Reputation vs Character – Differences and Similarities Between Them

Character and reputation are often discussed as two separate entities, but in reality, they are closely connected and can greatly impact your success. Let’s explore what character and reputation mean individually and how they work together.

What is Character?

Character is the foundation of who you are, your moral qualities, and the choices you make. It represents your internal characteristics and is within your control. Positive traits like empathy, friendliness, and honesty contribute to a strong character. On the other hand, negative characteristics such as selfishness or unreliability can weaken it. While everyone makes mistakes, your character remains intact if your heart is in the right place and you take responsibility for your actions.

What is Reputation?

Reputation is the subjective qualitative belief a person has regarding a brand, person, company, product, or service. In other words, it’s how people see a person or company based on the public representation, information, trends, and belief systems of the time (The qualities of reputation tend to change over time).

Reputation impacts nearly every aspect of your life, such as whether someone wants to connect with you, buy something from your business, or refer you to friends. It’s incredibly important, yet fragile.

So, Reputation is how people perceive and see you. It is the outward expression of your character and can be influenced by public opinion.

Reputation is subjective and can change quickly, either for better or worse. It impacts various aspects of your life, from personal connections to business opportunities. Managing your reputation is important, especially online, where a single negative online comment can potentially harm your image.

Building a Positive Reputation

Building a positive reputation requires the alignment of your character and reputation, as well as the promotion of the best parts of your character.

It is essential that your character and actions align with how you want to be perceived. Your reputation should at least be an accurate reflection of who you truly are, ideally an even better version.

People with strong character and a solid reputation are better equipped to handle negative situations or scandals. Their supporters, familiar with their history, are more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt and often forgive them, knowing that efforts to rectify the situation are genuine.

You Can’t Fake Character

“Sincerity – if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

― George Burns

The funny George Burns quote aside, it is important to note that reputation management is not about faking sincerity. It is about consistently living by strong moral principles and making ethical choices aligned with your character. However, character is often twisted through the lens of the online environment. The internet is not a good representation of character. Instead, the internet is a reflection of reputation.

Keep in mind that the internet is an unreliable narrator. Manipulation, inaccuracy, and malice often live in the space between character and online reputation.

Reputation management involves practices that improve the way your reputation is perceived, especially in the online realm.

Building a good reputation on top of bad character is not sustainable. In today’s hyper-public world, where every decision is scrutinized, and past actions are easily uncovered, your true character will eventually come to some version of the light. Even attempting to create a positive image through questionable tactics, like astroturfing, can ultimately lead to a catastrophic downfall.

To effectively improve your online reputation, the key is to focus on first developing your character. A strong character makes it easier to maintain a positive reputation, although it is not foolproof. When your character and reputation align, and with a little luck, you can enjoy the numerous benefits of a positive online reputation.

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”

— Benjamin Franklin

Benefits of a good reputation

These benefits include increased trust from others, higher profits for businesses, access to better talent, reduced risk, and more forgiving treatment during reputation scandals.

Think of the Depp v. Heard Trial, where Johnny Depp enjoyed somewhat better treatment by the media by virtue of his fame and the halo effect some of his many acting parts have had on his reputation. On the other hand, Amber Heard didn’t, even her lawyers were pummeled online.

A positive online reputation is worthy of cultivation because it shapes people’s initial impressions of your brand, whether they find you through online searches or word of mouth.

Search engines like Google and review platforms like Yelp play a significant role in determining reputation. Therefore, it is vital to be authentic and monitor your online representation to ensure it accurately reflects your character. Remember, even if false information circulates, it can still impact your reputation due to confirmation bias.

While character is fundamental to reputation in the long run, in the commercial world, reputation holds more power and can greatly influence how your character is perceived.


What is reputation?

Reputation is the subjective qualitative belief a person has regarding a brand, person, company, product, or service. It impacts nearly every aspect of your life, such as whether someone will want to make a connection with you, buy something from your business or refer you to friends. It also affects how people speak of you and what they tell others in person or online.

What is character?

Character is the distinct moral qualities of an individual and the choices they make. It’s a depiction of your internal characteristics, which means that you are basically in full control of your character.

How does character affect reputation?

While it is possible to build a good reputation on top of bad character, there is much that can go wrong in this situation. Even if you depict yourself as a stand-up citizen, your true character, or that of your business, will likely surface sooner or later. And when it does, you might be in an even worse position.

What is confirmation bias?

Confirmation bias is our tendency to find, favor and remember information that already confirms our existing beliefs.

What are the benefits of a positive online reputation?

Higher trust. Increased profits. Better talent. Gentler treatment. Less risk.

What is more important: character or reputation?

While both are very important and intertwined, in a commercial setting, reputation can have a far more far-reaching effect, positively and negatively. 

Tags: Personal Branding, Personal Reputation, Reputation Management.

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