Consistency, Truth and Reputation

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I’ve mentioned it before in this space, but our professions—journalism and auto care—have far more in common than most would think; primarily, we both tend to start from a position of disadvantage in far too many “new customer” interactions.

There are certain perceptions (or, as I prefer to think of them, misconceptions) of our work habits and intentions that create an automatic level of mistrust or skepticism.

Stereotypes are often the issue. Journalists and auto care professionals alike deal with this to a large degree. And like we’ve written about in past issues of Ratchet+Wrench, most often, those stereotypes come from a lack of knowledge, understanding and appreciation for the process, skill and care that go into your work. The average customer doesn’t understand the nuances of his or her vehicle and what it takes to fix it; this causes any estimate to be met with apprehension and concern. To some degree, it makes sense, and you break down that barrier through education, transparency and, ultimately, performing quality work that provides true value to your client.

We (at Ratchet+Wrench) like to take that same approach. Most people are leery of the “media” and the intentions of those who work in it. Granted, many placed in that category deserve their negative reputations, just as there are shops that have rightfully earned their own negative reputations. Still, there are many of us who work hard to do things the right way—and we have to work even harder to avoid direct association with those who don’t. (Sidenote: There’s also a clear distinction between “media” and true “journalism,” but I’ll save that rant for another time.)

Now, I bring all this up for a couple reasons.

One, I recently received a stark reminder to all of this in the form of some negative feedback (and sharp criticism) from a reader. All’s fair, and I welcome critique whenever we’re lucky enough to receive it. At the very least, someone reaching out with a complaint (whether founded or not) gives me the opportunity to respond in a similar fashion as you might with your customers—with education, transparency and quality work.

We take our reputation as a publication very seriously, and it’s why we operate in the way we do. It’s why we have a team of journalists produce our content (rather than accept submissions). It’s why we have an editorial advisory board to hold us accountable to our work. It’s why we have a strict separation of “church and state” in our company between sales and editorial. We want to earn your trust as an objective, third-party source for information to improve your businesses. The only way we achieve our goal is to help you hit yours.

Hopefully, nearly seven years into our magazine’s life, we’ve earned that trust with you. But hearing criticism offered another reminder to me (and is the second reason I brought all of this up): Sharing our “why” shouldn’t be reactionary. It needs to be carried out every day in all our interactions, whether with a customer at your service counter or one of our interview subjects on the phone. We need to make our intentions clear, and we need to ensure that those negative stereotypes are quickly thrown out. When we take control of it and live it out each day, we alter the perception. That disadvantage I mentioned earlier now becomes an advantage, because we’re not focused on all the negativity that inevitably gets thrown at our industries. We focus only on what let’s us rise above that.

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