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Thank you for supporting my not-quite-a-half-marathon – a modern parable on the importance of reputation management

By Simon Meredith

Thank you to everyone who supported my efforts to raise money for the Hepatitis C Trust by running the Shrewsbury Half Marathon. I did reach my target in the end and I am grateful to everyone who took the trouble to make a donation. I will not forget your kindness.
It was my first half marathon and, although I’ve become a half-accomplished runner over the past year or so, a calf strain that I had not quite healed made the last few miles a bit of a struggle. I had committed myself to finishing though, as I owed that at the very least to my backers.
Unfortunately, it turns out that it was not in fact a half marathon in the end. One of the race marshals managed to turn runners down the wrong lane, so the course ended up being half a mile short. The serious runners who thought they had done a personal-best were soon brought down to earth, while the likes of me were left slightly feeling deflated or inadequate.
This was a classic case of an event that should have been wonderful publicity for the local shop that was in charge of organising the event, turning into something that was actually a little bit embarrassing. Their business depends to quite a large degree on their reputation with local runners. But what was otherwise a perfectly well-run event was turned into a bit of a PR disaster by one critical error. It is the mistake that everyone has focused on since the run took place, rather than the 95% of the event that was a great success.
You could say that this proves the old adage that it can take years to build a reputation and moments to destroy it; that can happen of course, but in fact, it rarely does. If your reputation is good enough in the first place, even a fairly significant event will only dent it temporarily. If however, you had a fairly poor name, or no reputation at all before the event, you’ll certainly have a bad one after such a disaster.
This is why it is so important to create a positive perception and awareness within your market and to continue to build upon and nurture that reputation all the time. It is not only about enhancing the brand and supporting marketing and sales activity, although your media work will help with all that of course, but also about building a reputation that is strong enough to withstand a crisis.
Fortunately, in this case, the local shop is well-regarded, so it will not really damage the business. But it has certainly not helped and it means that next time they run an event, the stakes will be much higher.
See these links to see the local paper stories…