A Cookbook as a Reputational Tool?

Props today go to the French National Assembly for doing something that is uniquely French, if not a little out of the box – publishing a cookbook: “La Cuisine de la République, Cuisinez avec vos députés!” or “The Cuisine of the Republic: Cook With Your Deputies!”.

I’m not just writing this because I love food.  I do, of course, but what motivated my prose this morning is the fact that the decision to write a cookbook by French leaders is a great example of doing the right thing when it comes to reputation management.

We usually talk about company or individual reputations, but the same factors in elevating or communicating a reputation holds true for countries, cities and even government agencies.  First and most importantly, an entity’s reputation cannot be created out of thin air.  It must be based on intrinsic values, history and action.  In the French Parliament’s case, the decision to create a cookbook was just that.  According to the New York Times:

“One could hardly imagine an American member of Congress making such a proclamation. But food is so much a part of France’s identity that the government led a successful campaign last year to win United Nations recognition of the French meal as a national treasure.”

Further, the deputies adeptly identified what was important to their constituents:

“Elected deputies can rise and fall on the extent to which they protect the terrains of their grape growers, the subsidies of their milk producers, the clean water of their oyster cultivators and the rights of their recreational hunters.”

Finally, it also humanizes these elected officials, which in this day and age of corruption and misdeeds, is something that can go a long way in helping to elevate their and the Assembly’s reputations.  In the New York Times article, one deputy stated:

“It reminds me of my childhood memories, the pleasant scent that emanated as it cooked,” Jean-Pierre Abelin of La Vienne wrote about his butter galette, which he said was baked on Sunday morning and eaten after Mass.

My point is not to replicate exactly what the French Assembly has done (your company should not go out and create a cookbook), but to take this as a lesson on what to consider when trying to convey or elevate your reputation: 1) your intrinsic values and innate purpose, 2) what will play well to your audience based on what is important to them and 3) sometimes it pays to step out of a formal mode of communication and have a little fun to relate with your customers.  Bonne chance!


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