect it at all cost.” It’s no wonder that great companies are highly concerned with their reputations and sometimes hire external agencies to help their internal PR Departments will larger issues or campaigns. Professor Daniel Diermeier of the Kellogg School of Management says that “Whenever disaster strikes, companies and governments are not only criticized for their immediate handling of the crisis, but also their ability to reassure the public.”

The Institute for Public Relations proposes that the definition of reputation is divided into two perspectives.

“From the perspective of the organization, reputation is an intangible asset that allows the company to better manage the expectations and needs of its various stakeholders, creating differentiation and barriers vis-à-vis its competitors. From the perspective of stakeholders, reputation is the intellectual, emotional and behavioral response as to whether or not the communications and actions of an organization resonate with their needs and interests.” Here, we see that reputation from your potential patients can be measured differently than your internal publics, such as employees. For example, perhaps you get more patients from families with disability in support of your hiring choice, but other surgeons feel angered or that they are appreciated less, and decide to quit or protest because of it. You can have a great external reputation and a horrible internal reputation, and vice versa.

Arthur W. Page Society, a professional organization for senior PR specialists, shares a blog that shows ways that reputation of a company can be measured, for financial reasons, as I’m sure the shows’ Board was primarily concerned with.

There is also support from The Reputation Institute that the media have zero impact on a person’s view of a company. All this means that it doesn’t matter what you or other people are saying about you, it’s your behavior as a company that shapes how your publics see you.

The Economist has the right idea; they said “The biggest problem with the reputation industry, however, is its central conceit: that the way to deal with potential threats to your reputation is to work harder at managing your reputation…The opposite is more likely: the best strategy may be to think less about managing your reputation and concentrate more on producing the best products and services you can.” They understand that it’s not just being able to talk the talk; it’s being able to walk the walk that will reassure your publics that you are the best That is what makes a great reputation.

The Lesson Here:

“The Good Doctor” teaches us in one simple episode that managing your reputation is definitely not easy, and the right move in the end (spoiler!) is to hire that doctor that is saving lives in the face of adversity, and doing whatever he can –running through an airport with a knife and sneaking into a hospital to ensure the doctors recognize the right problems before it’s too late- because that is walking the walk. Of course, it didn’t hurt that in the midst of the decision, media coverage and public opinion of the young doctor was exploding from a video of him saving a life.

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